Durbidge delivers at Pipe
Triple Crown lands Down Under after the Aussie surfs to victory in the Pipeline Masters
A banner year for surfers from Down Under was made even better yesterday when Australian professional Bede Durbidge capped it off by coming out on top at the 37th annual Billabong Pipeline Masters as well as in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series.
The 24-year-old from Currumbin tallied 16.67 (out of 20) total points for his top two waves in the 35-minute, four-man Pipeline Masters final to win the longest-running and most prestigious pro contest in the world.
In addition to serving as the finale for the World Championship Tour, the Pipeline Masters was also the third and final major North Shore contest in the Triple Crown. Durbidge captured the series' championship as its top overall performer, after finishing as the runner-up and then making the quarterfinals in the first two jewels.
"This is the greatest moment in my life as a competitive surfer, I'm just over the moon," said Durbidge, who received $30,000 for the Pipeline Masters victory and also a limited-edition Chevy Colorado truck and a diamond-encrusted Nixon watch for his Triple Crown overall title. "It was tricky (for this event), and it wasn't the 8-foot (Hawaiian scale, which is doubled for wave-face value) barrels everyone was hoping for. But winning the Triple Crown has been a dream of mine for a long, long time, and I've always felt that proving yourself in Hawaii is right up there with winning the world title."
Durbidge assumed the lead in the decider early on, tallying a near-perfect 9.50 score 10 minutes in after executing two huge carving maneuvers on a right-breaking wave and then working it through the inside section. He backed that up with a 7.17 on his fourth and final ride, with about 10 minutes remaining.
Two other Aussies and one Hawaii surfer joined Durbidge in the final, with Dean Morrison placing second with 13.00 total points, Pupukea's Pancho Sullivan (9.60) taking third and Joel Parkinson (7.43) fourth.
After starting out and surfing most of the year without a major sponsor, Durbidge's Pipeline Masters victory pushed him to a No.-5 finish in the world rankings. He is the first Aussie to win the event since Jake Paterson in 1998, and the first since Mike Rommelse in 1997 to win the Triple Crown.
Earlier this year, Mick Fanning became the first Australian to earn the men's world championship since 1999. And just last Thursday, countrywoman Stephanie Gilmore became the first surfer -- male or female -- to win a world championship in her rookie year.
"It's been a good year for the Australians, for sure," Durbidge said. "It was great to see Mick win, and then Stephanie, and for me to be able to top it off -- it seems like the Aussies got everything."
Wave conditions at the infamous Banzai Pipeline were far from ideal for the four-day event. Yesterday was the worst of the four, as mere 3- to 5-foot-face waves rolled through the lineup that was spread much wider than normal because of the small surf. But with no improvement forecast for the remaining three days of the waiting period, Triple Crown officials felt compelled to run the final day.
"After getting big waves for the first two events, this is only the third time in the (25-year) history of the Triple Crown that we had to deal with really adverse surf conditions," series executive director Randy Rarick said. "But these are the best surfers in the world, and they are getting the scores and making even the small surf look good."
Morrison's runner-up result was enough to push him into the top 10 of the final world rankings, at No. 9. A former Pipeline Masters and Triple Crown series runner-up, Parkinson finished at No. 4. After placing equal-fifth yesterday, Aussie Taj Burrow earned his third No. 2 finish without a world title in his nine years on the WCT.
After qualifying for the WCT relatively late in his career and in just his second year on the tour, Sullivan finished a career-best No. 7. Though the veteran North Shore surfer readily admitted the conditions at this year's Pipeline Masters were far from perfect, he insisted on giving Durbidge his due.
"This definitely wasn't (traditional) Pipeline and the Pipeline Masters. But I don't want to take anything away from Bede, and he surfed well throughout the entire Triple Crown," Sullivan said. "You don't want to take away the accolade from anyone who's earned it."
Two-time defending Pipeline Masters champ Andy Irons of Kauai was eliminated yesterday morning in the fourth round. Fanning went down in the same round, and record former five-time event and eight-time world champ Kelly Slater of Florida was eliminated in the fifth.