Billabong Pro J-Bay: Fanning Wins!

Mick Fanning today defeated fellow Australian Mick Lowe to win the 2002 Billabong Pro in epic conditions. In doing so, he collected US$30,000 prizemoney and 1,200 ratings points toward this year’s World Championship Tour (WCT) title race.

[IMAGE 1]

Perfect 4-5 ft (1.5m) waves persisted throughout the day, with W/N/W winds creating the classic J-Bay line up under a clear blue sky. Of the 14 surfers left in contention when the day commenced at 7:30am (local time), Australians accounted for all but one of the quarterfinal spots.

Fanning, the 2001 World Qualifying Series (WQS) champion with one previous WCT credit to his name as a wildcard in 2000, dominated today’s 35-minute final. The 21 year old collected a 9.0 for a series of huge forehand carves and long barrel rides on one ride, before paddling into a bigger set wave at the 20-minute mark. Upon standing, he powered off the bottom and preceded straight into arguably the most futuristic manoeuvre of the event, a carving reverse 360 off the lip, then continued to execute precise carves and find clean tubes down the line for a near-perfect 9.8 score. Another 8.9 toward the end sealing victory with the highest combined three wave total of the entire tournament for 27.7-points.

[IMAGE 2]

Afterward, he was greeted by defending two-time Billabong Pro champion Jake Paterson and fellow Australian surfers Joel Parkinson and Nathan Hedge, who showered him in beer and then lifted him above their shoulders for a victory ride up the beach.

“I’m that stoked,” exclaimed Fanning, surrounded by media and with an Australian boxing Kangaroo flag draped behind him. “Oh my god… I’ve had 17th (place) finishes all year and to come back with a win, I’m just the happiest kid in the world right now.

[IMAGE 3]

“It’s great,” he continued, of the Aussie support. “I look up to those guys all the time, so to come out on top and just to be surfing such perfect waves with ‘Lowey’, it was a dream come true. That’s what surfing is all about. Just having a ball.

“I didn’t mean that,” he admitted, when asked about the carving forehand reverse. “I just did it and expected to fall off the back, but I made it somehow and heard the crowd roaring (laughs). I couldn’t let him win two in a row.”

Lowe, winner of the previous WCT in Fiji, displayed a devastating backhand attack all tournament. In the final he posted an 8.0 first wave, but basically had to chase his opponents ever-increasing lead. Still, the powerful goofy footer jumped into second position on the current ratings after his runner-up finish.

“Well done Mick, great surfing,” said Lowe, as he embraced Fanning mid-interview. “You had answers to everything I did, so well done.

“I actually had priority for the wave he scored 9.8 on, and I let him go,” he then explained. “I took off the next one and it was terrible. That’s the way luck goes. It’s been a long and good day, and I’m really happy for Mick. He’s been surfing incredible all event and was one of the form guys.

“Just to even make the final in such perfect waves again, especially back-to-back from Fiji last month, I’m stoked,” he continued. “We had perfect Cloudbreak and now we’ve had perfect J-Bay. Hopefully we’ll have perfect Trestles (next WCT in California) as well, and be able to showcase some different surfing.”

Equal third today were Australians Danny Wills and Joel Parkinson. Wills, who fought back to beat local wildcard favorite Sean Holmes in their quarterfinal, wasn’t able to repeat the performance against Fanning in the semis. The diminutive surfer trailed from the outset, and after making a few mistakes while his opponent continued to add big scores, required a wave worth 9.11-points.

“I knew it was going to be tough against Mick,” conceded Wills. “I made a few mistakes and it cost me. You get up around the semis and you can’t make any mistakes, especially against a guy like that on a point break like this. I’m a bit bummed, but I’m stoked to make the semis. Ie never been past the fourth round here, so it’s pretty good. I just got beaten.

“I just hope I can maintain my focus,” he added, of the upcoming events on tour. “It’s such a long year. It’s good to make another semifinal, as it will help my ratings and the cause. I’ll go work on my boards and just get ready for the long leg.”

Parkinson, who won the 1999 Billabong Pro as a wildcard, fell on his last wave against Lowe and there lost his chance for another title at Jeffreys in 2002. The 21 year old actually tied his opponent’s two-wave total, but on a best single wave count back, he came up short. Having earlier eliminated 1999 world champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) in a fantastic clash, the current #4 was disappointed not to have more rest time in-between the quarters and semifinals.

“Yeah, I just kooked it,” said Parkinson, moments after falling on his final ride. “It happens. When you lose on account of your own mistakes it hurts. I was pretty tired from the last heat with ‘Occy’ as I had to get straight back out there, so I just wish I’d had a little longer of a break. Can’t complain though, they were perfect waves.”

Finishing equal fifth in the Billabong Pro were Taj Burrow (Aus), Sean Holmes (SAfr), and Australians Kieren Perrow and Occhilupo.

Burrow, the standout yesterday after eliminating six-time world champ Kelly Slater and current #3 Shea Lopez (both Florida, USA), failed to find the same form against Fanning. A third quarterfinal finish moving him into 10th position heading into Trestles and the all-important European leg of the WCT.

“Yeah, I made a few mistakes, but there was kind of only one set during the whole heat,” reasoned Burrow. “Mick surfed a good heat and I knew it was going to be a hard one. Fifth’s not too bad, so I’ll take it. I feel my strongest leg of the tour is yet to come, so I hope I can get some results.”

