Fame And Fosters Flow At Pro Surfing’s Gala Night

The world’s best surfers were toasted with style and stoke at the Foster’s ASP Champions Of The World awards banquet at Conrad Jupiters Casino on Australia’s Gold Coast last night. Over 500 avid pro’ surfing supporters from around the globe gathered at the premium venue to witness the crowning of the Foster’s Men’s World Tour and ASP Women’s World Tour, and the presentation of supporting awards.

Resembling the panache of a Hollywood premiere, the black tie affair began with the Men’s Top 45 and Women’s Top 17 arriving via a fleet of limousines to walk the red carpet before a barrage of press and media personnel, and surfing fans who gathered to cheer on the glamourous cavalcade of personalities and achievers. Champions Andy Irons and Sofia Mulanovich, together with surfing’s perennial personality Kelly Slater topped the applause meters. It was a night of praise and accolades.

“I’d like to thank my idols, the guys standing here on stage with me said Kauai’s Andy Irons in his acceptance speech at night’s end in the company of the Top 45. “My best mentor is Sunny Garcia, and Occy, I love him to death, and guys like Martin Potter, Matt Archbold, Shane Dorian, and, your damn right — Kelly Slater! Those guys got me stoked on the new way of surfing and I owe a lot to them

Also acknowledging her peers, Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich paid homage to former champion Layne Beachley who handed over the women’s championship trophy ending her unrivalled six-year reign as professional surfing’s queen.

“I thank many for my inspiration, but for always my inspiration was Kelly Slater. I also thank Lisa Anderson, Kalani Robb, Occy and Andy Irons blushed Sofia who launched into her world champion acceptance speech prematurely when she was earlier awarded the Women’s Most Improved Award.

Narrabeen’s patriotic personality Nathan ‘Hog’ Hedge, won the Men’s Most Improved Award after his stunning and determined appearances in the finals of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo and Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay saw him finish sixth in the world.

Byron Bay’s Laurina McGrath won the Women’s Rookie award, whilst Hawaii’s Bruce Irons took the Men’s portion after escaping elimination from WCT ranks after a shocking season of early eliminations, before first making the French final with his brother, and then storming into safe ratings ground by making the final of the Rip Curl Pipeline Masters on the last day of the season.

After a multi-lingual welcoming message from veteran ASP announcer Nuno Jonet, ASP President Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew had set the tone for the night with a speech outlining the competitive accomplishments of the 2004 season and the continuing development of the sport’s promotion by ASP.

“Congratulations especially to Andy and Sofia, who both claimed their crowns, Andy his third, and Sofia her maiden, before the 2004 season’s end, with events in hand. Let’s note the dominance of the Hobgood brothers through the Pacific leg, and that of Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson and CJ Hobgood who each won two events said Bartholomew, remembering in particular, Andy Irons’ win over his young brother Bruce in epic conditions on the final day of the Quiksilver Pro France last October, a day that will live in folklore of European surfing history. .

“We are on the technology highway continued Rabbit, “Surf contests are no longer about summer metropolitan venues before thousands of people, but about towers on remote reefs, with half a million people watching on the internet, and ASP is meeting the challenge.

Bartholomew welcomed aboard the new QS graduates to both the men’s and women’s WCT tours, as well as new location WCT event sponsors Rip Curl who this year add Reunion Island to their Bells and Pipeline events, and Globe who have taken over the WCT licence for Fiji from Quiksilver. The ASP President was one of many who also praised the ongoing support and dedication of ASP staff like the tireless Karen Green, financial controller Greig Bedggood,nd former CEO Peter Whittaker.

Former Olympian athlete Ron Clarke, now Gold Coast City Lord Mayor, welcomed the surfing world to its epicentre, as well as special guest Cathy Freeman, who lit the Olympic flame at the Sydney Games, as Clarke did at the Melbourne Olympics.

Speeches from ASP Chairman Richard Grellman, new CEO Brodie Carr, Chris Cummins MP representing the Queensland State Premier Peter Beadie, and Surf-Aid International convenor David Jenkins followed, with a personal thank you from Josi Syahrial on behalf of the Indonesian people championing the support of the surf industry to the tsunami appeals, especially that of Billabong and Quiksilver who both donated half a million dollars.

Historical guests for the gala evening were Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly and Phyllis O’Donell, the sport’s original triumphant duo from the first world surfing championships at Manly Beach in 1964. Midget gave a steadying speech, remembering the past, embracing surfing’s spirit and predicting that “…one day everyone will surf!

Referring to what is now the past as well, Layne Beachley noted the retirement of women’s veterans Pauline Menzcer and Lynette McKenzie. After contesting 263 rated events, winning 20 WCT’s, and being crowned the world champion in 1993, Menzcer was an admired tour fixture for 18 years. The colourful McKenzie finished third in the world in 1993, and won nine WCT events in her 14 years on the pro surfing road.

Though there was a big turnover at the end of the 2004 season on the Foster’s Men’s tour, only one surfer has formally announced his retirement from the tour. The balance of the surfers who fell from WCT rankings will hopefully be attempting to make their way back to the WCT top shelf via the ‘QS schedule.

