KAUAI’S BRUCE IRONS AWAKE IN A CHILDHOOD DREAM AT PIPE
Honolulu, HAWAII – (Monday, December 17, 2001) — Kauai’s Bruce Irons, 21, lived out a childhood dream today when he took first place in the world’s most prestigious professional surfing tournament: the Xbox Pipeline Masters. Irons battled through four rounds of competition en-route to the final in waves ranging from huge and life-threatening, to small and tricky. Today’s four-man final saw Irons lined up against five-time Pipeline Master Kelly Slater (Florida), newly crowned world champion C.J. Hobgood (Florida), and the youngest competitor in the event, Jamie O’Brien (Hawaii).
[IMAGE 3] Waves gradually dropped throughout the day, starting out at 10 feet (full face value) this-morning, and coming down to 4-6 feet by the final. In the end, Pipeline ironed out its most well-rounded competitors, favoring those who are both big wave specialists and small-wave magicians. While yesterday’s tube rides required total commitment and an element of craziness, today’s smaller conditions called for experienced wave selection and the ability of a surfer to mould himself to the winding barrels and thread his way through the ‘needle’ to earn the big scores. The crowd found it all amazing, hooting and cheering for the most sensational rides.
For Irons, his semi-final tussle was perhaps the toughest, forced to do battle with older Brother Andy, 23, and each had a lot on the line. Andy needed to reach the final to clinch the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Series title, and Bruce needed to make the final if he was to have any hope of reaching a dream. There was no slack given by either one to the other, and Bruce didn’t hold back on taking a couple of crucial rides from his brother. Andy ended up in third and out of contention and Bruce was one step closer to his dream.
[IMAGE 2] The final essentially turned into a man-on-man duel with Slater. Bruce ran away with the lead, finding plenty of travel time inside the barrel at Backdoor (the right hander of Pipeline) and earning scores of 8.5 and 7.0 to open. Slater kicked into gear after a couple of short, low-scoring rides and took the crowd to the edge of their seats as he leaped back into contention with 9.5 – a double entry and exit tube-ride at Backdoor and the highest scoring wave of the final. Two waves later, Slater found a left at Pipeline, pulled into a long, reeling tube he successfully completed for 8.25 points. Irons retaliated, a longer barrel at Pipeline for 8.6 points. As the final nine minutes of the 35 minute final ticked down, Slater was in the hunt for a 6.36 which would see him exceed Irons’ three-wave lead. It never came.
In the end, both Slater and Irons’ total heat scores were more than double that of third and fourth place finalists Hobgood and O’Brien. Irons – 24.1 out of 30, Slater -23.55, Hobgood – 11.15, O’Brien – 9.15. At 29, Slater was one of the veterans of the event but well understood the youthful determination of Irons having been the youngest surfer to ever win at Pipeline at the age of 20 in 1992. This was his seventh appearance in a Pipeline Masters final in nine years.
“I’m really stoked because I came close to winning a Pipe Masters final one time before (against Australian Jake Paterson in 1998),” said Irons. “All Kelly needed to do was get a wave and he could have won. It was a nerve-wracking final few minutes but I had all my friends up there cheering me on and I was going for it.
“That was the first time I’ve surfed with Kelly, so it was great. I got into a good rhythm and I was trying to keep going at Backdoor – it was working.”
It was a triple header of success for Hawaiians today, with the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Series title awarded to local Myles Padaca. Padaca placed third in the final of the G-Shock Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, won the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach, but was forced to wait in the wings after a first round loss in the Xbox Pipeline Masters yesterday. After Andy Irons’ semi-final loss, the $15,000 Triple Crown bonus was officially Padaca’s.
“This trophy right here represents a lot of hard work for a lot of guys who have achieved it – names such as Michael Ho, Derek Ho and Sunny Garcia,” said 31 year-old Padaca. “It’s a huge honor in itself. I’ve put a lot of blood sweat and tears into the North Shore over the past 12 years and this is the big payoff right here. I couldn’t have imagined a sweeter winter for me. Hopefully I can follow it up with a few more Triple Crowns in the future.”
[IMAGE 1] In all, Padaca pocketed a total of $49,000 this Vans Triple Crown.
Vans Triple Crown Rookie of the Year was also awarded today, going to 18-year-old Jamie O’Brien. In his first winter in all three of the Triple Crown events, O’Brien turned heads and earmarked himself for future successes.
By all accounts, this year’s unique invitation-only format for the Xbox Pipeline Masters was an unquestionable success. Had it not been the format it was, three of the four finalists (not including Hobgood) would not have been in it. Their performance speaks for the validity of allowing the world’s best tube-riders and local Pipeline surfers into the fray.
In 2002, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing will celebrate its 20th anniversary in special style, highlighting the extensive history of all three events as well as the culture and prestige that this Series brings to the world.
A satellite feed of event highlights from over the two days of competition will be sent out on Tuesday, and a second feed of Vans Triple Crown Series highlights, including the Xbox Pipeline Masters, will go out on Thursday. Satellite details are as follows:
Telstar 6 transponder K 20
Downlink 12062.5 MHz Horiz
Tuesday and Thursday: 15:00 àƒ,à‚Ë† 15:15 hours EST on TELSTAR
6, Transponder K-20 (KU-Band). Downlink frequency is
12062.5 MHz (Horizontal).
Trouble number: Pacific Television Center (310) 287-3800.
The 2001 Xbox Pipeline Masters will be showcased on network television next weekend, airing on NBC sports on Sunday, December 23, 2001, at 3:00 p.m. EST. The show will feature all the action and drama of this year’s event as well as historical highlights from the past 30 years of the Pipeline Masters.
For more information on Vans and the Vans Triple Crown Series, please visit www.vans.com.