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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, December 7, 2003

World title up for grabs in Pipeline Masters

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer


Ten months and 11 contests ago, 44 surfers shared the same goal — win a world championship.

With one contest remaining on the men's World Championship Tour, only two have a shot at it: Andy Irons of Kaua'i and Kelly Slater of Florida.

One of them will be crowned world champ at the Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters, which will be held at the Banzai Pipeline on the four best days between tomorrow and Dec. 20.

"I think this is what everybody wanted," Slater said after placing 17th at the Rip Curl Cup on Friday.

Indeed, contest officials and fans were all smiles after the points were calculated following the Rip Curl Cup.

Entering the Pipeline Masters, Slater is No. 1 with 8,340 points. Irons, who finished second in the Rip Curl Cup, is No. 2 with 8,244.

Irons is the defending world champion; Slater is chasing an unprecedented seventh world title. Irons won the Pipeline Masters last year; Slater owns a record five Pipeline Masters championships.

"Coming into Pipeline, it's a dream come true," Irons said. "I'm coming from behind and Kelly's got the lead, so I think the pressure's on him."

Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

WHAT: Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters for men and Billabong Pro Maui for women

WHERE: Banzai Pipeline, Ehukai Beach, for men, Honolua Bay, Maui, for women

WHEN: Best four days between tomorrow and Dec. 20

AT STAKE: Final contests for the World Championship Tour and Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

• DAILY STATUS: 596-7873
As the top two seeds, Irons and Slater will be placed in opposite brackets. They cannot meet head-to-head in the Pipeline Masters unless they both reach the final.

Because of that, the other surfers in the contest will play key roles.

"It's probably not going to be perfect Pipe," Slater said. "You're going to have to probably know the wave pretty well in different conditions, and I do."

As the leader, Slater's task is to finish ahead of Irons at the Pipeline Masters, regardless of where that might be. As the chaser, Irons can guarantee a world title only by winning the Pipeline Masters. Otherwise, he needs to have a good showing and have someone else eliminate Slater early.

"It's on," Irons said.

• Women's race: There is equal drama for the women surfers, but with more contenders.

Entering this week's Billabong Pro Maui — the final stop on the women's tour — at least four women have a shot at the championship. Keala Kennelly of Kaua'i is No. 1, followed by five-time defending world champ Layne Beachley of Australia, Chelsea Georgeson of Australia and Heather Clark of South Africa.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8101.