Epic waves for kick-off of the Billabong Pipe Masters, North Shore of Oahu. Photo by ASP/Cestari.

The final stop of the ASP (Association for Surfing Professionals) World Title Series and the crowned jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing always ends at the infamous break Banzai Pipeline in Oahu’s North Shore. This year, the event is called the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, and includes 34 top male surfers in what will undoubtedly play out to be one of the most competitive and exciting surf events of the season.

Reports coming in this morning confirm the fact that Pipeline is going off: “We’ve got 10-to-15 foot surf at Pipeline this morning with wash-through sets at second reef,” Randy Rarick, Billabong Pipe Masters Contest Director said. “This is the biggest surf we,ve had in the memory of the event.”

Rounds 1 & 2 will run today. Surfers to take to the water will include Vans Triple Crown contenders John John Florence (Hawaii) who just won the Vans Triple Crown%u2019s second event, and Adam Melling (Australia); Jadson Andre (Brazil), Taylor Knox (USA), Bruce Irons (Hawaii), Dane Reynolds (USA), Kolohe Andino (USA), and Tanner Gudauskas (USA). The 11-time ASP World Champ, Kelly Slater, will be among the competitors in the later heats. So far, the ASP ranking is as follows:

ASP WORLD TITLE TOP 5 (Heading into Billabong Pipe Masters):
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 63,350 pts
2. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 48,600 pts
3. Owen Wright (AUS) 47,900 pts
4. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 43,700 pts
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 42,200 pts

Stay tuned for more from the Billabong Pipe Masters as the event gets underway.

Kelly Slater (Florida) & Shane Dorian (Hawaii) Partake in the Opening Ceremony Paddle Out of the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, Waimea Bay. Photo by Quiksilver.com/Bielman.

In other surfing news, this is also the timeframe when the original bigwave event, Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, begins. It’s a rare international sporting event that can have no set date, and has been held just eight times in a span of 27 years. The lifeblood of the big wave Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau lies in what one man’s life represented: the best that surfing and Hawaii have to offer the world. 

The story of Eddie Aikau, a Hawaiian hero who saved and inspired lives as Waimea Bay’s resident lifeguard and big wave charger, continues to touch generations. It’s a story that is told anew each December, when the opening ceremony for the event in his honor takes place on Oahu’s North Shore, as it did today.

The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau is a one-day big wave surfing event that only runs when, and if, waves at Waimea Bay reach a minimum height of 20 feet. It was last held in December of 2009. It is a tribute to Aikau, who rode the mountainous waves of Waimea Bay in the late ’60s and early ’70s and saved lives as its first full-time lifeguard. He was lost at sea in 1978, west of the Hawaiian Islands during a voyage of the Polynesian sailing canoe, Hokule’a. Hokule’a capsized in heavy seas, stranding her crew. Eddie insisted upon paddling for land to get help, but was never seen again.

“There will be waves,” said Hawaiian kahu (priest) Billy Mitchell, in a voice that traveled to the far reaches of the bay. “But those of you here today know that this is about much more than that.

“Eddie had a passion. He had a passion about living and loving the ocean. Whether you surf or you don’t surf, you are drawn to people like Eddie in life. People with big mana (spirit). We have to remember, and we cannot forget, someone who lived this way. Eddie never left people behind. It was his way. We need that in this life, especially now. It’s a way to surf; it’s a way to live.

“This event is Eddie’s story, and it is a ripple in the ocean to travel around the world.”

The holding period for the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau starts today, December 1st, and runs through to February 29, 2012. The defending champion is California’s Greg Long. Past champions are Denton Miyamura (Hawaii), Keone Downing (Hawaii), Clyde Aikau (Hawaii), Noah Johnson (Hawaii), Ross Clarke-Jones (Australia), Kelly Slater (USA), and Bruce Irons (Hawaii).

Taj Burrow at Cloubreak.

Finally, the ASP International has released its 2012 World Tour schedule today, outlining the respective ASP World Title, ASP World Junior, ASP World Longboard, ASP Masters, ASP Prime and ASP Star tours for the year ahead:

2012 ASP World Title Series:
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast %u2013 Australia (February 25 %u2013 March 7, 2012)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach %u2013 Australia (April 3 %u2013 14, 2012)
Billabong Rio Pro %u2013 Brazil (May 9 %u2013 20, 2012)
Volcom Pro Fiji %u2013 Fiji (June 3 %u2013 16, 2012)
Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay %u2013 South Africa (July 11 %u2013 22, 2012)
Billabong Pro Teahupoo %u2013 Tahiti (August 16 %u2013 27, 2012)
Quiksilver Pro New York %u2013 USA (September 2 %u2013 14, 2012)
Hurley Pro at Trestles %u2013 USA (September 15 %u2013 23, 2012)
Quiksilver Pro France %u2013 France (September 26 %u2013 October 6, 2012)
Rip Curl Pro Portugal %u2013 Portugal (October 7 %u2013 17, 2012)
Billabong Pipe Masters %u2013 Hawaii (December 8 %u2013 20, 2012)
The addition of the Volcom Pro in Tavarua, Fiji, is one of the great highlights for next year, as it%u2019s back in the line-up. However, notably absent from the 2012 ASP World Title Series schedule is the Rip Curl Pro Search, but the event will return in 2013.

“We are taking a year off from the front line of running the event and putting a solid 18 months into the planning of the 2013 Rip Curl Pro Search. To take the Search to the next level is always the goal. We do that every year, but following San Francisco and the twist it delivered to the surfing world we feel we need more time and care to really blow minds,” said Rip Curl’s Neil Ridgway. “In that time we have had everything from ASP world titles to underworld rip offs, terrorist alerts to perfect tubes, great personal and professional difficulty and epic celebration parties. This event more than any other combines the discipline of professional sport with the travelling lifestyle and freedom surfers love. It needs to be nurtured so it grows better than ever. A year tending to it in planning is the right way to develop it.”

The 2012 ASP Women%u2019s World Title Series sees the return of the core seven events from this season. As we wrote about previously, the women%u2019s pro surfing competition circuit is in major need of sponsors. For the first time ever, there is no women%u2019s competitions in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. As we%u2019ve quantified in our Youth Culture Studies, however, surfing is a sport that ranks very high among 13-25-year-olds that they most want to learn. If ever there was an opportunity for a brand to sponsor something with significant marketing potential, it would be women%u2019s professional surfing events.

2012 ASP Women%u2019s World Title Series:
Roxy Pro Gold Coast %u2013 Australia (February 25 %u2013 March 7, 2012)
Rip Curl Women%u2019s Pro Bells Beach %u2013 Australia (April 3 %u2013 9, 2012)
Subaru Pro Women%u2019s Surf Festival %u2013 New Zealand (April 11 %u2013 15, 2012)
Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic %u2013 Australia (April 18 %u2013 23, 2012)
Billabong Rio Pro %u2013 Brazil (May 9 %u2013 20, 2012)
Roxy Pro Biarritz %u2013 France (July 9 %u2013 15, 2012)
Nike US Open of Surfing %u2013 USA (July 30 %u2013 August 5, 2012)