Taj Burrow Wins The Billabong Pipeline Masters

Taj Burrow Wins The Billabong Pipeline Masters. Photo: Steindler

Taj Burrow Wins The Billabong Pipeline Masters. Photo: Steindler

Sweet Revenge

Taj Burrow Beats Kelly Slater To Win His First Billabong Pipe Masters.

By Casey Koteen

Kelly's wicked whip around. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Kelly's wicked whip around. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

“It feels as good as you could imagine!” exclaimed Taj Burrow from up on the stage at this year’s Billabong Pipeline Masters, holding up a check for $90,000 and his first Pipe Masters crown. “I can’t believe I’m standing here right now.”

It was the exclamation point to one of the most exciting North Shore winters in a long time, and perhaps the best Hawaii season ever for Australian competitive surfing. Between Stephanie Gilmore winning her third consecutive world title (and the women’s Triple Crown, and the Billabong Pro Maui), Parko taking the Vans Triple Crown title and the O’Neill World Cup at Sunset, and now Taj Burrow taking the Billabong Pipeline Masters, you could practically hear the Bronzed Aussies choking up back in Coolangatta.

Semifinalist Dean Morrison. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Semifinalist Dean Morrison. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

But back to Pipe. Taj got a monkey off his back today, nabbing his first WCT win since J-Bay in 2007, but more importantly earning it against Kelly Slater. The last final the Australian had against Slater was a contentious row at Trestles two years ago. You remember; Taj led the entire heat, and then with 30 seconds left Slater scooped the win out from under Taj’s feet by a tenth of a point, with many questioning whether Slater deserved the winning score. It was surely the most frustrating heat of Taj’s career.

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Leading up to the finals at Pipe, Slater looked predictably unstoppable, with clairvoyant wave choice. He uncorked everything from foamball rides through some very tricky barrels, to a mile long floater to shit-tight roundhouse cutbacks on his funky 5’6” quad.

2009 ASP World Champions Stephanie Gilmore and Mick Fanning with friends Holly Monkman and Matt Shadbolt. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

2009 ASP World Champions Stephanie Gilmore and Mick Fanning with friends Holly Monkman and Matt Shadbolt. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

When Taj realized he’d be meeting Kelly in the finals, his stomach must have gone to knots. In fact he looked a bit nervous getting announced on stage just before the final, but the jitters were quelled as soon as he landed his first lipper—a radical blow tail/nosebonk air, followed by knifey cutback, and then a little 360 in the whitewash. Not only did he unleash a super high-risk maneuver, he followed it up with variety—some felt the lack of which cost him the win at Trestles. It’d seemed as though he’d considered that and adjusted, and planned or not he was rewarded for it. It rang up a seven, and would be the highest score of the final. If anyone still thought barrels were going to win the day, that score made it crystal clear the final would be decided in the high-performance arena.

Dingo takes donuts in his matchup against Kelly Slater. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Dingo takes donuts in his matchup against Kelly Slater. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Kelly apparently didn’t get that memo. While there were some bomb barrels earlier in the day, for the finals the conditions deteriorated into just overhead, crumbly Backdoor peaks. Still, Slater—normally a wave-reading savant—seemed to be a little off, racing waves that perhaps would’ve offered a barrel earlier in the day, but were now crumbly launch ramps.

Taj held the lead from the start, but even with the clock ticking down to five minutes, Slater had plenty of time to potentially put together a few big scores and do the unthinkable to Taj again. Ask Timmy Reyes about that. Last year, he had Slater combed at Pipe with time winding down, and then Slater put together a perfect ten and a nine in a minute and half. Taj, however, was thinking about his own Kelly nightmare comeback, and was fighting back thoughts of imminent victory even with 30 seconds left.

Surfing in the expression session, Bruce Irons stole the show. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Surfing in the expression session, Bruce Irons stole the show. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

“I caught myself thinking it a few times,” said Burrow, “and kinda slapped myself in the face. That’s the last thing you should do, especially against Kelly. So I didn’t count my chickens until the siren went.”

Was he having flashbacks to Trestles? “Oh, 100 percent! There was a huge prize purse for that one too, and Kelly got me. That one was hard to swallow loosing, which makes this one all that much sweeter.”

