By Jesse Faen
Figueira da Foz, Portugal (Tuesday, September 24) The Figueira Pro was officially cancelled today after only reaching the fourth round during its allocated waiting period. The men’s division of the US$310,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) managed to complete remaining round three heats this morning, following a move back to the main contest venue, but due to the volume of competition left and marginal conditions on offer, the difficult and unfortunate decision had to be made. All contestants who advanced shared the total prizemoney yet to be dispersed, receiving US$11,125 each.
Waves at Cabedelo were 3ft (1m) and glass-like this morning when competition commenced, though an onshore wind did arrive soon after the cancellation. With the higher tide expected to stop surf breaking altogether, as in previous days, it was agreed not to risk running half another round and possibly not be able to finish, leaving some surfers at a distinct disadvantage.
ASP Tour manager Al Hunt explained the rare situation, an occurrence that has only happened three times in prior WCT history.
“Unfortunately we’ve had to cancel the event before we got a result,” said Hunt. “All week we’ve had surfing around tides with hardly any days with more than six to eight heats, so today was going to be like no other and it wasn’t worth continuing on. We wouldn’t have gotten a result no matter what, and if we’d gone into another round there was a good chance it wouldn’t finish, so we just had to make the decision to call it off. It’s been a really bad week and it’s unfortunate, but you can’t control Mother Nature.”
ASP Head Judge Perry Hatchett, who was in the difficult position of having all sides of the equation hounding him for decisions, from surfers, sponsors and officials alike, offered the following take.
“We achieved the objective we were chasing this morning by knocking the remaining four heats of round three on the head,” began Hatchett. “It was a bit of a mixed bag between the surfers themselves, on whether they thought it was possible to continue with 20-minute heats out there, and the feeling from the contest organization was that the horse is dying, so instead of waiting for it to do it’s last kick we should shoot it in the head now and finish the event with equal 9th’s. Who knows what could have happened with the conditions? I think we just have to capitalize on the fact we did get equal 9th’s and everybody carries on to the next event with a good vibe and hopefully we get more swell in France.”
Figueira’s mayor, engineer Duarte Silva, supported the decision, stating; “It’s unfortunate what’s happened this week, but next year it will definitely be better.”
Current ratings leader Andy Irons (Haw) was on hand, set to compete against Richie Lovett (Aus) in round four. While the Hawaiian acknowledged the difficult situation, he was pleased with the eventual outcome.
“I think the cancellation is a good choice,” reasoned Irons. “We don’t want to show the world’s best surfers in junk waves like that. It was a hard call for sure, but definitely a good choice by them all. It was unreal everyone could talk it out and see each other’s perspectives on what they wanted to do. I think they came to a good group decision.”
Current ratings #3 Michael Lowe (Aus), who was actually due to paddle out in the first round four heat against Damien Hobgood (USA), agreed.
“It’s been a long week for all competitors and the decision that was made was the right one,” said Lowe. “We have such massive tides at the moment with the full moon, that I personally didn’t want to be in the situation of having surfed and possibly secured a fifth, but then they couldn’t finish the round and we would be given a 9th anyway. I’m not happy with the way the contest ended, as of course you’d like to go further and maybe even overtake Andy’s lead, but you can’t change the ocean.”
While the tournament was uultimately cancelled, four heats did take place this morning and Guilherme Herdy (Brz) eliminated current ratings runner-up Luke Egan (Aus) in the first. The Brazilian opened with the highest score of the match, a 7.8, and when it ended Egan required another ride worth 7.01-points.
“We tried to have to have the competition at a different break, but the direction is from the north now and closing out,” said Herdy, of the changes in venue early on. “We returned here to try and finish the contest, but it’s still really small and the tide is playing a big factor. I had luck in my heat to wait and find the right waves and get good scores. I was very stoked.”
Current ratings #4 Danny Wills (Aus) then survived his bout over Renan Rocha (Brz). The Australian secured an 8.25 and held the lead, and though his Brazilian opponent only needed a 6.61, he fell on both his last two attempts.
“That’s the toughest surf I’ve competed in for so long, years probably,” explained Wills. “Mentally this has been the hardest event I’ve ever surfed. We’ve been hard up for waves and everyone has been confused about what we would be doing, so mentally trying to stay focused is really tough. I’m glad I made the heat, though, and I like sitting in the ratings position I’m in. It’s a good place to strike from.”
Shane Powell accounted for fellow Australian and current #10 Mick Fanning in the last heat surfed during the 2002 Figueira Pro. The pair actually tied for the highest combined two-wave total of the day with 16.5-points, but on a single wave count back, Powell’s best ride scored 9.0 and carried him through.
Most of the world’s top rated surfers then left to pack their bags and either start the long drive to France this afternoon, for the next WCT event in Hossegor, or leave first thing tomorrow morning.
Official results of the 2002 Figueira Pro
Men’s round four match-ups (all contestants finished =9th and received US$11,125)
H1: Michael Lowe (Aus) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)
H2: Taj Burrow (Aus) vs. CJ Hobgood (USA)
H3: Lee Winkler (Aus) vs. Joel Parkinson (Aus)
H4: Richard Lovett (Aus) vs. Andy Irons (Haw)
H5: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) vs. Nathan Hedge (Aus)
H6: Fabio Gouveia (Brz) vs. Kalani Robb (Haw)
H7: Guilherme Herdy (Brz) vs. Peterson Rosa (Brz)
H8: Danny Wills (Aus) vs. Shane Powell (Aus)
(1st advances; defeated finish =17th; receive US$4,000)
H13: Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 13.55 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 11.5
H14: Peterson Rosa (Brz) 14.4 def. Dean Morrison (Aus) 12.5
H15: Danny Wills (Aus) 13.1 def. Renan Rocha (Brz) 12.25
H16: Shane Powell (Aus) 16.5 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 16.5 (Powell won tie on single 9.0 ride)
Current WCT ratings’ top 10
1 Andy Irons (Haw) 5,092-points
2 Luke Egan (Aus) 4,684
3 Michael Lowe (Aus) 4,600
4 Daniel Wills (Aus) 4,582
5 Joel Parkinson (Aus) 4,544
6 Shea Lopez (USA) 4,408
7 Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 4,372
8 CJ Hobgood (USA) 4,168
9 Cory Lopez (USA) 4,156
10 Mick Fanning (Aus) 4,100