Holmes, who earlier accounted for current ratings #2 Cory Lopez (USA) and then #1 Andy Irons (Haw) yesterday, this morning eliminated an in-form Dean Morrison (Aus). Against Wills in their quarterfinal, the South African opened with a series of long barrel rides for the third perfect 10 of the tournament, but was unable to find a decent second wave and watched his strong lead dissolve away.

“That first one was great, buy I just couldn’t find another wave that would allow me to do some turns,” said Holmes. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles. To get a 10 in the first five minutes of a heat is not great for any guy competing against you, so everything to ‘Willsy’. He surfed his waves well and deserved to win. I’m pretty stoked and it was awesome surfing in front of all the locals.”

Perrow, now rated 14th, amassed the highest two-wave total of the event for 19.3 points, following a 9.5 and then 9.8 rides against fellow Aussie Phil MacDonald in round four. Against Lowe in the quarterfinals, however, he ultimately required another score worth 9.26 points.

Occhilupo, who opened his quarterfinal against Parkinson with a fantastic 9.4 ride, missed a crucial wave while holding priority and watched the situation change. ‘Parko’ was able to catch it, scored 9.0, and eventually left ‘Occ’ needing another 8.61 score by heat end.

“Yeah, I got a good one, but I knew he’d come back,” said Occhilupo. “My biggest mistake was missing that wave he got the nine on ’cause I had priority. I thought it was going to break new me, but it didn’t and that was the heat. It is a bit upsetting, but I lost to a pretty good surfer.”

A second Mitchell Surfing Foundation (MSF) expression session took place after the final, with Shane Dorian (Haw) winning the most radical award, Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) the best tube ride, Damien Hobgood (USA) pulled off the most innovative manoeuvre, and Phil MacDonald proved the most entertaining.

Don’t Miss The Quicktime Slideshow.

Official results of the 2002 Billabong Pro

1st Mick Fanning (Aus) 27.7 – US$30,000

2nd Mick Lowe (Aus) 21.6 – US$16,000

Semifinals (defeated finish =3rd; receive US$10,000)

SF1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 17.6 def. Danny Wills (Aus) 15.25

SF2: Mick Lowe (Aus) 15.75 def. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 15.75

Quarterfinals (defeated finish =5th; receive US$8,000)

QF1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 16.5 def. Taj Burrow (Aus) 12.5

QF2: Danny Wills (Aus) 17.6 def. Sean Holmes (SAfr) 14.65

QF3: Mick Lowe (Aus) 17.35 def. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 15.85

QF4: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 18.0 def. Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 17.4

Round Four (defeated finish =9th; receive US$5,000)

H3: Danny Wills (Aus) 17.65 def. Lee Winkler (Aus) 8.5

H4: Sean Holmes (SAfr) 13.75 def. Dean Morrison (Aus) 13.25

H5: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 19.3 def. Phil MacDonald (Aus) 13.25

H6: Mick Lowe (Aus) 14.25 def. Pat O’Connell (USA) 13.25

H7: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 16.05 def. Nathan Hedge (Aus) 15.25

H8: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 17.0 def. Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 11.75

Current Top 10 Ratings after Billabong Pro

1: Andy Irons (Haw) 4,092-points

2: Mick Lowe (Aus) 3,600

3: Shea Lopez (USA) 3,528

4: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 3,444

=5th Mark Occhilupo (Aus); Danny Wills (Aus) 3,372

7: Cory Lopez (USA) 3,276

8: Luke Egan (Aus) 3,204

9: CJ Hobgood (USA) 3,168

=10 Taj Burrow (Aus); Kalani Robb (Haw) 3,1560

Semifinals (defeated finish =3rd; receive US$10,000)

SF1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 17.6 def. Danny Wills (Aus) 15.25

SF2: Mick Lowe (Aus) 15.75 def. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 15.75

Quarterfinals (defeated finish =5th; receive US$8,000)

QF1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 16.5 def. Taj Burrow (Aus) 12.5

QF2: Danny Wills (Aus) 17.6 def. Sean Holmes (SAfr) 14.65

QF3: Mick Lowe (Aus) 17.35 def. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 15.85

QF4: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 18.0 def. Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 17.4

Round Four (defeated finish =9th; receive US$5,000)

H3: Danny Wills (Aus) 17.65 def. Lee Winkler (Aus) 8.5

H4: Sean Holmes (SAfr) 13.75 def. Dean Morrison (Aus) 13.25

H5: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 19.3 def. Phil MacDonald (Aus) 13.25

H6: Mick Lowe (Aus) 14.25 def. Pat O’Connell (USA) 13.25

H7: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 16.05 def. Nathan Hedge (Aus) 15.25

H8: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 17.0 def. Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 11.75

Current Top 10 Ratings after Billabong Pro

1: Andy Irons (Haw) 4,092-points

2: Mick Lowe (Aus) 3,600

3: Shea Lopez (USA) 3,528

4: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 3,444

=5th Mark Occhilupo (Aus); Danny Wills (Aus) 3,372

7: Cory Lopez (USA) 3,276

8: Luke Egan (Aus) 3,204

9: CJ Hobgood (USA) 3,168

=10 Taj Burrow (Aus); Kalani Robb (Haw) 3,156