Les Estagnots Beach, Hossegor/Seignosse, France (Monday, August 26). WorldChampionship Tour (WCT) number 19 Richard Lovett (Australia) today clenchedfirst position in the dying moments of what turned out to be a dramaticfinalé to the 16th edition of the Rip Curl Pro. Small wave specialist FabioGouveia (Brazil), Australian underdog Toby Martin, and seasonedprofessional Pat O’Connell (USA), all put on an incredible display of powersurfing, but it was Lovett who amassed enough points to secure his firstmajor win since 2000.
A new 4 feet (1.5metres) swell arrived overnight, creating a good qualityright and left hand peak directly in front of the main contest site.Conditions in the south of France were unseasonably cold and overcast, witha variably onshore breeze between 5-10 knots.
Lovett, 29, set the pace in the 30 minute final right from his very firstwave. To the excitement of the crowd, the stylish natural footer executedan extremely quick beyond-vertical backhand re-entry, following it up witha series of floaters and smooth top turns. Brazilian opponent Fabio Gouveiaslowly fought back to lock in a few high scoring waves, but Lovett was notready to surrender, and finally stole back the lead with a mere 45 secondsremaining.
“I’m completely over the moon” explained Lovett. “I told myself that I wasgoing to really ‘go for it’, and that’s what I did. That was my strategyall day-I’ve been plugging away on the tour for a while now and it’s goodto get a win under my belt. It’s been a long time coming” explained Lovettwith a sigh of content. “Recently I’ve lost a bunch of heats in the last 30seconds, so it’s nice to get one in my favour.”
“I’m pretty happy with my result” said Gouveia, who today celebrates his33rd birthday. “I knew it was close and that Richie (Lovett) needed a goodone to take the lead. I tried to find a high scoring wave but it justdidn’t arrive” added Gouveia, currently rated 28 on the WCT. “I won inAnglet and here I finished 2nd so I’m very pleased with my results inEurope” said the cheerful Brazilian.
Current World Championship Tour number 24 Pat O’Connell was stoked with hisoverall performance, finishing 3rd in today’s final. “Yeah I’m happy withmy result” O’Connell said. “I was desperate to catch one long left handerbut I could find it. To be honest, I really wanted to win but anyway I’mstoked for Richie”
Although disappointed with 4th, Australian Toby Martin, 28, is more thanhappy with his current form. “I finished 2nd in Lacanau (France) and here Imade the final as well. I’m actually really satisfied with the way thingsare going. Now I’m guaranteed to re-qualify into the Top 44 (WCT)”
In one of the most exciting heats of the round of 32, crowd favourite MickyPicon (France) was eliminated by American Pat O’Connell by 0.1 point, withjust 30 seconds remaining before the siren. O’Connell moved into 2nd placebehind Greg Emslie (Sth Africa), after scoring a 3.93, extinguishing anyhope of the Frenchman advancing into the quarter finals.
“This morning the waves in my heat were great” said O’Connell. “All Ineeded was a 2.2 so I paddled in and picked off a smaller inside one;thankfully it stood up and I was able to throw in a few turns” added the 30year Californian.
Current WQS number 12 Tom Whitaker, 22, used all his skill to tear one ofthe largest waves of the day apart in his round of 32 heat. Hailing fromBronté, Australia, Whitaker linked together a series of vertical re-entriesand long floaters to walk away with 9.6 points, and the highest wave andheat score of the event. For his efforts Whitaker won US$1500 thanks toKodac, an official sponsor of the event.