(Thursday, October 22nd, 2009): An international cast of surfers were literally on "Cloud 9" today with Typhoon Lupit whipping up epic 1.5-2 metre (6ft plus) waves for the opening day of the Billabong Cloud 9 Invitational at Siargao Island in the Philippines.
Cloud 9 lived up to its hype, serving up a smorgasbord of hollow, tubing waves, as contest organizers opted to run round one heats before completing four sudden-death round two heats to close out the day.
Excellent scores were the norm as surfers from Australia, Bali, Japan, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa and the Philippines pushed their tube riding skills to the limit, weaving deep through the bellies of cavernous waves in a tussle for important round three berths.
Hawaiian hotshot Jamie O'Brien fired a warning shot to his fellow rivals by switch footing his way through a Cloud 9 keg to post the event's first perfect 10-point ride.
The former pipeline master, who arrived at the out-of-the-way break only a few hours before his opening round heat, showed no signs of jetlag, netting a combined two-wave total of 17.80 to easily beat Australian Cahill Bell Warren (9.83 – Jan Juc, Victoria) and local Philippines surfer Rodolfo Alcala (3.10) in a one-sided affair.
"We had a really long mission from Hawaii after making a last minute decision to come to the event," he said.
"I had just got back from Tahiti, so I just jumped on a plane the next day and flew over here with Makua (Rothman)."
After a couple of 7 point rides, O'Brien, who surfs in the natural ( left foot forward) stance, paddled into a big, perfect barrel before bottom turning, weaving the tube and cleanly exiting in the switch stance.
Post heat, O'Brien said he was surprised to score so big.
"I didn't feel too good out there. I was really out of it. I had a 7 and a 6, but I thought I was going to get beaten. That one came through and it seemed a good opportunity to go switch and get a big score. I went for it and got the best score I've gotten for going switch. I'm stoked."
Fellow Hawaiian Rothman was equally impressive in round one, bagging an excellent scoring 9.00 tube ride on his opening wave before backing it up with an 8.53 to take down Balinese ripper Agus Frimento and local Philippines surfer Rommel Rojo, and easily progress through to round three.
The excellent rides continued to come thick and fast with Australian Sam Page (Manly, NSW) threading through the eye of a big, perfect barrel to net the event's second 10-point ride in the last heat of the day.
Other standouts included Australian Nick Vasicek (Coolangatta, Qld), New Zealand's Jay Quinn (Now Gold Coast, QLD, Aus), Gavin Beschen (Haw), Dale Staples (South Africa) and Stephen Walsh (Lennox Head, NSW, Aus).
Competition is expected to continue tomorrow with Typhoon Lupit predicted to continue to lash the region with flawless, barrelling waves.
Surfing will reconvene at 6am with a possible 6.30 am start. First heat in the water will be heat five of round two, which will feature LukeL andrigan (Phi), Bonifacio Figuron (Phi), Shinpei Horiguchi (JPN) and Chris Watkins (PHI).
Due to Siargao’s proximity to the Philippine Deep, big swells from the Pacific Ocean roll in from the second deepest stretch of water in the world to create flawless, hollow barrelling waves.
The 2009 tournament will run from October 21-27,2009.
The tournament contest site is Siargao Island's ‘Cloud 9’, a powerful, hollow right-hander that has been frequently compared to the renowned surf of Hawaii and Indonesia.
The Billabong Cloud 9 Invitational 2009 is proudly supported by Billabong, Province of Surigao Del Norte, Stoked Inc, Von Zipper sunglasses, Nixon, Kustom footwear, Friendster, and Sagana Resort.