Both Wayne Bartholomew and Andy Irons acknowledged and lamented the retirement of popular Am,erican Patrick O’Connell, who called his innings at the end of the 2004 season. Bartholomew declared O’Connell a world champion human being, who personalised everything that was exemplary about the ASP tour and pro surfing.

“Pat O’Connell has been an amazing person on tour, and I wish he was here tonight added Irons. “I want to say he’ll leave a big hole in the WCT ranks.

The sport’s Cultural Award went to Jeffreys Bay unofficial Lord Mayoress Cheron Kraak who has been Billabong’s South African representative since the mid-80s, and is truly one of the pro surfing brethren. Cheron acknowledged the support of the Mitchell Surfing Foundation who enabled her to upgrade the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay from WQS to WCT status from 1998 through to 2000.

The Special Acknowledgment Award went to former ASP Europe Administrator Delphine Stein, whilst current ASP Tour Manager Renato Hickel was presented with the ‘Service to the Sport’ award. Brazilian Renato has worked for the ASP for the past 16 years, first as a judge, then Head Judge, Special Projects Manager and now on-road boss.

Brazilian Pablo Paulino’s World Junior Champion award was accepted by Billabong South America’s Chris Kytriotis after a taped video from the exciting young goofy footer, whilst the evening’s Master of Ceremonies Dave Stanfield accepted Joel Tudor’s World Longboard Trophy.

Women’s World Qualifying Series ratings winner Chelsea Georgeson gave a gracious speech typifying how closely-knit the women’s tour is, whilst Neco Padaratz, men’s ‘QS champ for the second consecutive year was typically passionate and expressive.

The sisterhood of the girls was evident yet again as their Top 17 gathered on stage for the crowning of Sofia after their four top finishing surfers were each presented with special commemorative pendants. The speeches became a glowing admiration exchange as runner-up Rochelle Ballard commended her Peruvian mate Sofia who had earlier named the Hawaiian as her biggest inspiration, before offering to share the world champion trophy.

“Last year was a sick year, but if I had to split the world title cup in two, I would with Rochelle Ballard Sofia has earlier pledged in her acceptance speech for Most Improved Surfer. “She is my biggest inspiration! I’m so glad I had the title race with her. I want you to know Roche’ that I love you, and that you are one of my best friends.

“You deserve this trophy as much as I do, even if it sounds as if it’s like I’m not a proud World Champion saying that — I am (!) — but that doesn’t meant I wouldn’t split the cup with you, continued Sofia, perhaps a little rattled with her English after confessing her heart was beating ‘so fast’. She went on to try and relate her patriotism for Peru and Latin America, and then recall her grommethood

“Since I was really young, surfing in Peru with no one out, just me and my brothers, we were riding bodyboards and whoever did the most 360’s to the beach would win, and just claim it all day! We’d watch a couple of old surfing videos rewinding the Kelly Slater and Kalani Robb sections over and over.

“We would watch ‘Good Times’ and know the words of all the songs, and sing them all the time. It didn’t make sense because we didn’t speak English, and people would ask what we were doing. We’d say ‘singing’ and that they should watch our surfing video, and they would say ‘Surfing? What is surfing?’ Now here I am! I’m just so happy, so stoked.

The stage-call for the Foster’s Men’s Tour Top 45 included presentation of special medallions to the Top 10, with Peterson Rosa, Damien Hobgood, Sunny Garcia, Nathan Hedge, Taj Burrow, Luke Egan, CJ Hobgood, Kelly Slater and Runner-up Joel Parkinson all looking stoked.

“At the start of this year I would not have thought I’d be standing up here said Parkinson, who had his first child (Evie) back in May, and gets married to his sweetheart Monica in three weeks. “I would have been happy to be anywhere amongst these guys. You never know what to expect in this sport. Last year I had one of the best years of my life, and even if the rest is half as good, I’ll have a great life.

Foster’s Sponsorship Manager Vanessa Cohen’s speech was short and sweet before presenting Andy Irons with his huge silver Foster’s World Championship cup and a special gold ring.

“Congratulations to everyone, men and women! offered Vanessa. “Foster’s are delighted to be involved with the ASP and the Champions Of The World — the best surfers in the best locations. Surfing and Foster’s — it’s global and it’s glamourous, it’s irreverent and it’s fun, but it’s the best party in the world and that’s what we’re about. As Midget said, “One day everyone in the world will surf.

Accepting his trophy, Andy produced what he called a ‘cheat sheet’ of notes from his pocket, and proceeded to charm the admiring crowd, and heap accolades on his peers, very obviously a proud man forever softening in humility (until you add water). His first thanks went to his younger brother Bruce.

“I want to thank my brother Bruce for pushing me my whole life began Andy. “Without him I would never ever surf to be where I’m at. Thanks to my parents and girlfriend Lyndie — without them I’d never be able to hold it together. Thanks also to my friends who have travelled from Hawaii to be here tonight, and to Billabong, an amazing company.

After beckoning the crowd to their feet to applaud his female counterpart Sofia, he went on from acknowledging his idols to again fete the Top 45 surrounding him on stage, and even uncharacteristically added that he welcomed their threatening his crown.

