Kelly Slater in double-overhead barrels at Banzai Pipeline during the Volcom Pipe Pro. Photo by ASP/Bielmann.

Kelly Slater has reached a remarkable pinnacle, winning his 66th Association of Surfing Professsionals (ASP) win, and his 8th victory at the notoriously huge wave hotspot, Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, at the Volcom Pipe Pro on February 5, 2014.

As an 11-time world champion, Slater knows Pipe and seems to get better with each event at this location.  In epic, triple-overhead barrels, Slater had a series of stunning performances that made the win seem inevitable from his first ride. It was an inspiring start to his 24th season on the world tour, winning $130,000. Slater celebrates his 42nd birthday next Tuesday.

Runner-up after a late charge in the final, was Brazil’s Wiggolly Dantas, 24. Third place was local boy Mason Ho, 25; and fourth was Adriano De Souza (26, Brazil).

Slater ended the event with five of the top 10 wave scores of the competition, including a perfect 10 (10, 9.83, 9.77, 9.73 and 9.53). He also owned the top heat score of the event – 19.77 out of 20, posted in the Round of 32 this-morning. As the most decorated surfer at this most famous of all surfing locations, it’s events like these that allow Slater uncrowded “Pipe time” to finesse his performance. Unlike other professional athletes, surfers can never get private time at a competition venue; this is as close as it gets.

Mason Ho on Day 3 of the Volcom Pipe Pro. Photo by Bielmann.

Clearly, Slater’s multiple hands-free late drops and torquing bottom turns into the barrel were a step up from what we even saw here in December, when he won the Pipe Masters. His trajectory of improvement in this sport continues to climb as he pushes his own limits from session to session.

“This was some of the best Pipe I’ve ever surfed in my life,” said Slater. “There were some really gnarly, intense, kind of vicious waves this morning. It was really doubling up, a new swell, it was a little bit wonky.

“There were a couple waves that I got right in that little sweet spot where you can just barely make the wave. It did feel like there was definitely some room out there to work on things and the opportunity was there because when the wave gets really intense, you’ve got to just totally commit, and you can see if a guys committed or not, and you can choose to be like that.”

Reflecting back on his relationship with Pipeline: “I remember coming here when I was 12 years old, I met Joey Buran on the trail the morning after he won the Pipe Masters in 1984. I think back on that time… I came down here to watch and the first wave I saw just barreled and spat and I felt like this big door… this whole other world just opened up to me on that day. I fell in love with Pipeline that moment and it’s been my favorite wave ever since. And the challenge never ends. There were definitely waves out there today that I wish I had gotten and I couldn’t figure out how to do it.”

Mason Ho said his goal was second place today, apparently resigned to a Slater win. But by heat’s end he was surprised to find himself in with a shot. Slater had opened with a Backdoor beauty that earned him 9.53. Ho answered with a beautiful Backdoor ride of his own for 7.7. Then in the final minute of the heat, the one he’d been looking for arrived. But Backdoor seemed to pinch on him after a long, threading tube that could have turned the tables.

Meanwhile, Wiggolly Dantas logged two committed barrels of his own in the last five minutes that saw him leapfrog the young Hawaiian and steal second. Dantas’ best barrel in the final scored 8.27 and seemed a fitting conclusion to a string of impressive performances today.

If there was a valor award, it would have gone to Dorrington, who threw himself at Pipeline like a bug to a windshield, earning some of the most exciting rides but more than a few horrific wipeouts.

For Coleborn, who is on the verge of qualifying for the elite ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) this year, the Volcom Pipe Pro represents important practice time at Pipe and a chance to compete against, and lose to, Slater in the semis.

“As much experience as you can gain out here is key for sure,” said Coleborn. “Ultimately the Pipe Masters is an event I hopefully want to do some day. Bieng an injury replacement (on the WCT) this year I have a very good chance of getting into that event, so any practice I can get out here is good.

“I had Kelly Slater (in the semis) and kind of fell into his spell a little bit I think. Just a couple of little mistakes and a couple waves I didn’t quite come out of the barrel and that’s it.”

Maui’s Olamana Eleogram looked to be on track for his second consecutive Volcom Pipe Pro final today, posting some of the highest wave scores in the round of 32. Then tragedy struck in the quarters when his cranked a hard bottom turn into a big barrel and got caught by the crashing lip of the wave. His board hit him and broke his leg. He had to be rescued from the water by Hawaiian Water Patrol, carried up the beach and escorted to hospital where he learned he will need surgery and pins.

The Volcom Pipe Pro is an extra special event for the local Hawaiian competitors, being that it is the official Pipe Masters Qualifier. The top eight Hawaiian competitors in the Volcom Pipe Pro will be rewarded with local seeds into the 2014 event, which is part of the Triple Crown series and wraps up the ASP World Tour in December.

In line with Volcom’s New Future commitment and in partnership with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, the event will again run according to the Deep Blue Surf Event ™ guidelines that Sustainable Surf and ASP North America have established to help reduce the environmental impact of surf contests.

Kelly Slater in the winner’s chair. Photo by ASP/Morrissey.