Kelly Slater ran out of miracles as Australia’s Kieren Perrow won a thrilling 41st edition of the Billabong Pipeline Masters on Saturday.
Slater lost to Australian Joel Parkinson in the semi-finals after defeating fellow American John John Florence in a drama-charged quarter-final.
Slater was staring at a heavy defeat against his 19-year-old opponent, trailing by a whopping 16 points with only eight minutes remaining.
The maximum score on a single wave is 10 points, so Slater faced a near-impossible task. He pulled it off with consecutive waves of 9.7 and 7.83, the heat-winner coming with a mere 46 seconds remaining.
“I was just trying to hold John John off for one more year,” Slater said after the victory that had caused Florence to march off the beach in disbelief. “This might have been my last chance to get a few waves against him. He’s going to dominate Pipe for the next 20 years.”
The 34-year-old Perrow started the Pipe event with his career on the line having to reach the quarter-finals to even re-qualify for next year’s tour. Instead, he walked away with his tour future secured and the trophy.
“I’m speechless,” Perrow said after beating a wave-starved Parkinson by 13.7 points to seven. “This is too surreal and bizarre to be true.”
“There was so much pressure on me just to stay on the tour. This could have been the last event of my life. I brought my wife, my brother, my daughter and son here in case it was goodbye to professional surfing,” he said. “Not only have I re-qualified, I’ve won Pipe. It can’t be true.”
Slater, the 11-time world champion, however, was non-committal about contesting the tour full-time next year.
The 39-year-old is only a certain starter at the season-opening Quiksilver Pro, to be staged on the Gold Coast in Australia in February, because it comes under the banner of his major sponsor.
“If the next contest wasn’t with Quiksilver, I don’t know if I’d be going,” Slater said. “I seem to do well there and that sets up my whole year, but I don’t know if I would have started the tour the last couple of years if it wasn’t a Quiksilver contest.”
Florence’s quarter-final appearance was still enough to earn him the Vans Triple Crown for being the best performer of the Hawaiian season at Haleiwa, Sunset Beach and Pipeline.