Kelly Slater at Pipeline. Photos by Cestari/ASP.

Last weekend December 14, 2013, pro surfing came to a dramatic season ending at Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s north shore with Kelly Slater, 41, winning his 7th Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons in massive 15-foot waves. Slater defeated John John Florence (HAW), 21, in a hard-fought, 35-minute Final that ended with less than half a point separating the two. The runner-up finish for Florence saw him crowned 2013 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion.

The final day of the Billabong Pipe Masters capped off the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) season in fine style, with epic conditions providing the ideal backdrop for the crowning of Mick Fanning (AUS), 32, as the ASP World Champion. It also finalized the ASP Top 34 roster for 2014. Fanning finished third overall, defeated by Florence in their semi-final.

“It was a strange Final,” Slater said, who pocketed $75,000 for the win. “John John (Florence) and I both waited for a while and neither of us really got a score until late in the match. I knew it was going to be a sprint and it was probably a little advantageous not to have priority in the Final as I was able to go for a lot of waves instead of wait for those that took a while to eventuate.”

With tens of thousands packing the beach at Pipeline, and the gravitas of Slater’s 56th elite tour victory apparent, the greatest athlete the sport has ever produced was emotional on the final day of 2013.

Mick Fanning at Banzai Pipeline. Photo by ASP.

“The crowd today is the biggest I have ever seen at Pipe,” Slater said. “It’s unbelievable. I woke up in the dark and my friend Ross Williams was at my house saying he couldn’t even get his bike on the road to ride over here. We’re so excited to be here at Pipe, especially when the waves are good. All the people on the beach and online and watching on television make it that much more exciting.”

Speculation surrounding Slater’s eventual departure from the ‘Sport of Kings’ has been present at the season-ending event for the past several years, often supported by questions regarding motivation, legacy and physicality. The iconic American addressed these rumors unprompted today while on stage collecting his seventh Billabong Pipe Masters trophy.

“Last year, someone asked me what excited me in the end years of my career and I said I would like to surf a Final at Pipe against John John (Florence) so that’s pretty special today,” Slater said. “To win is even better. I want to surf against the best surfers at the best waves – that’s why I’m on tour. I was obviously emotional today, especially after Mick (Fanning) clinched the title in the Quarters. I don’t know what happens for me in 2014 but I think that has pissed me off just enough to come back.”

“Today was one of the most special days in my life,” Slater continued. “It’s a day I have dreamed about since I was a little kid – big, perfect, West-angled Pipeline and a showdown at the Pipe Masters. If I had stepped away from the sport five years ago, I wouldn’t have had today. I want more days like this so I’m definitely back next year.”

Fanning’s road to the 2013 ASP World Title was nothing short of spectacular on the final day of competition. Finding himself behind during both his Round 5 and Quarterfinals bouts, the iron-nerved Australian nailed huge Pipeline scores in both occasions to take the heat wins and his third world surfing crown.

“I’ve never put myself in the same circles as Tom Curren and Andy Irons,” Fanning said. “Tom (Curren) is such an enigma and was so instrumental to injecting style into our sport. Andy (Irons)…what hasn’t been said about Andy? He was such a legend and he was such a good friend. I’m honored to be a part of this group. I was happy with one title and I was overwhelmed with two. With three? I don’t have words for that.”

This marked John John Florence’s second Vans Triple Crown Title, but forces him to hang on to his life-long dream of one day hoisting the Pipe Masters trophy. The youngster, who lives right here at Pipe, battled Slater with a series of exciting exchanges during the final 10 minutes, coming painfully close. He won $30,000 for his 2nd place, and $10,000 bonus for this Vans Triple Crown series title.

“This is my second Triple Crown but it feels pretty special,” Florence said. “The first year, I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was young and just having fun. This year, I came into the Triple Crown wanting to win it, but I honestly didn’t think I had a chance until we got to the final day at Pipe. This result has me motivated for next year. It’s eating my inside how close I was, but I’m still stoked.”

Brazil’s Gabriel Medina was awarded the Hawaiian Airlines AirShow Award – 250,000 Miles – for an incredible tube ride that he punctuated with a high-flying alley-oop.

Joel Parkinson (AUS), 32, defending Billabong Pipe Masters Champion, took a Quarterfinals victory over Brazilian Miguel Pupo (BRA), 22, but fell to Kelly Slater in the Semifinals. Parkinson posted two solid scores of his own in the bombing Pipeline conditions, but was unable to put a stop to a near-perfect heat from Slater.

“I would have liked to make it to the final just to surf more perfect waves,” Parkinson said. “Kelly was always in the right place and no matter where he paddled waves were coming to him. I never ruled myself out, because I knew if I could find a 10, then it’d be game on again. It was one of those ones where the two best surfers of the whole event ended up in the final together.”

ASP Top 34 Finalized for 2014 ASP World Championship Tour Season
In a year that witnessed the world’s best surfers compete at Snapper Rocks, Bells Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Tavarua, Keramas, Teahupo’o, Trestles, Hossegor, Peniche and the Banzai Pipeline, 2013 not only hosted an incredible battle between Fanning and 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 41, for the world surfing crown, but also a fierce fight in terms of qualification and requalification for next year’s elite tour.

The 2014 ASP Top 34, the most elite surfers on the planet, will be comprised of the Top 22 finishers on the 2013 ASP WCT rankings, the Top 10 finishers on the ASP Qualification Series (QS) rankings (barring surfers who have already qualified through the Top 22 on the ASP WCT rankings) and two ASP wildcards.

2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) Top 22:
1. Mick Fanning (AUS)
2. Kelly Slater (USA)
3. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
4. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
5. Taj Burrow (AUS)
6. Julian Wilson (AUS)
7. Kai Otton (AUS)
8. Nat Young (USA)
9. Josh Kerr (AUS)
10. John John Florence (HAW)
11. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
12. Michel Bourez (PYF)
13. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
14. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
15. Filipe Toledo (BRA)
16. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
17. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
18. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
19. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
20. Fred Patacchia (HAW)
21. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
22. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
2013 ASP Qualification Series (QS) Top 10 (barring double qualifiers):
– Adam Melling (AUS)
– Kolohe Andino (USA)
– Alejo Muniz (BRA)
– Jadson Andre (BRA)
– Mitch Crews (AUS)
– Aritz Aranburu (EUK)
– Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
– Travis Logie (ZAF)
– Dion Atkinson (AUS)
– Brett Simpson (USA)
ASP Wildcards:
– Owen Wright (AUS)
– Tiago Pires (PRT)
ASP Replacement Surfers:
– Glenn Hall (IRL)
– Mitch Coleborn (AUS) – next in line on 2013 ASP QS rankings
– Patrick Gudauskas (USA) – next in line on 2013 ASP WCT rankings
– Willian Cardoso (BRA) – second in line on 2013 ASP QS rankings

The first stop on the 2014 ASP World Championship Tour will be the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast from March 1 – 12, 2014.

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