The Goons Of Doom take the "stage" in the front yard of the Volcom house. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

The Goons Of Doom take the "stage" in the front yard of the Volcom house. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

It was an all-time win for Taj, and just as anti-climatic for Slater, who had to settle for the runner up spot both in the Eddie, and at Pipe this year. Especially anti-climatic since the talk of the rebel tour has sprung up again, which could potentially mean that heat was the last time we could see Kelly in an ASP comp. There’s been scuttlebutt that any surfers who do the rebel tour would not be allowed to compete in ASP events. The plot thickens … again.

Damien Hobgood (pictured) had a real battle of a heat against Dean Morrison complete with paddle battles and leash pulling. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Damien Hobgood (pictured) had a real battle of a heat against Dean Morrison complete with paddle battles and leash pulling. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

For now, though, the 2009 ASP season is sealed and done. Next stop, Snapper Rocks in February for the 2010 kickoff.

Results for the 2009 Billabong Pipeline Masters

Final:
1ST – Taj Burrow (AUS) 12.83, $90,000
2ND – Kelly Slater (USA) 7.10, $24,000

SEMI-FINALS:
S1: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.17 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 7.00
S2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.50 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 11.67

QUARTER FINALS:
Q1: Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.00 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.17
Q2: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.24 def. Flynn Novak (HAW) 13.87
Q3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.90 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.40
Q4: Dane Reynolds (USA) 15.10 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 8.67

2009 Billabong Pipeline Masters champion Taj Burrow. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Jamie O'Brien surfing in the Pipeline Masters Champions expression session. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Dane got high...Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Dane got high...Photo: Bielmann/SPL

...but Bruce got higher. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

...but Bruce got higher. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Dean and one of the Hazza twins getting loose after the contest. Lot's of this going on right now on the North Shore. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Dean and one of the Hazza twins getting loose after the contest. Lot's of this going on right now on the North Shore. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Always a crowd pleaser, Dane Reynolds made it to the semis before being knocked out by Taj Burrow. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Always a crowd pleaser, Dane Reynolds made it to the semis before being knocked out by Taj Burrow. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Kelly's first wave of the final wasn't the start he was looking for. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Kelly's first wave of the final wasn't the start he was looking for. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Taj's forst wave in the final...he never looked back after this big hack. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Taj's forst wave in the final...he never looked back after this big hack. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Taj Burrow. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Taj Burrow. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Bede Durbidge with some new stickers and the same beautiful girl. Photo: Dorsey

Bede Durbidge with some new stickers and the same beautiful girl. Photo: Dorsey

Yeah, we see you...Photo: Dorsey

Yeah, we see you...Photo: Dorsey

Taj gets carried up the beach by his trainer and Mick Fanning. Photo: Dorsey

Taj gets carried up the beach by his trainer and Mick Fanning. Photo: Dorsey

2009 ASP World Tour Rookie Of The Year Kekoa Bacalso. Photo: Dorsey

2009 ASP World Tour Rookie Of The Year Kekoa Bacalso. Photo: Dorsey

Good times at the Pipe Masters...wish you were here! Photo: Dorsey

Good times at the Pipe Masters...wish you were here! Photo: Dorsey

We cruised up to the Rip Curl house at one point in the day and came across Mick's trophy with nobody around it. Photo: Dorsey

We cruised up to the Rip Curl house at one point in the day and came across Mick's trophy with nobody around it. Photo: Dorsey

Bruce Irons ruling the expression session. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Bruce Irons ruling the expression session. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Dane Reynolds. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Dane Reynolds. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Jamie O'Brien. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Jamie O'Brien. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Mark Cunningham waits all year to bodysurf during the Pipe Masters. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Mark Cunningham waits all year to bodysurf during the Pipe Masters. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Taj Burrow through the looking glass. Photo: Stafford/SPL

Taj Burrow through the looking glass. Photo: Stafford/SPL

The trophy. Photo: Steindler

The trophy. Photo: Steindler

TransWorld SURF's Chris Cote vomits from the stench of his knee brace while Dingo spocks the lineup. Photo: Steindler

TransWorld SURF's Chris Cote vomits from the stench of his knee brace while Dingo spocks the lineup. Photo: Steindler

Think they were happy for Taj at the Billabong house? Photo: Steindler

Think they were happy for Taj at the Billabong house? Photo: Steindler

Andy, Bruce and Kamalei hold down the fort while Parko wins his second Vans Triple Crown title. Photo: Steindler

Andy, Bruce and Kamalei hold down the fort while Parko wins his second Vans Triple Crown title. Photo: Steindler