The Billabong Pipe Masters in Oahu, Hawaii, serves to solidify the leaders in competitive surfing each year. It stands as the final leg of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour. This year, the competition marked its 45th year and the competitors gave their all through 13 days of steep faces, gnarly wipeouts, and epic barrels.
The trials ran from December 8th through the 20th at the Banzai Pipeline in Ehukai Beach Park, where heavy barrels break close to shore on a shallow reef, providing excellent viewing with vertical faces but adding a distinct and very real element of danger to those wanting to display their skills on the world stage.
This year began with a tense start when Evan Geiselman wiped out on a huge barrel at the North Shore’s Pipeline, was overtaken by three more waves, and lost consciousness before being rescued by body boarder Andre Botha, and, later, a team of responders. After being hospitalized, he was stabilized, recovered quickly, and returned to the water.
This competition has one of the longest histories of establishing the best and brightest in the surf world. Since 1970, it has drawn the top competitors, like Rob Machado, Andy Irons, and Derek Ho, from the World Surf League (WSL) to the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii and set them against rising stars vying for a place at the top of their field. Each year, it selects 45 WSL surfers and 16 newcomers to participate. This competition was one of the first to establish Kelly Slater as a global leader in the sport; he has previously won 7 titles, and he shredded in this year’s trials, as well.
This Billabong Pipe Masters introduced us to newcomers Caio Ibelli and Miquel Pupo from Brazil and Kolohe Andino from the U.S., and allowed us to fully appreciate the potential of 2013’s Rookie of the Year Nat Young. We also saw some of the good ol’ boys, like C.J. Hobgood, former winner Bruce Irons, and 2012’s winner Australian Joel Parkinson. All displayed their best skills and daring for a chance at the Vans World Cup of Surfing.
This year, surfing representatives from Brazil dominated the scene. Adriano de Souza charged to the front of the competition, winning the Pipe Masters, his first world title. Another Brazilian, Gabriel Medina, scored the most points and won the Triple Crown, thus concluding 2015’s competitive surf season.
If you want to watch some of the action, you can check out World Surf League’s YouTube playlist of the 2015 Billabong Pipe Masters.