“These are my favourite surfers — these guys up here — they are who I look up to! Guys like Taj (Burrow), Corey (Lopez), Wardo (Chris Ward), Parko (Joel Parkinson) are going to win a lot of titles, and I’m sure they’re going to take me off-a this crown, so I better soak this up while I can. I welcome it!

An undeniable champion extraordinaire after making a minimum of quarter-finals from eight of his 11 events on the Foster’s Men’s Tour last season, Andy’s final words could have been utterewould with Rochelle Ballard Sofia has earlier pledged in her acceptance speech for Most Improved Surfer. “She is my biggest inspiration! I’m so glad I had the title race with her. I want you to know Roche’ that I love you, and that you are one of my best friends.

“You deserve this trophy as much as I do, even if it sounds as if it’s like I’m not a proud World Champion saying that — I am (!) — but that doesn’t meant I wouldn’t split the cup with you, continued Sofia, perhaps a little rattled with her English after confessing her heart was beating ‘so fast’. She went on to try and relate her patriotism for Peru and Latin America, and then recall her grommethood

“Since I was really young, surfing in Peru with no one out, just me and my brothers, we were riding bodyboards and whoever did the most 360’s to the beach would win, and just claim it all day! We’d watch a couple of old surfing videos rewinding the Kelly Slater and Kalani Robb sections over and over.

“We would watch ‘Good Times’ and know the words of all the songs, and sing them all the time. It didn’t make sense because we didn’t speak English, and people would ask what we were doing. We’d say ‘singing’ and that they should watch our surfing video, and they would say ‘Surfing? What is surfing?’ Now here I am! I’m just so happy, so stoked.

The stage-call for the Foster’s Men’s Tour Top 45 included presentation of special medallions to the Top 10, with Peterson Rosa, Damien Hobgood, Sunny Garcia, Nathan Hedge, Taj Burrow, Luke Egan, CJ Hobgood, Kelly Slater and Runner-up Joel Parkinson all looking stoked.

“At the start of this year I would not have thought I’d be standing up here said Parkinson, who had his first child (Evie) back in May, and gets married to his sweetheart Monica in three weeks. “I would have been happy to be anywhere amongst these guys. You never know what to expect in this sport. Last year I had one of the best years of my life, and even if the rest is half as good, I’ll have a great life.

Foster’s Sponsorship Manager Vanessa Cohen’s speech was short and sweet before presenting Andy Irons with his huge silver Foster’s World Championship cup and a special gold ring.

“Congratulations to everyone, men and women! offered Vanessa. “Foster’s are delighted to be involved with the ASP and the Champions Of The World — the best surfers in the best locations. Surfing and Foster’s — it’s global and it’s glamourous, it’s irreverent and it’s fun, but it’s the best party in the world and that’s what we’re about. As Midget said, “One day everyone in the world will surf.

Accepting his trophy, Andy produced what he called a ‘cheat sheet’ of notes from his pocket, and proceeded to charm the admiring crowd, and heap accolades on his peers, very obviously a proud man forever softening in humility (until you add water). His first thanks went to his younger brother Bruce.

“I want to thank my brother Bruce for pushing me my whole life began Andy. “Without him I would never ever surf to be where I’m at. Thanks to my parents and girlfriend Lyndie — without them I’d never be able to hold it together. Thanks also to my friends who have travelled from Hawaii to be here tonight, and to Billabong, an amazing company.

After beckoning the crowd to their feet to applaud his female counterpart Sofia, he went on from acknowledging his idols to again fete the Top 45 surrounding him on stage, and even uncharacteristically added that he welcomed their threatening his crown.

“These are my favourite surfers — these guys up here — they are who I look up to! Guys like Taj (Burrow), Corey (Lopez), Wardo (Chris Ward), Parko (Joel Parkinson) are going to win a lot of titles, and I’m sure they’re going to take me off-a this crown, so I better soak this up while I can. I welcome it!

An undeniable champion extraordinaire after making a minimum of quarter-finals from eight of his 11 events on the Foster’s Men’s Tour last season, Andy’s final words could have been uttered by most people in the banquet hall, all sharing in celebrating the blessings of the spirit and culture of surfing.

“I’m so thankful! declared Andy finally. “Surfing has been the biggest dream of my life, and to be able to live it is everything that I could have ever wished for, and more!

Bring on the season of 2005! The Quiksilver Pro Presented by Boost Mobile, and the Roxy Pro Presented by Boost Mobile, begin their waiting periods for the first fixtures of the season on Tuesday, March 1st, running through to March 13th.tered by most people in the banquet hall, all sharing in celebrating the blessings of the spirit and culture of surfing.

“I’m so thankful! declared Andy finally. “Surfing has been the biggest dream of my life, and to be able to live it is everything that I could have ever wished for, and more!

Bring on the season of 2005! The Quiksilver Pro Presented by Boost Mobile, and the Roxy Pro Presented by Boost Mobile, begin their waiting periods for the first fixtures of the season on Tuesday, March 1st, running through to March 13th.