Figueira da Foz, Portugal (Tuesday, Sep 12, 2000). Current World Championship Tour (WCT) ratings leader Sunny Garcia (Haw) today won his opening heat of the Figueira Pro 2000, while world champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) and last event winner Shane Dorian (Haw) were beaten in theirs. After two years absence, the Portuguese WCT event was resurrected to be part of this season’s schedule. Despite increasingly inconsistent 2-3 foot (1m) conditions, competitors this morning were greeted with fun waves before the incoming tide forced organizers to postpone the event after heat eight finished.
Garcia, 30, has led the ratings since winning back-to-back events in Australia when the season began. With four 9th place finishes also to his name this season, however, the race for the world title is still very much a contest. His win today over world number-three Victor Ribas (Brz) and Portuguese wildcard entrant Ruben Gonzales shoots him straight into round three and further along the right track.
“The waves are fun to surf, but unfortunately, as always, there weren’t many in my heat,” Garcia said afterward. “I got two good scores on my first two waves, but the tide was coming in really fast and the waves were dying. The other guys weren’t able to find any scores, so I’m stoked. It’s always good to get that first round under your belt and be able to take a day off and see what happens with the swell and waves.
“For me, I go out and take everybody seriously,” the ratings leader continued in reference to his wildcard opponent. “I wasn’t so much worried about Rueben, but I know that Victor surfs really well in small waves and is really hard to beat. I knew I had my work cut out for me, so I went out and did what I needed to do.”
Occhilupo (Aus) wasn’t as successful today. Despite a fantastic finish in the last WCT event in Spain only three days ago, when he placed second to Dorian and seemed to regain the form that won his title in 1999, he lost his first round heat at Figueira to opponents Andy Irons (Haw) and Damien Hobgood (USA). The world champ trailed the entire heat and will now have to contest the ‘loser’s’ round two.
Irons, currently rated 44th on the WCT, built momentum throughout the match, posting one of the highest single wave and combined scores of the day. Although he did not originally qualify for this years’ tour, with two-time world champion Damien Hardman (Aus) electing not to compete in the majority of events in 2000, Irons was granted the replacement spot and used it to advantage this morning.
“I started off with a 5.0 and then saw Damien (Hobgood) sitting further over going off on a little peak, so I decided to give it a try and found two good wedges were I could do some good turns,” explained Irons. “It paid off, stoked, so I avoid the second round.
“Just getting used to the wetsuits is a big deal, but the waves are fun,” added Irons, in regard to now being in Portugal after the past month of warm water in France. “For how small they are they have some push. I like it here, it’s my first time.”
Dorian, still on a high from winning the Billabong Pro in epic conditions at Mundaka, was also unable to bypass the dreaded round two here in Portugal. In an unusual match against Kalani Robb (Haw) and Tiago Pires (another Portuguese wildcard), the surfers had to wait on three separate occasions as their heat was put on hold due to fog that drifted in and made visibility too poor for the judges. When it finally concluded, Dorian placed third behind the Robb and Pires.
“There were actually some really good waves in my heat,” Dorian admitted afterward, regardless of the outcome. “I had an 8.75, Kalani had a couple of 8’s and Tiago had some good ones too. Everyone was surfing well and the waves were fun, it was just difficult with the start/stop element to put a whole heat together. The sand bank here is really good at the moment, though, so hopefully we’ll get some waves and it will be a really high performannce event.
“I feel really confident and have a really great board,” he added. “I feel super healthy right now and strong, so hopefully I can manage a really good result here.”
Robb, currently in 19th position, was back to his usual competitive self today, surfing confidently and lightning-fast to post, along with Ritchie Lovett (Aus) in heat four, the equal highest tally of the day. After a lack-luster match against CJ Hobgood in Anglet, France, last week, following a communication breakdown with organizers, the Hawaiian gave his opponent the result. He was offering no one favors in the match at Figueira, though, admitting he would have been especially disappointed had he lost considering one of his best rides was during a fog delay.
“I didn’t really like the way it kept stopping and starting, but there’s nothing you can do,” reasoned Robb after his win today. “The fog came in and I would have been really bummed if I lost that heat because I caught a wave in between when the heat was on and off that I actually think was better than any of my waves, even my last one that scored 8.50. It was hard, though, we stopped like three times during that heat. Stoked I made it, but that was a real lucky one.”
Australian Shane Powell, who won the Portuguese event back in 1997 when it was last held as a WCT, named the ‘Expo 98 Figueira,’ also advanced straight into the third round, defeating fellow countryman Taj Burrow and South African Paul Canning convincingly.
“It’s good to be back here and I’m stoked to be the defending champ of this event,” said Powell afterward. “I had a good first heat, so it’s great to be straight into the third round and avoid a 33rd (place finish). I can have a day off now.
“The last two events I’ve had good starts, and it’s making me feel a lot better,” he added, since the majority of his results have been at the low end of the draw. “I’m all excited. I feel good at the moment. It’s been a long European leg and everyone’s probably looking forward to the end, but I want to win this event again first.”
A decision will be made at 8am tomorrow morning (local Portuguese time) as to the day’s schedule.
Official Results Of Figueira Pro 2000 Pro Day 1 – WCT Event #10
Heat 1: R Williams (Haw) 21.65; S Lopez (USA) 20.75; K Malloy (USA) 15.65
Heat 2: S Powell (Aus) 21.75; T Burrow (Aus) 18.40; P Canning (SAfr) 12.60
Heat 3: F Gouveia (Brz) 18.50; G Ringrose (Aus) 15.45; Co Lopez (USA) 12.35
Heat 4: R Lovett (Aus) 23.75; T Martin (Aus) 16.50; J Paterson (Aus) 8.60
Heat 5: A Irons (Haw) 22.55; D Hobgood (USA) 19.60; M Occhilupo (Aus) 15.30
Heat 6: CJ Hobgood (USA) 20.65; C Hayes (Haw) 20.00; D Wills (Aus) 18.45
Heat 7: K Robb (Haw) 23.75; T Pires (Port) 21.65; S Dorian (Haw) 20.75
Heat 8: s Garcia (Haw) 22.00; V Ribas (Brz) 16.20; R Gonzales (Port) 11.90
Heat 9:L Egan (Aus) vs. M Lowe (Aus) vs. Z Harrison (Aus)
Heat 10: M Campbell (Aus) vs. A Daltro (Brz) vs. M Picon (Fra)
Heat 11: R Machado (USA) vs. T Curran (USA) vs. P O’Connell(USA)
Heat 12: F Padaratz (Brz) vs. B Emerton (Aus) vs. S Sutton (Haw)
Heat 13: N Webster (Aus) vs. T Knox (USA) vs. R Winter (UK)
Heat 14: P Rosa (Brz) vs. T Prestage (Aus) vs. B Bourgeois (USA)