Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater (Florida, USA) has won the Volcom Pipe Pro in epic, triple-overhead barrels with a series of stunning performances that made the win seem inevitable from his first ride. This was Slater's 66th Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) tour win, his eighth ASP victory at the Banzai Pipeline, and an inspiring start to his 24th season on the world tour. Slater celebrates his 42nd birthday next Tuesday. The Volcom Pipe Pro is a $130,000 5 star rated ASP event.
Runner-up today, after a late charge in the final, was Brazil's Wiggolly Dantas, 24. Third place was local boy Mason Ho, 25; and fourth was Adriano De Souza (26, Brazil).
Slater ended the event with five of the top 10 wave scores of the competition, including a perfect 10 (10, 9.83, 9.77, 9.73 and 9.53). He also owned the top heat score of the event - 19.77 out of 20, posted in the Round of 32 this-morning. As the most decorated surfer at this most famous of all surfing locations, it's events like these that allow Slater uncrowded "Pipe time" to finesse his performance. Unlike other professional athletes, surfers can never get private time at a competition venue; this is as close as it gets.
Clearly, Slater's multiple hands-free late drops and torquing bottom turns into the barrel were a step up from what we even saw here in December, when he won the Pipe Masters. His trajectory of improvement in this sport continues to climb as he pushes his own limits from session to session.
"This was some of the best Pipe I've ever surfed in my life," said Slater. "There were some really gnarly, intense, kind of vicious waves this morning. It was really doubling up, a new swell, it was a little bit wonky.
"There were a couple waves that I got right in that little sweet spot where you can just barely make the wave. It did feel like there was definitely some room out there to work on things and the opportunity was there because when the wave gets really intense, you've got to just totally commit, and you can see if a guys committed or not, and you can choose to be like that."
Reflecting back on his relationship with Pipeline: "I remember coming here when I was 12 years old, I met Joey Buran on the trail the morning after he won the Pipe Masters in 1984. I think back on that time... I came down here to watch and the first wave I saw just barreled and spat and I felt like this big door... this whole other world just opened up to me on that day. I fell in love with Pipeline that moment and it's been my favorite wave ever since. And the challenge never ends. There were definitely waves out there today that I wish I had gotten and I couldn't figure out how to do it."
Mason Ho said his goal was second place today, apparently resigned to a Slater win. But by heat's end he was surprised to find himself in with a shot. Slater had opened with a Backdoor beauty that earned him 9.53. Ho answered with a beautiful Backdoor ride of his own for 7.7. Then in the final minute of the heat, the one he'd been looking for arrived. But Backdoor seemed to pinch on him after a long, threading tube that could have turned the tables.
All surfers from Hawaii unless noted otherwise.
1st. Kelly Slater, USA - 15.7 (9.53, 6.17) $20,000 + 2000 ratings points
2nd. Wiggolly Dantas, Brazil - 13.77 (8.27, 5.5) $10,000 + 1500 ratings points
3rd. Mason Ho, Hawaii - 11.5 (7.7, 3.8) $6,500 + 1125 ratings points
4th. Adriano De Souza, Brazil - 10.7 (8.43, 2.27) $5,500 + 984 ratings points
1st & 2nd advance; 3rd=5th; 4th=7th
H1: Kelly Slater (USA); Wiggolly Dantas (BRA); Dusty Payne; Mitchel Coleborn (AUS)
H2: Adriano De Souza (BRA); Mason Ho; Kiron Jabour; Torrey Meister
1st & 2nd advance; 3rd=9th; 4th=13th
H1: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA); Mitchel Coleborn (AUS); Nathan Yeomans (USA); Olamana Eleogram
H2: Kelly Slater (USA); Dusty Payne; Brent Dorrington (AUS); Conner Coffin (USA)
H3: Adriano De Souza (BRA); Torrey Meister; Damien Hobgood (USA); Cory Arrambide (USA)
H4: Mason Ho; Kiron Jabour; Maxime Huscenot (FRA); Brian Toth (PRI)
ROUND OF 32:
1st & 2nd advance; 3rd=17th; 4th=25th
H1: Olamana Eleogram; Dusty Payne; Leandro Usuna (ARG); Tanner Gudauskas (USA)
H2: Mitchel Coleborn (AUS); Brent Dorrington (AUS); David do Carmo (BRA); Fred Patacchia
H3: Kelly Slater (USA); Nathan Yeomans (USA); Krystian Kymerson (BRA); Charles Martin (GLP)
H4: Conner Coffin (USA); Wiggolly Dantas (BRA); Chris Ward (USA); Kalani David
H5: Torrey Meister; Brian Toth (PRI); Kaito Kino; Evan Geiselman (USA)
H6: Damien Hobgood (USA); Maxime Huscenot (FRA); Parker Coffin (USA); Kaito Ohashi (JPN)
H7: Mason Ho; Adriano De Souza (BRA); Jamie O'Brien; Carlos Munoz (CRI)
H8: Kiron Jabour; Cory Arrambide (USA); Ian Gouveia (BRA); Guillermo Satt (CHL