The biggest surf news of the week has been the mass exodus from the upcoming Pipe Masters by every single good surfer on the World Surf League’s Championship Tour. John John Florence gone. Kelly Slater not showing. Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, Filipe Toledo staying away. Stephanie Gilmore no more.
The event, which has long been the most prestigious in all of surfing, has created unforgettable heroes. Gerry Lopez, Rory Russell, Michael Ho, Jamie O’Brien, Andy Irons etc. And the thought of today’s surfers turning down an opportunity to Pipeline or Backdoor to fortune or fame has surf fans scratching their heads in disbelief.
Well, speculation initially fell upon the World Surf League itself. As you know, the Pipe Masters used to end the Championship Tour until last year when it was decided that it should kick it off instead. Problem? January is the better time to begin but Vans, owner of the Pipe Masters name and window, did not want to make it in January forcing the WSL to rebrand their offering the Pipeline Pro. Vans then teamed up with Stab to create the “new and improved” Pipe Masters, an invitational specialty event that scores Pipeline, Backdoor plus airs at Ehukai.
With the WSL stars dropping out, certainly Santa Monica was either fining or disallowing participation.
Sources within the League’s office declare, definitively, that not to be the case. That the Pipe Masters has been sanctioned and any and all are welcome to play.
More noggin itching.
And so, as a surf journalist, I reached out to a in-the-know industry source who has been around the game for decades and seen many iterations of professional surfing. The wizened soul who prefers to remain unnamed opined, “The Pipe Masters used to have real stakes. Best surfers with something on the line. Used to be the title itself. Anyhow, now it’s just a sorta strange exhibition event with no stakes at all. As much as surfers want to surf Pipe, to do it with a real lack of prestige and not against the best surfers in the world makes it a lot less enticing. I think it’s a lot like Vans turning the Triple Crown digital. They messed that up good with much less interest compared to when the events were each live and based on results.”
But do you think correct?
Has Vans attempted to fix something that was not broken?
And are you excited for the new format?
Speak from the heart, please.