Sean Penn, with Vans shoes, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and, inset, John John Florence wins the Pipeline Masters.
Sean Penn's famous Vans scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and, inset, John John Florence wins last-ever significant Pipeline Masters in 2021. | Photo: Fast Times at Ridgemont High/WSL

How Vans and WSL destroyed surfing’s most prestigious cultural relic The Pipeline Masters

“There's nothing like (the Pipeline Masters) for showcasing the sport at its absolute staggering best," says Nick Carroll.

Once upon a time, well, until two years ago, the most prestigious surfing contest in the world was the Pipeline Masters, a tuberiding event held at Pipe on Oahu’s North Shore. 

The Pipeline Masters was created in 1971 by the wonderful Fred Hemmings, one of the pivotal figures in surfing whose contribution to the game was largely ignored ‘cause of his conservative bent, and won that year by Jeff Hakman, followed by two years of dominance by Mr Pipe Gerry Lopez.

The Pipeline Masters was a contest whose crown was almost as gilded as a world title. Slater would win it seven times, as a twenty year old in 1992, and aged almost forty-two in 2013. Andy Irons won four times, 2002 through 2008, and it hosted multiple world title showdowns, the most precious Andy v Kelly in 2003 and Italo v Gabriel in 2019. 

In a wild and fitting last breath, it gifted victory to John John Florence in 2021. The Hawaiian took his iron hard-on and blew the achey pressure in his balls into his first, and only, Pipe Masters crown. Fitting that his little brother Ivan, who also grew up at Pipe and who looks like a roughed up Mason Ho, scored a ten in the event and finished third. 

Then, and as you may recall, a hammer was taken to this precious cultural relic when the WSL, and Vans who own the intellectual property rights to the Pipeline Masters, couldn’t swing a mutually satisfying agreement with Billabong for ‘em to continue as naming sponsor of the event. 

See, because the WSL’s wanted to start the 2022 season in Hawaii and end it at Trestles in September, they had to run the 2021 Pipe Masters in January. Therefore there couldn’t be two events in the same year so the usual December slot wasn’t used. 

This meant that for 2022, the WSL had to juggle the events and come up with new dates and names.  

The Volcom Pipe Pro got dropped in favour of Billabong taking over that slot, renaming it, awkwardly, Billabong Pro Pipeline. 

The Pipeline Masters still runs on its usual dates, December 8-20, 2022, but it’s an invite-only event with a focus on Vans-sponsored surfers. Cash is good, broadcast is fun, the gals get their share of the waves and loot, but it ain’t no Pipeline Masters. 

Last year, it got vacuumed of its stars when John John, Kelly, Toledo, Medina, Ferreira and Gilmore all pulled out citing injuries and “scheduling conflicts”. 

This year, Vans ain’t even pretending to invite the best in the biz. 

Problem here is the confusion the switcharoo brings to surfing history. A week before his fiftieth birthday in 2022, Kelly Slater, looking like an old-school bull dagger with his thick neck and shaved head, won the Billabong Pro Pipeline.

It should’ve been his eighth Pipeline Masters title, and plenty of newsrooms were labelling it as such.

Between sobs Slater said, “I committed my life to this.”

But it wasn’t a Pipeline Masters title.

And, despite Wikipedia being edited to include Billabong Pro Pipeline titles, it still ain’t and never will be.

North Shore residents (pictured) pissed. Photo: Milk
North Shore residents (pictured) pissed. Photo: Milk

Chants of “Blame Surfline!” ring as “definitely under-forecast” swell paralyzes Oahu’s North Shore!

Terrified land barons, aggravated drivers and a whole lotta finger pointing.

Big wave season snuck into Oahu’s North Shore over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, terrifying land barons, aggravating drivers and thrilling the few surfers who saw it coming. The swell, which was not predicted by forecasting giant Surfline, left everyone confused, baffled, altogether kerflummoxed.

“We didn’t know when to go,” one frustrated surf hopeful left flatfooted in California was overheard mumbling to a neighbor.

“Start with a bang, you know, swell definitely under forecast,” Ocean Safety Lt. Kyle Foyle told Hawaii News Now. “Surf was a very large and surges this morning especially with that high tide earlier this morning.”

While thrilling surfers who track their own swells, the sneaky pulse alarmed home owners who woke up at midnight to the sound of pounding waves. Randy Meyers, who lives on Ke Nui Road, declared, “In the middle of the night I heard the surf, I came down and it was way bigger than anyone anticipated but still the direction of the swell was favorable to this beach – even though it’s taken out a lot of sand it’s not causing any damage.”

He was pleased to see a lack of plastic debris and tarps etc. on the beach. Fights have broken out between neighbors, there, over illegal structures that are erected in order to halt erosion but often magnify the troubles. You will certainly recall surf great Kelly Slater getting snared in “burrito-gate.”

While Mr. Meyers was momentarily pleased, this time around, tourists and commuters were very much dismayed. The extra high tide pushed sand up onto the Kam Highway, snarling traffic and sending drivers into fits of rage against the aforementioned Surfline.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t have gone!” cried one depressed snorkel enthusiast hoping to peek underneath placid seas.

