10 Legendary Contests Every Self-Respecting Surfer Should Know About
These are the surf comps you wish you'd seen...
It takes a lot to make a good surf contest but when they get it right, boy, is it a sight to behold.
So here are 10 surf contests you wish you'd been there to see - from the groundbreaking (and since discontinued) 1995 Grajagan Pro in Java and Mexico's Barra De La Cruz to Code Red Teahupoo, flawless France and the recent heroics of J Bay and Tahiti.
Quiksilver Pro, G-Land, 1995 (Winner: Kelly Slater)
Widely hailed as the beginning of the 'Dream Tour' era, the 1995 Quiksilver Pro G-Land lifted the sport out of the monotonous corporate-era grovel-off style contests and into the mind-boggling perfection every well-travelled surfer knew was out there.
It was won by a 22 year old Kelly Slater, who beat a field of greats including Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Tom Carroll and many more to claim victory. Some will argue the ensuing event in 1997, won by Luke Egan, featured as good, if not better waves.
Mountain Dew Pipe Masters, Hawaii, 2000 (Winner: Rob Machado)
Contest directors watched Pipe pump for days on end at a perfect six to eight foot without running the contest in 2000. This should give you some idea of how hard they scored that year.
A beast of a swell had been predicted for the end of the waiting period and contest director, Randy Rarick's decision to hold off would be spectacularly vindicated when Pipe erupted in flawless ten to 12 foot conditions for the finals.
Californian Rob Machado broke through for his first Pipe Masters victory, following his defeat in the classic bro-down with Kelly in 1995.
Rip Curl Pro Search, Barra De La Cruz, 2006 (Winner: Andy Irons)
"The wave is unbelievable. It's bound to be one of those waves everyone talks about," said Kelly Slater, rather presciently, following the events of the Rip Curl Pro Search contest held at mindless Barra De La Cruz in 2006.
Eight years on, pro surfers today are required to pay a fee of $800 US dollars to local mafia figures if they want to film or shoot themselves surfing the now inundated right points of southern Mexico.
Back in that original contest, the surfing world had watched with eyes the size of dinner plates as Taj Burrow got the world's longest, thickest sand-bottom drainer and Andy Irons gouged, tubed, and punted his way to a memorable victory.
Billabong Pro J Bay, South Africa, 2009 (Winner: Joel Parkinson)
It was a freak occurrence that gave us the best J Bay seen in 20 years for the Billabong Pro 2009.
Just prior to the contest, a giant storm ripped a huge amount of sand from the back beach and spread it evenly across the reef at J Bay, plugging the holes, and creating the most insanely roping right-hander imaginable.
It wasn't since houses were built along the point, stopping the natural sand flow out to the point, that this had happened.
Joel Parkinson took the event with one of the most masterful displays of flowing point break surfing ever seen, equal to, if not better than, Tom Curren in his heyday.
Billabong Pro Teahupoo, Tahiti, 2011 (Winner: Kelly Slater)
Kelly Slater might have won the event but 2011 will be remembered as the year the entire top 35 stood up.
In what were widely hailed as the heaviest waves ever seen for a World Tour contest, those competitors still remaining in the event bravely accepted the challenge to take to the water, just one day after the unprecedented Code Red swell.
Kelly excelled of course but waves ridden by Owen Wright, Jeremy Flores and Matt Wilkinson, among others were ranked among the most memorable in ASP history.
Quiksilver Pro France, 2012 (Winner: Kelly Slater)
Beach breaks don't get any better than this. "You just had to get out and feel it and be a part of it. The waves were going off," Slater recalled when asked to describe the final two days of the Quik Pro France in 2012, held at La Graviere.
He destroyed the competition with some of the most miraculous tube-rides ever seen in a contest singlet (check out his no hands backside under the lip takeoff).
Special mention must go to Dane Reynolds, who cracked the final here, his first ever, as the event wildcard. His semi-final against John John Florence in flawless six-foot drainers was a tube shoot out for the ages.
Billabong Pipe Masters, Hawaii, 2013 (Winner: Kelly Slater)
Has an image ever haunted the surfing world more than Miguel Pupo rolling off second reef into 12 feet of sheet glass Pipe perfection?
The 2013 title race was one of the greats and boy did the ocean come to the party. A rare all-day straight offshore combined with 10 to 12 feet of groomed, long period perfection to create what was undoubtedly the best Pipe conditions ever seen for a World Tour event.
Kelly Slater needed to win the contest to take the title, which he did, but unfortunately for him the other man in the race, Mick Fanning, did just enough to keep his ratings lead intact. Too many highlights to mention from the day's action.
Volcom Pro Fiji, 2013 (Winner: Kelly Slater)
Some might lament the loss of G Land from the World Tour, but Tavarua has proved a more than apt replacement.
The clinic Kelly Slater put on there in challenging roping eight to ten foot tubes is surely one of the greatest wins of his career.
In one miraculous day, he scored a perfect 20 out of 20 heat to dispose of Sebastian Zietz, then trounced the rising star of John John Florence - widely touted as the best backside barrel rider in the world - before dusting his main competitor for the title, Mick Fanning in the final.
Who could forget Kelly's stand-tall crucifix in the heart of a ten foot beast to start the final?
J Bay Open, South Africa, 2014 (Winner: Mick Fanning)
The final day of the J-Bay Open was PUMPING – like, pumping, pumping. Fittingly, it was the cream of the Coolangatta point belt - Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson - that rose to the top.
J-Bay had been Parko’s happy place, but Fanning shat all over that – dancing around falling sections, stabbing his board under cascading lips, and soaring high and long across the face like a majestic sea bird.
It was consistent from Fanning, alright. Consistently jaw dropping. This is what you get when you spend your entire life getting to know how long walls of water wrap around a point.
It’s a sixth sense that only a handful of surfers on tour have perhaps, and it allows you to identify which line of water you should go for and which one is going to go square and pit along the inside.
Fanning has it, Parko has it, and as we saw with Tom Curren’s perfect ten in his heritage heat with Occy prior to the finals, he too has it.
Billabong Pro, Tahiti, 2014 (Winner: Gabriel Medina)
Medina effectively surfed one of the heaviest days in ASP history in a dinner suit. He didn't fall on a single wave until the last 10 minutes of the event and selected perfectly angled west-bowl runners, allowing him more tube time than his competitors while avoiding the black horizon below-sea-level orbs of doom.
His opponent Kelly Slater took a different approach throughout the event. Employing visionary-like foresight, Kelly had somehow managed to see a way through the infamous Chopes scoop on the bombs, putting himself on a sublime high line that let him avoid the foam ball.
It earned him a perfect ten to begin his semi-final with John John Florence, and when Medina fell for the first time with nine minutes left in the event, Slater executed another flawless high line for what certainly would have been the score. If only he didn’t cop a little blast of foam at the end.