Anglet, France (Wednesday, Sep 6, 2000). Current world number one and two, Sunny Garcia (Haw) and Luke Egan (Aus), were both eliminated today from round four of the Billabong Pro. In contrast, defending event and world champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) survived both rounds he surfed in the 4-6 foot testing conditions at Cavaliers and has progressed to the quarterfinals.
Garcia, who has led the ratings all year, defeated Andy Irons (Haw) in their third round match this morning, but against Luke Hitchings (Aus) in the fourth failed to score anything better than a 4.50 out-of-a possible 10-points. He ultimately needed a combination of rides amounting to 11.51-points, and appeared to let his frustration get the better of him during the second half of the heat as he paddled around without catching a wave.
“Unfortunately I lost that heat and everything that could possibly go wrong did,” reasoned Garcia after watching his closest rival, Egan, also be eliminated in the following heat. “I paddled the whole heat and couldn’t get over a four (point ride). I don’t think I’ve had a more frustrating heat in my entire career. But I’m stoked for Luke (Hitchings), he did good.
“Fortunately for me Luke Egan didn’t make it through, so it makes it a little easier for me to swallow,” added the Hawaiian. “I came here to Europe and needed to do good and I’ve had a 3rd, a 5th, and a 9th (place finish). Not the greatest results, but still a lot better than it could have been, so I’m pretty happy.”
Hitchings, who was rated 16th on the World Championship Tour (WCT) going into this event, started the heat strong against Garcia, opening his account with an 8.0-point ride. He then backed this up with a couple of five’s as his opponent sat out the back waiting in vain.
“That first wave was what decided the heat, I think,” said Hitchings. “I had the inside position and that wave was just so good. I was little bit wobbly on it, but I still managed to put it together for the score. I knew it was going to be hard for him coming back from behind out there, because the waves are so weird and all over the place. I’m stoked I won and it’s an unbelievable feeling beating Sunny.”
Egan, who was in a perfect position to capitalize on Garcia’s defeat and gain some valuable ratings ground, failed to do so in his 30-minute match against Brazilian Flavio Padaratz. The current world number-two being disappointed afterward that organizers decided to run the fourth round this evening, despite protest from some surfers not to.
“I’m really drained, I’ve been here for 14 hours for two heats,” said Egan moments after his loss. “All the stuff that went on before was a joke with the contest director, we could have waited. I’m a bit bummed because once I got out in the water I was really drained and had barely any energy, but that’s no excuse. He got a good start and I went down to the other peak and it had obviously changed. It was a bad decision from the beginning.
“It’s just as frustrating by not taking advantage,” admitted Egan, in regard to Garcia also losing.
Padaratz, who was rated equal 10th going into the Billabong Pro, was obviously pleased with his return to form. The current World Qualifying Series (WQS) champion started his WCT campaign strong earlier this year, but fell into a bit of slump during the past few events.
“I had a good start this year but then had a kind of a fall on the last two events,” Padaratz said. “I think I was worrying too much about the position I was staying in the ratings. That carries a lot of weight on your back. You think too much about what you have to do and that doesn’t really work all the time. I think I learned my lesson in the last two events.”
Defending event and current world champion Mark Occhilupo also survived two rounds today, eliminating Taylor Knox (USA) in round three, and then Brazilian Fabio Gouveia in the fourth. Despite catching an excellent tube-ride in the final minutes of their heat to score 8.25, Gouveia was plagued by a slow start.
“I felt good in that heat, it felt like I was surfing good,” said Occhilupo afterward. “I got in a good rhythm and Fabio unfortunately didn’t. It kind of goes one way or the other in conditions like this, so I was lucky.”
CJ Hobgood (USA), winner of the last WCT, continued his good run with a very one-sided match against Hawaiian Kalani Robb. Instead of contesting the heat at his usual high level of intensity, Robb goofed around and acted uninterested. The beers he drank beforehand, after thinking he wouldn’t surf again today, no doubt clouded his focus and contributed to the massive deficit of 17.06-points needed.
“It was a weird, weird heat,” explained Hobgood, the current world number four. “I haven’t been on tour a long time, but it felt pretty weird. There was a bit of controversy going on before the beginning of the heat about what everybody wanted to do. Kalani really didn’t care, I didn’t care… we were trying to do what was best for everyone. When we finally paddled out he didn’t really try. He went out there and was having fun, but I feel bummed, I really do. I’m stoked I made the heat, don’t get me wrong, but I feel bummed that I was trying and he really wasn’t. It’s not the way you want to win. He was messing around and that’s what happened.”
Australian Danny Wills amassed the highest total heat score of round four over American Shea Lopez, but it was fellow Australian Shane Powell, in the previous round, who put on the show of the day. Against world number-two Taj Burrow (Aus), Powell racked up an impressive 25.10 out-of-a possible 30-points. Unfortunately his roll ended when he faced Hawaiian Shane Dorian later on.
Official Results of The Billabong Pro Day Eight
Men Round Four
Heat 1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 20.10 def. K Robb (Haw) 3.95
Heat 2: T Prestage (Aus) 19.25 def. P Rosa (Brz) 12.15
Heat 3: M Occhilupo (Aus) 17.75 def. F Gouveia (Brz) 15.90
Heat 4: L Hitchings (Aus) 18.35 def. S Garcia (Haw) 7.85
Heat 5: F Padaratz (Brz) 17.75 def. L Egan (Aus) 16.15
Heat 6: S Dorian (Haw) 18.55 def. S Powell (Aus) 17.30
Heat 7: M Campbell (Aus) 18.40 def. G Herdy (Brz) 14.25
Heat 8: D Wills (Aus) 21.75 def. S Lopez (USA) 15.50
Heat 1: K Robb (Haw) 19.65 def. N Webster (Aus) 15.70
Heat 2: CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.55 def. R Rocha (Brz) 17.25
Heat 3: P Rosa (Brz) 14.50 def. S Beschen (USA) 14.50
Heat 4: T Prestage (Aus) 18.60 def. J Paterson (Aus) 14.90
Heat 5: M Occhilupo (Aus) 17.40 def. T Knox (USA) 14.75
Heat 6: F Gouveia (Brz) 16.65 def. R Machado (USA) 15.65
Heat 7: L Hitchings (Aus) 15.85 def. V Ribas (Brz) 14.55
Heat 8: S Garcia (Haw) 18.00 def. A Irons (Haw) 7.35
Heat 9: L Egan (Aus) 20.15 def. K Malloy (USA) 13.55
Heat 10: F Padaratz (Brz) 15.45 def. M Lowe (Aus) 13.75
Heat 11: S Powell (Aus) 25.10 def. T Burrow (Aus) 15.40
Heat 12: S Dorian (Haw) 16.90 def. R Lovett (Aus) 12.40
Heat 13: M Campbell (Aus) 17.70 def. N Padaratz (Brz) 15.75
Heat 14: G Herdy (Brz) 17.75 def. A Daltro (Brz) 16.25
Heat 15: D Wills (Aus) 18.40 def. C Lopez (USA) 15.95
Heat 16: S Lopez (USA) 17.00 def. D Hobgood (USA) 14.65