Dusty Payne (HAW), 21, 2010 ASP World Tour rookie, keeps his requalification hopes alive with two heat wins today at the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons. Photo by ASP-Kirstin.

While most people think of surfing in the same breath as summer, it’s actually winter when the swells are at their largest in many parts of the world, which is why the biggest competitions take place during this time of year, in particular, on the North Shore of Oahu.

Yesterday, December 8, 2010, marked yet another emotional day for the surfing industry with the kick-off of what is undoubtedly the Big Kahuna of surfing events, the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, presented by Rockstar, which is also the final event of the Vans Triple Crown series on the North of Oahu. It was also the birthday for little Andy Axel Irons, the son of Lyndie and the late Andy Irons, as Andy, Jr. was born at 8 a.m., witnessed by Andy’s brother, pro surfer Bruce Irons.

Bruce Irons at the Billabong Pipe Master in Memory of Andy Irons.

According to Ocean Promotion from Oahu, Bruce Irons, who is also a former Pipeline Master champ (2001), was in attendance for his nephew’s birth in Kauai, then quickly flown by private plane to the North Shore of Oahu to compete in the opening day of the Billabong Pipeline Masters in memory of his brother.

“Contests are fun but life means a lot more,” said Bruce after competing, but not making it to the next round. “He’s (Axel) a nice, healthy baby boy. Andy Axel’s doing really good and I’m just happy that they’re healthy.”

Tom Whitaker, who ironically received his place in the event as Andy’s replacement, bowed out later in the day to Patrick Gudauskas. A new father himself, he shared the joy of the Irons’ family.

“It was just an emotional heat, life’s not about getting through heats anymore, it’s about loving people. Little Andy was born this-morning and Bruce was there. I’ve got a little boy now too, so we just connected. Today was always going to be an emotional heat,” said Whitaker.

So far at the Billabong Pipeline Master, 2-time defending champion Joel Parkinson remains on course for a 3rd straight title after advancing to Round 3, which took place in 8-12-foot surf.

“The current was just roaring out and you had to paddle in the whole time and it was so hard to pick the right wave. But I got a couple five piont rides and it was enough,” said Parkinson.

“I’ve enjoyed my winter so much, winning the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing it would just kinda be the icing on the cake. Especially after the year that I’ve had. It would mean a lot to me, to know I can still win something, that I can still win in Hawaii.”

For the pro women surfers, the final stop on the 2010 Women’s Vans Triple Crown will see the current top four surfers on the ratings after the first two jewels, Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore, Coco Ho, and Alana Blanchard, battle for the prestigious ASP Specialty Series title in a one-heat battle at Pipeline. The event will take place during the Billabong Pipe Masters waiting period, December 8 through 20, 2010.

Stay tuned for more updates from the North Shore and the Billabong Pipeline Masters.

In other surf news, Surf Diva Boutique, the extension of the widely popular Surf Diva surf school for women, has been nominated by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) for women’s retailer of the year.

We are so stoked to be recognized by the surf industry as one of the Top 5 Women’s Surf Retailers. It’s a huge honor for Surf Diva and everyone who has supported us along the way,” said Izzy Tihanyi, founder and co-owner.

“Besides being the original surf school for women, we feel that our most important achievement is how our customer feels when she walks through our door. She immediately knows that she is in a girl surfing sanctuary, owned and operated by women, for women.” says Coco Tihanyi, co-owner and retail buyer.

Surf Diva features a unique mix of beach fashion with women’s surf apparel such as Hurley, Quiksilver, Vans, DC, Element and Sanuk as well as unique lines such as Hinano, Surf Monky, L* Space, Lucy Love, Vitamin A, Ted Shred’s, Desigual and Indah.

Surf Diva also has a strong community commitment, supporting environmental and local programs. Just this year Surf Diva became the leading retailer for the San Diego Junior Lifeguard uniform program. “Working with the community to make our beaches cleaner and safer is a priority for us,” said Izzy.

The criteria for the SIMA Image Awards nomination is: Awarded to the specialty retailer that featured the best selection, product mix and merchandising in the women’s category between January 1 and September 1, 2010.