Monday, December 20, 1999
Pipeline at its
The Pipe Masters finishesBy Greg Ambrose
today in 'dangerous but
Special to the Star-Bulletin
As the Mountain Dew Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters entered its final day of competition today, the spectators on the beach at the Banzai Pipeline were still buzzing from yesterday's competition.
Throughout the day, the ocean alternately treated the world's best professional surfers to incredible tube rides and tormented them with memorable drubbings.
The 10-to 12-foot waves were bolstered by occasional huge sets that broke on the deep outside reefs, turning the traditional lineup at the Pipeline into a maelstrom that had surfers scrambling for safety.
"I always said I'd go out in anything, but I was holding my pants out there," Hawaii surfer Sunny Garcia said. "After watching Derek (Ho) and the other guys get hurt out here the other day, I was little bit cautious out there. It was dangerous and gnarly, but fun."
The tubes vanished during Garcia's heat with last year's Pipe Masters runner-up Bruce Irons of Kauai, as huge sets periodically buried the barrels in swirling walls of white water. The few pitching peaks that lured the two Hawaii surfers into the pit quickly executed them with a liquid guillotine on the inside section.
But Garcia knocked Irons out of the contest by paddling for the horizon and latching onto a huge wave on the second reef, which he took for a speed run all the way to the inside section.
Newly crowned world champion Mark Occhilupo of Australia turned in a masterful performance in his quest to end his dream season with an exclamation point of a repeat performance of his 1985 victory in the Pipe Masters.
In the process, Occhilupo ended the dream ride of Aussie Zane Harrison, 19, the hero of the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach who had been on a tear taking out the top Association of Surfing Professionals world tour contestants.
In an earlier heat, Harrison had bested Occhilupo, but in yesterday's competition, Occhilupo taught his countryman a valuable lesson in a battle of the old new school versus the new school of surfing.
While Harrison embarked on a desperate kamikaze assault on any hollow wave that came his way, with disastrous results, maestro Occhilupo created a spontaneous symphony on the waves. In one particularly delicious segment, Occhilupo took a late drop on a precipitous wave, paused to set up a full-rail bottom turn into a deep barrel, then stalled as the pitching lip hid him from view, and emerged in a mist of compressed air and salt water.
Hawaii surfer Tamayo Perry also dispatched one of Australia's bright young stars by taking out World Championship Tour pro Taj Burrow in a dramatic heat.
The crowd went wild when Perry fell from the sky on a steep, concave peak, clawed his way under the lip as it pitched overhead and set his rail for a full-speed, deep barrel.
As Burrow gamely burrowed backside into some tight tubes, Perry completed his statement that he is ready for the world tour with one last late drop that he maneuvered into a improbably deep tube.
In a day of competition filled to overflowing with drama, the ocean saved the best for last. Kauai surfer Andy Irons was eager to keep one family member in the Pipe Masters, and seasoned world tour veteran Luke Egan of Australia was just as keen to further his own goal of a Pipe Masters victory.
Irons set the pace with his first wave of the heat, where he ducked backside into the tube, then repeated the barrel ride on the inside section in case the judges had missed the first one.
After Irons and Egan traded late drops on outside waves with nary a tube in sight, Irons lunged into a pitching wave and, against all odds, emerged to daylight after the roof collapsed on his head. But Egan answered back with a deep barrel on a bigger wave that earned a nearly perfect 9 points, and gave him a great chance to knock the last Irons out of the event.
With two minutes left, Irons clawed his way onto a beast of a wave on the second reef, powered off the lip and rebounded off the white water, then repeated the lip-bash and white water slam in even more radical fashion at full speed on the towering wave.
The wave pitched out as it churned across the reef, and Irons pulled in for a deep barrel and emerged through the white water curtain to slam off the lip again as the crowd roared.
The judges responded with the event's only perfect 10-point score, and the last of the 16 finalists had won a place in today's competition in fine fashion.
Conan Hayes rounded out the contingent of four Hawaii surfers that has Garcia in the lead for a Triple Crown title and possible Pipe Masters victory.