First surfed in 1961 by Phil Edwards and Mike Diffenderfer, it wasn’t until longboards got chopped down in the shortboard revolution of the late 60’s that a new generation of Pipeline specialists would come to the fore.
Armed with sleek pintails with the added control of thinner ‘down’ rails, Pipeline surfers were now able to get inside the tube, and it wasn’t long before an event, based on the surfer’s ability to get behind the curtain at the by now notorious break, was born.
Continental Airlines put up $1000 to sponsor the first ever Pipeline Masters in 1971, with the six surfers invited by organisers Randy Rarrick and Fred Hemmings including the favourite, Gerry Lopez.
Hemmings, the 1968 World Champ and a canny event promoter who would go on to become a Republican Senator for Hawaii in the 2000’s, had convinced US television network ABC to broadcast the event on Wide World of Sports.
Elite North Shore surfing competition was about to be beamed to the masses.
While Pipe hadn’t had a great season that winter, and despite a very low key infrastructure that basically consisted of a single trestle table and a loudhailer (but most importantly, the thousand bucks), nevertheless, surfing’s first ever tube specialist event was set to make history and set the standard for ‘best surfers best waves’ pro event format still in effect today.
Alas, Gerry Lopez was a no show for his heat, and Jeff Hakman would go on to take the historic win, and the $500 first place cheque.
As the sun dipped behind Kaena Point on 16th Dec 1971, Mr Sunset had won the inaugural Pipeline Masters in 6ft surf, and Mr Pipeline was nowhere to be seen.
“I drove to the beach park and Corky Carroll was sitting in his car reading the newspaper.” Lopez would later tell Surfer Magazine. “I walked down and looked at the surf and it was pretty bad. We waited for someone to show up and nobody did, so he left and then I left.”
“After that I went down Mokuleia and just hung out all day thinking the contest was off. Nobody had telephones back then to let me know the contest was, in fact, on. I was watching the news that evening on TV and they said, ‘The Pipe Masters ran today and Jeff Hakman won’ and I’m going, ‘What?'”
Despite rumours that the cunning, competitive Carroll – who would finish 3rd in the event – had duped Lopez, pretending he thought the event was called off, Gerry believed it to be a genuine mistake.
He made amends with back to back Pipe Masters wins in 72 and 73, competing in the event for the next 25 years.
Lopez’ trademark bowl cut, ‘tash, Lightening Bolt and lithe limbed casual approach would go on to set the standard for the ensuing decade of Pipeline surfing, becoming the iconic, defining look of an entire era.
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