While John John Florence and Jeremy Flores were the huge headline-makers at this year's incredibly dramatic Billabong Pipe Masters showdown, they were hardly the only big winners. As is usual with the last event of the season, there's a lot riding on this event, including Triple Crown titles and Championship Tour survival. Here's a list of the other surfers celebrating after the 2017 final showdown.
Ian Gouveia's Huge Silver Lining
The Brazilian rookie was fighting for his Championship Tour (CT) life coming into the final event of the 2017 season ranked No. 27 on the Jeep Leaderboard. On paper, his only hope to make the CT cut was to win the event. At first, that seemed pretty far-fetched given his biggest bright spot in 2017 was a 9th place at the Outerknown Fiji Pro. But the second-generation CT star caught fire right when he needed it most, facing Filipe Toledo in Round Two. He then won a narrow victory over Matt Wilkinson in Round Three, dominated Conner Coffin and Julian Wilson in Round Four, which shot him straight to the Quarterfinals, where he defeated former Pipe Master Joel Parkinson. He was finally stopped by John John Florence, but by then, his effort had paid off. He climbed all the way to No. 23 on the rankings -- not enough to make the cut -- but it was enough to earn him one of two precious wildcard slots for 2018. So thanks to his Pipe effort, Ian is staying put.
Conner Coffin's Risky Bet Pays Off
The Californian was playing a risky game this year by refusing to hedge his bets on the Qualifying Series. Even his win at the Vans World Cup at Sunset was too little too late to earn one of the Top 10 spots on the QS rankings needed to secure a Championship Tour slot in 2018. His reason for doing so was a good one: He wanted to keep things fun, and stay fresh. Still, heading into the Billabong Pipe Masters ranked No. 21 on the CT (where 22 is the cutoff), he was far from safe. Conner needed to make a couple of heats to ensure that he'd stay in the Top 22. In Round One he got a huge break, as the beneficiary of Julian Wilson's paddling interference. The win moved him directly to Round Three, where he still needed a huge win over Mick Fanning to stay safe, and thanks to the 8.80 he got with under five minutes to go, he did just that. His 9th place finish secured him his No. 20 rank, and his place on the CT.
Griffin Colapinto Takes the Triple Crown for California
Heading into the Billabong Pipe Masters the 19-year-old California star had built up a pretty solid lead on the rest of the Triple Crown field after making back-to-back Finals appearances at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach. Though he lost in the Quarterfinals of the Pipe Invitational (the hotly contested trials for the Billabong Pipe Masters), heading into the main event Kolohe Andino and Italo Ferreira represented his biggest threats. But Colapinto's lead held, and he became the first surfer from California to win the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Anytime you can become the first in history to accomplish a feat, that's saying something. Even with the Golden State's rich history of North Shore standouts -- people like Joey Buran, Tom Curren, Shane Beschen, Taylor Knox and Bobby Martinez -- no Californian during the pro era had ever claimed our sport's second most coveted prize. To do it at 19 years old makes it all the more remarkable.
Pat Gudauskas Gets the Good News
California's Pat Gudauskas was on the outside looking in when the Pipe Masters got underway. He's been spending the past two years trying to get back on the Championship Tour, where he campaigned for a few years before being knocked off in 2013. This year, he finished No. 13 on the Qualifying Series, three spots out from earning a CT slot. His only remaining hope was for three of the CT stars in front of him on the QS to qualify through the CT. Filipe Toledo was a done deal sitting No. 9 on the Jeep Leaderboard, but Kanoa Igarashi was still in doubt at No. 20 and Italo Ferreira, at No. 25, had serious work to do. Fortunately for Pat, it all went his way. For the second year in a row, Kanoa went on another incredible tear at Pipe, making it all the way to the Semis. Meanwhile, Italo -- who would have likely taken the last wildcard slot had he not made the cut -- opened the door for Ian Gouveia and Pat Gudauskas by ripping his way to the Quarterfinals. As a result, Pat was the last man in via the QS, and Ian got the last CT spot. Back home in San Clemente, the Positive Vibe Warriors exhaled, and their fans around the world celebrated.
Gabriel Medina's Legend Grows
Just about any way you slice it, Gabriel Medina's stock grew at the Pipe Masters. Granted, his priority tactics against Kelly Slater may have appeared unseemly, but that's called playing the game. Slater notoriously pulled the same move on Joel Parkinson at Snapper a few years back, and whether he admits it or not, history says he would have done the same thing. So don't hate the player. Medina knew full well he'd be playing the villain role heading into Florence's backyard, and he played it well. And for that we thank him. We also thank him for his incredible late-season charge too, because it could have been easy for him to just phone it in following his equal 13th place finish at Trestles. But that's not what champions do. Instead, Medina fought with everything he had, clawed his way back into this year's race, and carried the hopes of his great surfing nation on his back. He may have come up short, but Medina didn't let any of his fans down. And don't be fooled: Kelly, John, and the rest of his peers on Tour respect him even more for it. Medina, arguably more than anyone, made this year's World Title showdown what it was...damn fun to watch.