In an age when competitive surfing frequently seems like a beauty contest between established pros and up-and-coming wunderkinds, Kieren Perrow’s win at the 2011 Billabong Pipeline Masters served as a sweet victory for the small guy.
While all the spotlights focused tightly on John John’s ascension and on his upcoming bout with Slater, Perrow silently slayed his competition. He took down Josh Kerr in Round 3, while re-qualifying for the Tour next year by defeating Shane Dorian and Taj Burrow in Round 4. He gave rising star Gabriel Medina a lesson in heavy water surfing in the Quarters, and he beat Michel Bourez and Joel Parkinson in the Semifinals and Final, respectively.
But what was most iconic was not the win itself, but his reaction and the reaction of Perrow´s closest friends and family. Perrow was visibly moved by the win, his only Tour victory after more than a decade on the circuit. His friends, notably Taj and Dan Ross, were smiling and glowing, as if they themselves had won. Kieren hugged and kissed his family, and afterwards celebrated quietly. This seems like a far cry from the raucous parties thrown by the star children of the current day on the front porches of the Red Bull, Volcom, or any other big corporations´ houses while their peers film everything to post on their blogs later. This victory had humility and grace.
Perrow´s victory resonated with me, because it harkened back to a simpler time. A time when heavy tubes, solid rail work won contests, and utter determination. A time when surfers didn’t have agents or entourages. A time when heavy waves meant that blood, sweat, and tears were put into every win. That time might be long gone, but at least we could relish the sentiment for a couple of minutes, when a working man like Kieren Perrow, not a primadonna, put his name in the history books by claiming one of surfing’s most coveted titles.