Irons won the Triple Crown in 2005 and 2006, and beat Slater in the 2006 Pipeline Masters final, overtaking the champ in the dying moments of the heat with a perfect 10 score to cap off what many still consider to be the greatest final in surf contest history.
Slater held the ratings lead going into the contest, but Irons surfed the final perfectly, and bested Slater in an emotional heat, securing his second world title in a row.
But he didn’t have quite the same edge. “That time was a real pressure cooker for both of us,” Slater told Outside magazine in 2010, looking back on his rivalry with Irons. “I felt like it was going to break me.
By 2005, in part because of the challenge thrown down by Irons, Slater found another competitive gear and reeled off two more world titles on the run, with Irons finishing runner-up both times.
Irons’ 2002 championship was the first shot in a competitive duel with then six-time world champion Kelly Slater that electrified the surf world for the next half-decade.
Read more here: Surfer Mag