Pipeline Masters

Annual men's-only professional surfing competition held in December at Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu; founded in 1971 by former world surfing champion Fred Hemmings of Hawaii. Because the explosive tubes at Pipeline are regarded as one of the great wonders of the surfing world, and because the waves break just 75 yards off the beach, the Pipeline Masters has long been regarded as the sport's top surfing contest. "There's nothing like it," surf writer Nick Carroll noted, "for showcasing the sport at its absolute staggering best."

Different from every other surfing contest in the world—with the exception of the Tahiti Pro, held in Pipeline-like barrels at Teahupoo—the Masters is designed as a tuberiding event. Turns and cutbacks are scored, but if the surf is cooperating (every few years the Masters is plagued by nonhollow waves), the win goes to the surfer who can ride deepest in the tube for the longest period of time in heat after heat. Almost every edition of the Masters has produced at least a few moments of high drama, and more often than not it proves to be the best event of the season.

The Hawaiian Masters, as it was originally known, was conceived and developed by Fred Hemmings three years after he won the 1968 World Surfing Championships. Continental Airlines contributed the $1,000 prize purse to the inaugural Masters. Just six surfers were invited to the single-heat event, held December 16 in "a rather docile six-foot-plus swell," as Hemmings later recalled. The "officials area" consisted of some plastic bunting, 10 metal folding chairs, and a card table; fewer than 50 spectators were scattered across the beach. Hawaiian pro surfer Jeff Hakman took the $500 first-place check in an event that went completely unreported in the surf press. The most intriguing aspect to the debut Masters is that Pipeline prodigy Gerry Lopez of Hawaii was a no-show—allegedly because third-place finisher Corky Carroll of California told Lopez the event had been postponed.

The Masters evolved slowly; it was a single-heat contest until 1975, and the prize purse didn't hit $10,000 until 1980. The Masters was included in the world pro tour's debut season in 1976, and has been part of the tour every year except 1983, 1984, 1985, and 2001. It was the world tour's season finale in 1992 and 1993, from 1995 to 2000, and each year since 2002.

Surf history has often been made at the Masters. Simon Anderson of Australia won in 1981 and showed that his new tri-fin surfboard, already proven in smaller surf, worked just as well in the big, powerful Hawaiian waves. Hawaiian surfer Michael Ho won the following year with his right wrist in a cast. In 1983, competitor Steve Massefeller was nearly killed after suffering a massive head injury during a heat. World champions Derek Ho and Tom Carroll both won multiple Masters titles, but it was 11-time world champion Kelly Slater of Florida who became the dominant Masters surfer, winning the event five times during the '90s, and again in 2008. Kauai's Andy Irons set the pace in the 2000s, winning the event four times from 2002 through 2006.

The surf video 25 Years of Pipeline was released in 1995 to commemorate the Masters' 25th anniversary; The Pipeline Masters, a one-hour documentary in honor of the event's 30th anniversary, came out in 2001. ABC-TV's Wide World of Sports covered the Masters from 1972 to 1982; NBC aired the 2001 event. In 2006, director Stacey Peralta released the documentary film Pipeline Masters, a five-decade history of the break and of the best Masters performances.

Pipeline Masters sponsors over the years have included Primo, O'Neill, Offshore, Marui, Chiemsee, Mountain Dew, X-Box, Rip Curl and Billabong; the event is part of the Triple Crown of Surfing, a three-contest series held on the North Shore.

Prize money for the Masters topped $100,000 in 1991; the 2013 event was worth $450,000.

Pipeline Masters winners:

1971: Jeff Hakman

1972: Gerry Lopez

1973: Gerry Lopez

1974: Jeff Crawford

1975: Shaun Tomson

1976: Rory Russell

1977: Rory Russell

1978: Larry Blair

1979: Larry Blair

1980: Mark Richards

1981: Simon Anderson

1982: Michael Ho

1983: Dane Kealoha

1984: Joey Buran

1985: Mark Occhilupo

1986: Derek Ho

1987: Tom Carroll

1988: Robbie Page

1989: Gary Elkerton

1990: Tom Carroll

1991: Tom Carroll

1992: Kelly Slater

1993: Derek Ho

1994: Kelly Slater

1995: Kelly Slater

1996: Kelly Slater

1997: Johnny-Boy Gomes

1998: Jake Patterson

1999: Kelly Slater

2000: Rob Machado

2001: Bruce Irons

2002: Andy Irons

2003: Andy Irons

2004: Jamie O'Brien

2005: Andy Irons

2006: Andy Irons

2007: Bede Durbidge

2008: Kelly Slater

2009: Taj Burrow

2010: Jeremy Flores

2011: Kieren Perrow

2012: Joel Parkinson