Kelly Slater, eleven-time world champion, proved that he is still the surfer to beat as he took the Volcom Pipe Pro in triple-overhead conditions. This was Slater's 66th Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) tour win, and his eighth ASP victory at Banzai Pipeline. Slater celebrates his 42nd birthday next Tuesday. The $130,000 prize purse is an agreeable gift to inspire success in his 24th year on the ASP World Tour.
Slater's hands-free, late drops and torqueing bottom turns into the barrel show that even as surfers approach their forties, they can continue to gain momentum and excel within the sport. He is constantly pushing the envelope, taking his peers to school. Pipe was crucial to his development as a surfer. Slater offers a nostalgic anecdote 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."
Meanwhile, young guns are forging their own unique relationship with Pipe, much like Slater did when meeting Joey Buran and Pipeline. The veteran Floridian faced off young guns in the finals. Wiggolly Dantas (24) and Adriano De Souza (26) of Brazil had exceptional performances. Mason Ho (25) answered back to Slater’s beautiful Backdoor ride with one of his own, solidifying the notion that locals have Pipeline coursing through their veins. This was a memorable moment as one generation mirrored “the call” within another.
Maui’s Olamana Eleogram was posting high heat scores in the Round of 32 grouping. Suddenly, an unfortunate incident occurred in which the wave snapped, and his surfboard came crashing down, resulting in a broken leg. This served as a looming reminder of the unrelenting swell. Pipe is not for the faint of heart, let alone when it is triple-overhead. Brent Dorrington substantiated that Aussies are still some of the gnarliest guys in the water. Playing poker with some of the other wipe out victims, he was all-in on every wave. Sometimes that meant a ghastly wipe out, like a bug fixed to a windshield. Other falls looked more like cliff jumper plunging feet first, suspended in midair (Conner Coffin’s preferred bailing method). Other times, that meant an incredible ride to witness. In each circumstance, Dorrington was most entertaining.
Fellow Australian, Mitchel Coleborn remarked, "As much experience as you can gain out here is key for sure. […] I had Kelly Slater [in the semis] and kind of fell into his spell a little bit I think. Just a couple of little mistakes and a couple waves I didn't quite come out of the barrel, and that's it." Slater may not be willing to pass on the torch anytime soon, but he is giving the younger generation something of a slight nod. He is simply asking them to keep up as he sets the pace.