The Main Event

IT'S ON: Irons and Slater, between contests in San Clemente, California, on September 17     Photo: Art Brewer

If you follow surfing, you know the season-ending Pipeline Masters is the biggest stop on the World Championship Tour. But you also know that Kelly Slater all but secured his eighth WCT title months ago. So why watch? Because the December 8-20 contest (follow online at triplecrownofsurfing.com), held on Oahu's North Shore, never fails to turn Slater and fellow surfing heavyweight Andy Irons into a beachfront version of Ali Vs. Frazier.

"If I can't win the world title," says Irons, who was third in the standings as of October but hasn't finished a season lower than second since 2001, "winning at Pipe would definitely ease the pain." And continue Salter's suffering. Though the seven-time WCT champion has the more storied career, Irons has beaten him three of the four times they've gone head to head at Pipe, a record that will be on both of their minds as they paddle into the most hallowed wave in the sport. "Pipe Masters is almost a world title itself," says Irons. "I can't wait."

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