Mick Lowe, 2000 Pipe Masters

stunet's picture
By Stu Nettle (stunet)
Photo: Bill Morris

Mick Lowe, 2000 Pipe Masters

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Notes From The Margin

Among other things, this photo of Mick Lowe at Pipeline reinforces why I tell curious surfers to paddle out and watch a wave from the channel. If someone shows interest in hollow waves and they have a modicum of capability, then I'll suggest they paddle out and watch the wave from side on.

Pipeline, Shark Island, Cape Solander, Teahupoo, The Box, all have safe channels where the full heaving display is rammed home in a way no beach or headland viewing can match. When it comes to slabs, profile is always preferable to full frontal.

Photographer Bill Morris says this photo of Lowey was taken during the Quarter-Finals of the 2000 Pipe Masters, in which case I saw it from the beach. Yet from the beach, the important details are in relief, the hypnotic arc of the lip and, most of all, the angle of Lowey’s board as he draws it off the bottom.

It was the first Pipe Masters I’d watched live. The year before I was on the North Shore but simply drove past the contest site. Didn’t ever stop. Can’t recall why, maybe I thought it’d be less crowded elsewhere, but I also recall how in 1999 the news that Slater almost pulled a rodeo clown electrified the North Shore, so perhaps I didn’t want to miss something magical.

The contest ran in three straight days, December 15th to 17th, the last day recorded by Al Hunt as: ‘Excellent 8-12 feet, some bigger, west swell, trade winds, sunny.’

“That’s pretty spot on,” says Lowey. “It was perfect.”

Wearing knee-length Billabong boardies and rocking Arnette Catfish between heats, Lowey kept on making it through the tough encounters. Aside from period fashion, another recollection is how he was given short shrift by the beach commentators. Lowey was on his third year on tour, and sure, he hadn’t yet fired at big Pipe, but all the evidence pointed towards a guy that would go. Had the commentators not seen the recent double-page spread in ASL? Lowey standing upright in a two-storey barrel, plus accompanying text written by Lowey himself about waking up to big swell and favourable wind. All the ingredients for a local wave to fire, and incidentally one that owes its name to the place above.

All the Australians on the beach knew he had form, even if the beach announcers hadn’t yet clocked it. 

Asked about the wave, Lowey can’t remember too many details about the day; it all passed in an adrenal blur. He does, however, recall the board in the photo: a 7’2” T&C that snapped shortly thereafter, replacing it with a 7’4” which he rode till the end of the day. These being the last days of the slender Pipe gun before the length and volume were reconfigured. 

Behind in the heat, and having swapped boards, Lowey paddled into the wave of the day with seconds on the board:

After Dorian came Bruce Irons in the Semi - second place-getter at the ‘98 Pipe Masters and, though only 21, a proven standout at Pipe. Again Lowey was pegged as the beachside underdog and again he was unfazed by his opponent or the wave, by this time swelling with a confidence that was impossible to miss. 

A showdown with Rob Machado in the Final drew historical parallels. The Aussie Animal vs the Californian Stylist. Nat vs Nuuhiwa, Carroll vs Curren, with both competitors living up to stereotype: Machado hadn’t yet fallen all contest, Lowey taking bruising falls and redeeming them with audacious drops.

It’s also worth noting the soon-to-develop backstory: In his road to the Final, Machado beat Andy Irons, who beat Kelly Slater in the Quarters. Their rivalry not yet a thing, though perhaps propelled by that result.

Speaking of Tom Carroll, before the Final he paddled out in a legends heat featuring all the eighties Pipe Masters champs: Big Simon, Michael Ho, who rode a wave in the heat switchfoot, Dane, Occy, Derek, Kong, Pagey feeling like an imposter but loving the moment, and Tom.

Repeatedly, Tom paddled out and across, sitting by himself somewhere offshore from Off The Wall, and swinging into the largest sets that came his way. The crowd would cheer, then oooh as he failed to come out of yet another one. Finally, however, he made a big one, spat to the channel and the crowd erupted, thrilled that they'd seen something special.

“In the Final, I spent most of my time underwater,” recalls Lowey. “I was always that sort of surfer. Ones or tens, eat shit or bust, mate.”

"It's hard not to over froth when it's man-on-man and it's ten-foot perfect Pipe," says Lowey, "You can finally get a chance to catch whatever wave you want."

That attitude got him far, yet it unravelled in the Final. The telling moment came with minutes to go, Lowey swinging into a ten-footer, making it down but spray off the nose precipitating a late and vicious nosedive - no time to protect the extremities. Lowey came up unscathed but only to see Rob paddle into a gem, ride through two barrels and score straight tens, justified in any era.

“Maybe I’d change my tactics in the Final,” says Lowey, “but yeah, I wouldn’t change much. That approach got me to a Masters Final. It’s a pretty special thing, mate.”

// STU NETTLE

Comments

Hendo…'s picture
Hendo…'s picture
Hendo… Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 1:33pm

Great story and incredible photo

BBrowny's picture
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BBrowny Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 1:39pm

A tale of two yellow jerseys.

Le_Reynard's picture
Le_Reynard's picture
Le_Reynard Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 9:17pm

Ha! Contrasting yellows..

samerubi's picture
samerubi's picture
samerubi Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 1:48pm

Incredible photo - the confidence on rail and the turquoise colour of the wave stand out. Great backstory also - thanks SN.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 2:03pm

Gotta love a good bottom turn..........and that's as good as they get

BarbB's picture
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BarbB Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 2:47pm

Fabulous photo when i shrink my screen to 25%. All the text shrinks but the photo remains the same size. At 125%, the Avatar of Stu Nettle is blocking out Lowey. As for the video, yes, one of the most epic waves. Too bad the current Pipe forecast looks like crap. Any chance this low will deliver swell tomorrow or is it too far away?