So far no word from the World Surf League.

Two Port Macquarie surfers attacked by sharks, left, Toby Begg and, right, the late Zac Young, killed aged nineteen.
Two Port Macquarie surfers, Toby Begg, left, and the late Zac Young, dead at nineteen.

Surfer Toby Begg who lost leg in wild multi-pronged Great White attack returns to ocean

Begg to join memorial paddle out for fellow Port Mac surfer Zac Young, killed by shark aged nineteen.

Back in August, surfer Toby Begg was belted by a twelve-foot Great White in Port Macquarie, a holiday hamlet midway between Sydney and Byron Bay, losing half of his right leg and much of the utility in his left.

Toby Begg, who is forty-four, is one of the few human beings on earth who can say they survived multiple bites from a Great White shark.

He was dragged so far underwater it went dark and he thought he was going to drown. He was only able to swim for the surface after his foot ripped off at the ankle.

Back on the surface, the Great White hit him again, Toby Begg scrunching into a ball, which would save his life, but causing his leg to take most of the impact.

“Then he was on the surface punching it in the head for ages,” a BeachGrit source close to Beggs said. “Both his hands were balloons from hitting it. After 30 seconds it let go and he started paddling in. It’d severed the femoral artery in his leg and the only thing that saved him was there was a doctor and emergency room nurse walking on the beach (separately who didn’t know each other). His foot is gone and they’re saying his other leg might come off at the hip but they’re trying to save it. He’s a mad keen surfer and wants to get back in the water.”

After Mick Fanning called him in hospital and gave him a pep talk about how he’d bounce back Toby Begg reportedly said, ‘That was nice of him, but the shark snapped his fucking leg rope… I’ve lost my foot and maybe my leg, so I dunno what he was going on about.’”

Epic sense of humour, yes?

The off-duty doctor who was on the beach, Kurt Durbridge, recalled,  “As I reach the knee-high water, I can see a man who is as white as a ghost with horrific injuries and a massive bloody laceration to his left thigh and a traumatic amputation of his right foot.”

Anyway, Toby Begg is getting back in the water today as part of what is hoped to be a world record paddle-out for a local kid who was killed by a shark ten years ago.

Zac Young was nineteen and, armed with a fresh drivers license in his wallet, was on his first surf road trip with pals when they stopped at Coffs Harbour for a shred. Zac was hit on the legs by an eight-foot Tiger and subsequently went into cardiac rest, his last words “I love you guys.”

Zac’s daddy Kev is making a documentary of his kid’s life called, Forever Young, and want 682 surfers to join the paddle out and join hands for sixty seconds.

Woman almost dies at Waco Surf, Texas
Lynchie, stitched back together after errant fin scoops out her guts.

Venice woman says, “I almost died” after being impaled on her fins at Waco Surf, Texas!

"I have a lot of thoughts about what it means to almost die on a two-foot head dip in a pool in Central Texas."

A Californian surfer has barely avoided an audience with her maker after she was impaled on her fin and belted her head on the concrete bottom at the world’s premier wave pool, Waco Surf.

Nicole Lynch, who hails from Venice Beach, was into her fourth session at Waco Surf when she got bounced in the barrel.

“As I tumbled I hit the bottom, my fin stabbed me in the gut as hard as anything I’ve ever felt,” she writes.

“My head slammed on the concrete bottom of the (Waco Surf) pool. The pain was excruciating, I had a massive egg on my head and a protrusion like an alien fist sticking out of my abdomen.”

Woman nearly dies at Waco Surf in Texas
“I have a lot of thoughts about what it means to almost die on a two-foot head dip in a pool in Central Texas.”

Things went south real fast.

“CT Scans at the local ER revealed terrifying news: I was bleeding internally from my aorta, the main blood vessel that comes out of the heart and feeds the body. I needed to be transported to a Grade 1 Trauma hospital immediately. They made arrangements to helicopter me to Baylor Hospital, every minute counted. There I was whisked straight into the operating room for emergency surgery.

“When I woke up I heard the news. I had suffered a Grade 3 traumatic aortic rupture. The bulge from my stomach was a traumatic abdominal wall hernia. Because the blow was so strong, they needed to remove all of my internal organs and visually inspect them to ensure there was no other damage. I am left with a massive 11 inch incision spanning the length of my abdomen. The doctors say the best I can hope for is an 80% recovery of my abdominal strength. I spent 5 days in the hospital.

“I’m lucky to be alive, that Doc Faye was with me likely saved my life. She is a fucking legend! And Veronica who ran point on everything and slept with Faye in the ICU so they could keep an eye on me every second. My sisters Amy and Nicole red-eyed out to Texas to be by my side. I received excellent care every step of the way.”

Later she wrote to BeachGrit a little sardonically, “I have a lot of thoughts about what it means to almost die on a two-foot head dip in a pool in Central Texas.”

