BANZAI PIPELINE, Hawaii (Thursday, Dec. 12, 2008) - Nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) has won the Billabong Pipeline Masters a record sixth time today, defeating Californian darkhorse Chris Ward. The victory is Slater's sixth of the 11 event 2008 ASP World Tour season and provides him his first Vans Triple Crown of Surfing event victory since his last victory here at Pipeline in 1999. The Billabong Pipeline Masters is the third and final event of the 2008 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series.
Slater revolutionized Pipeline surfing today, winning on a 5'11" Merrick- a board many considered too small for the barreling, 6-to-8-foot waves.
While other Pipe Masters competitors rode surfboards in the 6'4" to 7'2" range, Slater charged with relatively smaller equipment on the 12- to 18-foot wave faces.
This was Slater's sixth Billabong Pipeline Masters title, sixth World Tour event win and his 40th professional contest victory. He also captured his ninth ASP World Championship earlier in October at the Billabong Pro Mundaka.
Slater was also presented a 1970's replica surfboard shaped by Gerry Lopez with solid gold edging for his Pipe Master's victory.
"It's inexplicable," Slater said of his win and banner season. "I'm just stoked. I wasn't even worried about surfing the event, so to surf it and win and get that board (a Gerry Lopez designed surfboard trophy). I'll cherish that for sure."
Slater has made the Pipeline Masters final 10 out of the 17 times he has entered the event; winning in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999 and again today.
Kelly Slater captured his sixth Billabong Pipeline Masters title today. Photo: Rowland/Covered Images/Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
"My season is all about nines," Slater said. "Winning this event nine years later, I needed a 9th in the ninth event of the year to win my 9th ASP World title, it's crazy."
Slater paddled out in eight to 10 foot waves at Pipeline four times today, beating Chris Ward (USA) 14.00 to 7.23 in the in the first man-on-man final* held at the venue in eight years. Slater's heat totals in the three heats prior to the final were 19.00, 18.63 and 19.40 - all out of a possible 20 points.
"It was disappointing that the waves didn't really turn on for us in the final," Slater said. "That's what we are here for, to put on a show for people - at least give them some big wipeouts or something. In the final there weren't too many waves, but I picked the right ones. It's about time Wardo had a result like this though. He is one of the best barrel riders in the world."
Ward's final berth today is the second of his four-year ASP World Tour career. The Californian made the final of his first event on tour on the Gold Coast of Australia in 2005 but finished second there as well. His result today saw him jump from 27th to 14th on the year-end ratings.
"I placed better than last year and I would have loved that win but Kelly got all the good waves," Ward said. "It was very hard out there, I think I missed a couple of good ones in the beginning but I am good. I'm happy."
Had Ward won the final, he would have won the 2009 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title too. He ended up finishing third in the ASP Specialty Series that rewards the surfer with the best Hawaiian season performance across three events.
"It was a great feeling to be in reach of the Triple Crown," Ward said. "I would definitely love to do it again in the future so I will try again."
Last year, Bede Durbidge became the first Australian to win the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Title since Mike Rommelse (AUS) in 1997. This year the honor went to Australia's Joel Parkinson who finished 5th in the first two legs of the Triple Crown held at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach and 9th at the Billabong Pipeline Masters. Parkinson's Vans Triple Crown victory earned him $10,000 and a $10,000 custom Nixon 51-30 tide watch which features a gunmetal finish, custom-engraved WTA case back and diamond baguettes.