Two of the three Windy models has a small blocking high pressure system for the last day of the comp. I've never looked at these models before but it looks hopeless for the comp.

?si=ds6ReCg3pz3BTBtq

Bede demolished everyone. Bede was ripping.

Gabriel Medina will do a backflip and be the 2024 Pipe Pro winner.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 3:40pm

That low gives swell for the final two days of the waiting period (building Friday Hawaii time).

lucky-al's picture
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lucky-al Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 2:27pm

Mick Lowe you beauty! Ripper of a story Stu, and a shot to frame and hang on the wall!

joesydney's picture
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joesydney Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 2:31pm

Awesome - board looks too long. That thing was a bees dick away from him eating shit.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 2:35pm

FWIW Rob Machado rode a 7'8" in the final.

Different times...

samerubi's picture
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samerubi Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 3:35pm

just noticed the little bend in the bottom of the wave beneath micks board and the trailing hand.
such a good photo capturing an instant where everything was critical for the rider.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 3:40pm

Oh wow, yeah how's that little ledge/boil!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 3:42pm

I have a feeling that's reverb off the previous wave's impact. Incredibly critical and something that'd be missed in video or by viewing it from the beach.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 4:52pm

Great stuff all round. Funnily I got to staring at that wave in full page no ad mode for way too long, beautifully awesome, then realised the story was about that wave. Needless to say I watched Lowey's buzzer beater WOTD quite a few times also! Surely he got straight10's?

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 5:45pm

Thanks for putting the story together Stu and Mick for making it
Amazing waves and composure under pressure.


PS. Worth having a bigger board for easier entry, speed control & big turns on big waves.... unless you like late drops, freefalling, getting smashed,.. losing & or breaking board... or comp teeshirt

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 5:43pm

@BBBIRD great footage what happened to Bruces top?

yvdreh's picture
yvdreh's picture
yvdreh Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 5:40pm

That rail is a thing of pure beauty.

Astroboomboy's picture
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Astroboomboy Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 6:45pm

That is wild.

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 8:24pm

Epic yarn...
Cheers.
What a pic!

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 9:37pm
stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 7 Feb 2024 at 7:08am

Coincidentally, the day I spoke to Lowey, I had two sessions with Sammy.

Surfs real well, but also a nice guy in the water,

Bubble elder's picture
Bubble elder's picture
Bubble elder Tuesday, 6 Feb 2024 at 11:04pm

Amazing photo! I love that angle on the board.... Yep he sure was never one to hold back! Sammy also well on his way to following dads feats on the board.

curbs's picture
curbs's picture
curbs Wednesday, 7 Feb 2024 at 12:38pm

The only time I've ever had an angle on my board like that was when it blew off the roof racks.

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Wednesday, 7 Feb 2024 at 2:06pm

Met Mick a few times when I was hanging out at Jeff Bushman's place (the street running down to Backyards) in the late 90's, really nice guy and a total charger. I still have one of his 7'6" pin tail Bushman's. Great memories.

Elliedog's picture
Elliedog's picture
Elliedog Wednesday, 7 Feb 2024 at 2:18pm

Awesome - board looks too long. That thing was a bees dick away from him eating shit.

YOU CAN'T GET A 6'4 TO DO THAT BRA

Daarlawan's picture
Daarlawan's picture
Daarlawan Saturday, 10 Feb 2024 at 9:52am

Yeah exactly, there's almost 6' of rail engaged right at that moment.

rj-davey's picture
rj-davey's picture
rj-davey Wednesday, 7 Feb 2024 at 4:54pm

I remember that ASL spread well. I thought the wave was massive. If it's the one I'm thinking of it also discussed his froth for the large swells common near his "south coast" home. No break names were given away so I trawled through my copy of Nat's Surfing & Sailboard Guide to Australia trying to figure it out.

Prior to 2014 when Medina upset Parko and judges started frothing on (in my view) identical backhand reos, Mick was I think one of only 4 goofy footers to win the Quiky at Snapper.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Thursday, 8 Feb 2024 at 12:37am

RIpping yarn.

tman's picture
tman's picture
tman Friday, 9 Feb 2024 at 10:50am

What a great read, just think, the conditions would be called a lay day in current WSL period (as we saw this week). Can't say today's crop of pros will be remembered as of similar fearless calibre as Lowy and the crew back then.

southernraw's picture
southernraw's picture
southernraw Saturday, 10 Feb 2024 at 3:24pm

Bloody great read Stu.
The keg on legs!
Was always one of my favourite Australian surfers growing up.
Charged heavy water with style and guts but also his small wave surfing was mental. Could literally break waves in half with his power.
That Pipe wave is insane. Back when men were men and the dream tour was run by surfers.
Thanks for the article. The best Pipe we'll get to enjoy from the waiting period by the look of it!

Rabbits68's picture
Rabbits68's picture
Rabbits68 Saturday, 10 Feb 2024 at 3:46pm

Epic story Stu, Cheers.
That incredible photo reveals so much detail.
And that wave in the vid. If that doesn't stand the hairs up on your neck, arms & legs nothing will.
Amazing.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy Friday, 16 Feb 2024 at 12:58pm
Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy Friday, 16 Feb 2024 at 11:06pm

Since when is 2' 3/8 too thin for surfing !

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy Saturday, 17 Feb 2024 at 9:30am

Looks like 17 3/4 and 2 3/16 or 5/16
And at 7’5 and probably foiled right out thin in the nose, tail and rails I reckon he’s probably right haha

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 16 Feb 2024 at 1:56pm