Lynch ain’t the first surfer to nearly die at a wave pool.

You’ll surely remember UFC hall of famer BJ Penn’s brush with death when he was sucked outta the pool and into the engine room at an experimental facility.

BJ was sitting next to the owner of the pool, got a little close to the wall and, next thing, he’s fighting for his life.

Last year when I got sucked into a wave pool engine room and thought I was going to die… I kept thinking “don’t die for your kids” I was surfing for a about an hour and the line started getting longer to catch the wave. I was sitting next to the owner of the wave pool by the “wall” where the waves come from. The first wave it shoots out is a dud to get everyone ready for the next wave. The dud wave came back and because I was so close to the wall the wave swallowed me and pushed me and my surfboard underneath a huge cement wall.

I remember feeling like I was getting sucked in a pipe and at that moment I got scared. It ended up pushing me into a big dark cement room that fills up with water to push the next wave for the wave pool. It felt like I was in the movie SAW or Final destination. The room would fill up with water to the top and I would hold my breath and then it would push the water out to make the wave and it was really rough inside there.

Everything I bumped up against in the room that hurt me got infected. I got a bad sinus infection and a couple facial fractures from getting knocked around the cement walls and from the fractures the dirty water got in my face and infected my whole sinus. I was on antibiotics for three weeks for my face.

While I was in the wave pool engine room I knew that one of my friends outside from big island is a legendary surfer and I knew he would come in there to rescue me so I stayed calm. A lot of other people might have panicked and maybe gave up but I just stayed strong for my kids.

Anyway to make a long story short I survived that mother fucker 😛😛😛 !! The name of the people and water park have been left out. I not the kine guy shows up to your house to play and gets hurt and tries to sue you so all love ❤️ to everyone who helped me get there and helped me survive 🤙 Maybe I was the first guy in history to get sucked into a wave pool engine room while it is in operation but no matter what happens in life and no matter how scary it is if I can offer you any advice I would just say to “stay calm”. If I didn’t fight tough cunts my whole life I might have panicked, but it was just another day in the office

Shane Dorian, who was the legendary Big Island surfer who saved BJ, replied, “Happy you kept it together down there. That was really terrifying. Live to shred another day!”

And, last June, a man in his forties was pulled unconscious from the water by other surfers at URBNSURF, Australia’s only commercially operating wavepool. 

A statement from URBNSURF said they’d reviewed the footage which showed “the surfer collapsed while paddling out and did not the hit the wall”. 

A surfer who was in the lineup when the incident happened says the man “didn’t make the drop on a wave and just kind of tumbled and then all I saw was him floating but that was a little bit after…it took some time for people to get to him. It was weird. They did CPR on him for twenty minutes and then put a sheet over him and we all assumed the worst.”

Sweeny (center). Paradise lost (pictured). Photo: Instagram
Sweeny (center). Paradise lost (pictured). Photo: Instagram

Gold Coast surfer fumbles chance to win heart of Hollywood “it-girl” Sydney Sweeney!

Paradise lost.

It’s not every day that an Australian surfer has the opportunity to win the heart, maybe even the hand, of a Hollywood “it-girl.” Not even every year. Maybe every every other year if the Australian surfer carries the last name “Hemsworth” but for the average Jones, Campbell, Smith it is a rare, rare chance.

And so you can imagine the utter despair Miles Shepherd is feeling right now after fumbling his once-in-a-lifetime chance at Hollywood it-girl Sydney Sweeney.


The classic bogan, feat. bad sunglasses and curly brown mullet, narrates the scene from a perch on the sandy beach, beginning with, “So I’m just trying to process what just happened. I’m ups on the Gold Coast absolutely beautiful and I’m sitting on the towel, the sun’s out, I’m watching the surf and I tell myself, ‘Geez. Life can’t get much better…'”

But it did.

“My eyes were blessed with something I don’t think they’ll ever forget,” he continued. “You gotta think to yourself, ‘What does a magazine cover look like when the supermodel is on the front and she’s walking out dripping in water? What does that cover look like? What does the James Bond scene look like when the girl’s coming off the beach? What does Baywatch look like?’ Well that’s what I just experienced (pregnant pause) with Sydney Sweeney.”

He goes on describing his far away encounter with the “genuine A-lister,” amazed. Gobsmacked. Thoroughly wowed and posted his description to TikTok.

Sweeney truly is a zeitgeist actress. Star turns in Euphoria, The Voyeurs, Night Teeth, The White Lotus have launched the 26-year-old to the absolute moon. She is everything, everywhere all at once.

Well, Sweeney took to social media and direct messaged Shepherd “u should’ve said hi” including a dagger laughing-crying emoji as the ender. The twin fin enthusiast responded, “Ahaha yeah well how about I take you out and i can say hi for real x,” but she never responded.

Shepherd (right) with twin fin. Photo: Instagram
Shepherd (right) with twin fin. Photo: Instagram

Ball very clearly fumbled.

Surf drop of the century?

Do you have a similar story? A moment in your life that you let slip that will forever and ever haunt?

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