On This Day: Slater and Machado and 'The High Five'

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Swellnet Dispatch

On the 18th December 1995 Kelly Slater and Rob Machado fought a title-deciding Semi Final at Pipeline. Going into the contest, Sunny Garcia was leading the rankings (he bombed in Round 2 - see postscript below), Machado was second, and Slater third.

If Machado won the Semi he'd win the World Title, while Slater had to win the whole contest to wrap up his third World Title.

Thumbing their nose at the rules of competition, the two agreed to take turns and did rock-scissors-paper to see who got first priority. In a best of three waves scenario, Slater scored two perfect 10s and a 9.7 for 29.7 (out of 30), while Machado scored 27.3. With his score Machado would have won any other heat of the 1995 season.

Arguably the high point came when Machado was fired out of a Pipe barrel, cutback and lined up a high five with Slater who was paddling out. In his biography, Pipe Dreams, Slater described it as, "like slap-boxing with your best friend for the heavyweight championship." Though in the vid below he also says, "I look at it now and think he should've just kicked out and got priority".

In the Final, Slater met Occy who was surfing his eleventh sudden-death heat from the Pipe Trials onwards. Occy ran out of steam and Slater claimed his third Pipe Masters title and third World Title.

Postscript: There was also plenty of backstory during that year's Pipe Masters. Going into the comp Sunny Garcia only had to make Round 3 to win the World Title. In Round 1 Garcia surfed against Ross Wiliams and Gerry Lopez, the latter causing two interferences - he dropped in on Ross Williams once and even with the penalty he was still leading the heat, so he dropped in a second time. The reason was crystal clear: take himself out of contention so Williams and Garcia - two Hawaiians - could proceed. Dubious tactics and they backfired spectacularly.

If Lopez didn't drop in the second time he would've been the lowest seed going into Round 2 and gone up against the highest seed, Sunny Garcia. He could've thrown that heat and ensured Sunny won the World Title.

Except Lopez eliminated himself from the contest putting the next lowest seed, Mark Occhilupo, up against Garcia. Occy was warned by Liam Macnamara, "I guess you got a choice: you can beat him and go to the airport or lose and stay around."

Occy did everything he could to let Garcia win, deliberately relinquishing priority four times. Meanwhile Sunny imploded, he simply couldn't win. In a final show of surrender Occy even tried to give Sunny his own board. Occy couldn't lose and Sunny couldn't win. Garcia hugged Occy on the shoreline, sending a clear signal to any Hawaiian seeking revenge. Later Garcia said, "He tried to let me win, it wasn't his fault. It's not often in surf contests that you have your competitor trying to give you their board."

Garcia finally won a world title in 2000, the first year of Slater's mid-career retirement.


Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Monday, 18 Dec 2017 at 3:37pm

I'm glad Sunny got his title . Stoked he didn't get it in 95 though.

It just cheapens the whole thing if you're given it. Robs the meaning out of all of it for competitors and fans alike.

Just give him the trophy at the start of the year and save everyone the bullshit if that's how it's gonna be.

Woof woof 41's picture
Woof woof 41's picture
Woof woof 41 Monday, 18 Dec 2017 at 8:29pm

Me feels this is a little of the reason for WSl wanting a change in the of the wsl schedule!

Roystein's picture
Roystein's picture
Roystein Monday, 18 Dec 2017 at 4:44pm

Don’t know if anyone else has seen it, but fox sports used to run a filler segment - in which they ran the highlights of this Comp to two Pearl Jam songs, one being Dissident, the other eludes me.
You couldn’t get a better 9 minutes of television. Wish I still had it. Would have been late 90s or early - mid 2000s

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy Monday, 18 Dec 2017 at 5:55pm

I thought Kelly retired before the 99 season that Occ won.

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman Wednesday, 20 Dec 2017 at 8:40am

I was on the beach that day , and most of us were stunned that Rob would play Kelly's game , cost Rob a World Title , so the art of being cool in a contest environment relegated Rob to 2nd......ask Gabs about competitive surfing.
The Occ story needs a bit of clarification , there was so much shit going down that day , a bribe was offered , Occ just surfed the medium ones and let Sunny have what ever waves he wanted , needed a 4.5 , caught a bomb at Pipe , choked did a barrel roll , lost the World title . Occ was winning the final till the last 10 seconds , Kelly snagged a small backdoor wave and got a 10!