ASP 2001 WCT Tour Blunder
   
  Pipe Goes Off ?
   
  by Bruce Jenkins

The men's pro tour is just an embarrassment right now. Somehow, the geniuses in charge managed to wipe Pipeline off the slate for 2001. Which is something like the NFL settling its title with a rousing game of Yahtzee, or the NBA skipping the finals in favor of a spelling bee. It's pretty difficult to eliminate the most exciting, defining and attention-getting contest in the surfing world, but by God, the ASP pulled it off.

The news seemed particularly incomprehensible after this year's Pipeline Masters, won by the eminently deserving Rob Machado after what Triple Crown director Randy Rarick called "the best waves we've ever had for this contest." Friends, that is a heavy statement. But for sheer perfection and consistency over the waiting period, this year's event was just that good. It went into the history books with Gerry Lopez, Rory Russell, Michael Ho, Barton Lynch, Tom Carroll, the Slater-Machado heats, some chillingly life-and-death conditions and a thousand heroic tube rides.

I don't know which surfers or administrators are responsible for the No Pipe directive. I don't even want to know. They should be humiliated to see their names in print. The original idea - incredibly weak in its own right - was to start the season at Pipeline, in February, then end the tour in some ridiculous place like Spain or Portugal (great surf spots, no question, but hardly the proper setting to decide the world champion or draw a mainstream audience).

Rarick, who often represents the only voice of reason in surfing's political arena, managed to convince everyone that the tour should end in Hawaii. But the sponsors of the Sunset Beach event (Rip Curl) stepped up with a better financial package than the Pipeline people. Instead of going with both venues - absolutely the perfect way to end the season - only Sunset will be part of the 2001 tour.

"If anything good came out of this," said Rarick, "it's that the Pipe Masters (still in its December slot) will be mostly a local event." And that will be a treat. For years, the hard-core underground went through a grueling Trials process - often in terrifying, 8-12-foot conditions - for the right to gain just a few open spots in the main draw. Now, there's a pretty good chance of seeing the likes of Liam McNamara, Braden Dias, Strider Wasilewski, Tamayo Perry and Pancho Sullivan on the final day.
 
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