FOSTER’S 2005 ASSOCIATION OF SURFING PROFESSIONALS (ASP) MEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TOUR (WCT)
Rip Curl Search WCT (June 23 – July 4)
Final Four Wildcards Decided For Inaugural Rip Curl Search WCT Event
An intense day of Trials competition at Reunion Island’s picturesque Saint Leu break today saw the final four wildcard entrants for the inaugural Rip Curl Search WCT event decided.
In clean one metre waves, Spain’s Pablo Gutierrez was clearly the outstanding competitor today, winning the four-man Optique Bourbon/Rip Curl Eyewear Trials final from Saint Leu local David Grainville, with Australian Travis Lynch third and Moroccan Abdel El Harim fourth.
The 16-man Trials field featured 10 Reunion Islanders and six Rip Curl team riders from five countries, who each surfed three times against different opponents in four-man heats.
Gutierrez, a 23-year-old from Santander in Spain, was the only Triallist to win each of his three heats during the day and was a narrow victor in the Trials final, his best two waves producing a heat score of 12.75 points (out of a possible 20 points). Grainville’s final heat score was 12.25, Lynch 10.00 and El Harim 7.50.
Gutierrez said after the win: “This will be only my second time in a WCT event, so I am really stoked, it’s like a dream for me to surf against those guys. Saint Leu is a really good wave and hopefully it will be perfect for the WCT. Whatever happens, it will be a good learning experience for me.”
Grainville was also excited at his first chance to take on the world’s best, saying: “I am so stoked, but I will need to be lucky. I know it will be very difficult against the WCT guys, but I have no pressure on me, so I will just do my best.”
Lynch, like Grainville, in his first WCT event, said: “Saint Leu is quite a tricky wave and I’m really glad to have had the chance to surf in the Trials to help me prepare for the main event. I’m happy to have made it and just see how I go against the top guys.”
El Harim is in the same position as Lynch and Grainville, qualifying for his first WCT event. “I’m really happy to be in the main event, it is a dream for me.”
Meanwhile over the past 72 hours, injury, illness and impending fatherhood has forced a record-equalling nine withdrawals by Top 45 surfers from the US$270,000 Rip Curl Search WCT event. The Top 45 surfers who have withdrawn are:
– Florida twins CJ & Damien Hobgood (current world # 3 & # 7 respectively, CJ impending father, Damien injured);
– Californian Chris Ward (current world #14, injured);
– Brazilian Neco Padaratz (current world # 22, injured);
– Hawaiian Sunny Garcia (current world # 33, ill);
– Californian Tim Curran (current world # 35, ill);
– Californian Shane Beschen (current world # 37, impending father);
– Florida’s Shea Lopez (current world # 38, injured);
– Australian Toby Martin (current world # 42, injured).
With all Foster’s ASP WCT events having a 48-man starting field, the late withdrawals have allowed event organisers to award 10 wildcards, instead of the normal three. The 10 wildcards are:
– America’s three-time world champion Tom Curren, 40-year-old from Santa Barbara (sponsor wildcard);
– Australia’s leading junior Ben Dunn, 19-year-old from Old Bar, NSW (sponsor wildcard);
from Copacabana, NSW (sponsor wildcard); – Brazilian Bruno Santos, 22-year-old (sponsor wildcard);
– Puerto Rican Brian Toth, 20-year-old (sponsor wildcard);
– Reunion Island’s Frederic Robin, 29-year-old (local wildcard);
– Spain’s Pablo Gutierrez, 23-year-old from Santander (trials wildcard);
– Reunion Island’s David Grainville, 22-year-old (trials wildcard);
– Australia’s Travis Lynch, 21-year-old from Newcastle, NSW (trials wildcard);
– Morocco’s Abdel El Harim, 20-year-old from Rabat (trials wildcard).
The Rip Curl Search WCT event holds a first-of-its-kind ‘ASP Floating License’, allowing Rip Curl to run the event in a different loccation every year, if it sees fit. A company built on the Search philosophy, Rip Curl has developed this event so it can travel the planet, delivering the world’s best waves to the world’s best surfers.
Reunion Island, a French territory situated in the Indian Ocean off the south-east coast of South Africa, has been selected for Year 1. For a surfer there is no better Search destination. Often called ‘the intense island’, Reunion is a small volcanic island with an excitingly active coastline. Through the swell months of May to October, Reunion’s surf breaks hold long swells that deliver fortunate surfers with some of the highest quality waves in the world.
Rip Curl has a special relationship with Saint Leu, hosting the last WCT event there in 1996. That contest was won by Kelly Slater (Florida, USA), who this year goes into the event as favourite, courtesy of two dominating WCT wins in Tahiti and Fiji. The current WCT ratings leader is vying for his seventh World Title and hoping to break the three-year stranglehold Andy Irons (Kauai, Hawaii) has had on the trophy.
The Rip Curl Search WCT also provides 33-year-old Slater with an opportunity to achieve a unique milestone. In the pro surfing world tour’s 30-year history, only four surfers have previously won three or more consecutive WCT events.
Australia’s Tom Carroll won four consecutively in his 1984 World Title winning season, the United Kingdom’s Martin Potter won three in his 1989 World Title winning season, American Tom Curren won three in his 1990 World Title winning season and Slater won three in a row in his 1996 World Title winning season (the first win of the triple being his victory at Saint Leu).
A win at this year’s Search WCT will give Slater the honor of being the only man ever to win three consecutive events twice in his career and will put him in a strong position atop the 2005 World Title race.
Rip Curl Search WCT Live Webcast & Full Screen Highlights powered by Vividas
The Rip Curl Search WCT Live Webcast will give surfing fans around the world ‘on the beach’ access during competition hours. Live webcast commentary will support live scoring and video streaming, with guest announcers, promotions and replays heightening the experience.
The time zone for Reunion Island is GMT + 4 hours, meaning it will be an awkward time for many in different parts of the world. To cater for these surfing fans, Rip Curl will be posting exclusive Full-Screen Video Highlight packages powered by Vividas online at www.ripcurl.com
The Video Highlights will feature the action in and out of the water at St. Leu, headlined of course by the WCT competition.
To allow users to familiarise themselves with the Vividas technology, Rip Curl is featuring five exclusive video clips on the Video section of ripcurl.com during the lead-up to the Search WCT. Jamie O’Brien’s Freakshow, Inner Visions from the Search, Tom Curren’s Red Search Part 1 & 2 and a special Reunion Island teaser are the clips currently being offered.