HALEIWA, Hawaii (Saturday, November 22, 2008) – Tahitian Michel Bourez, 22, scored a career-best win in Hawaii today, taking first place in the $135,000 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star Reef Hawaiian Pro and an early lead on the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series ratings.
Prior to today, Bourez's best result was a minor event win in the Canary Islands in 2005. Today's result takes him to the No. 2 ranking on the ASP WQS ratings, guaranteeing him a start on the elite ASP World Tour in 2009. Bourez earned $15,000 for his win today.
Runner-up was Brazil's Jihad Khodr, 24, third was Hawaii's Kekoa Bacalso (Mililani), and fourth was Maui's Dusty Payne, the youngest of the finalists at 19 and the only surfer to come all the way through from the very first round, surfing eight times to earn $4,400.
In conditions that more closely resembled the hollow tubes of Tahiti or Hawaii's Off-The-Wall, Bourez hit his stride in the Semifinals in an unbelievable demonstration of deep tube-riding and critical power maneuvers, posting the highest wave and heat scores of the entire event: 18.96 points out of 20 for the heat, and 9.93 out of 10 for his top tube ride. In the Final, he posted a total of 16.77 points with scores of 9.77 and 7.0.
"That semi was maybe the best heat of my life," said Bourez. "Everybody was getting barreled I was screaming my head off. It was so sick. I was having so much fun out there and that's what I call a good contest. It means a lot to just (qualify for) the ASP World Tour. I've been dreaming about this my whole life since I started to surf. I've been watching all the best surfers, like Kelly (Slater) and (Rob) Machado, all those guys. And, right now I can surf with them. It's a good opportunity for me and all the Tahitian surfers. I'm stoked for Tahiti."
If Bourez can hold onto his lead of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series ratings, he could win a $10,000 bonus and a $10,000 one-of-a-kind Nixon tide watch featuring over two-carats of diamonds.
Khodr also had the crowd going wild with a hugely successful mix of determination, tube-riding and never-say-die attack on every wave he rode. Khodr peaked on time in the Final, coming so close but just short of the win. His final scoreline: 16.50 with individual wave scores of 8.50 and 8.00 for a couple of great tubes that were slightly shorter and not as deep as Bourez's. Khodr's result today moved him up to 5th on the ASP WQS rankings and back onto the ASP World Tour stage in 2009.
"It was real hard for me to get a good result this year," said Khodr. "When I got to Hawai'i I knew something was going to change and I got second place. I'm so stoked. (2009) is going to be my first year on the ASP World Tour."
The highest-placed US Mainland surfers were Brett Simpson and Timmy Reyes, both from Huntington Beach. Simpson lost in Semifinal with a score that would have seen him advance through the majority of heats this event – 14.07. He placed equal 7th overall. Reyes lost in the Quarterfinals, placing equal 13th overall.
The top placing Australians were Nic Muscroft (equal 5th, Semifinal loss), and Joel Parkinson (equal 5th, Semifina loss). Defending Vans Triple Crown champion Bede Durbidge also lost in the Semifinals, placing equal 7th overall. Parkinson and Bede suffered a wave-starved heat that left them with nothing to ride and no chance at reaching the Final again this year.
The final day of the Reef Hawaiian Pro started out just short of a washout. Pouring rain and howling onshore winds greeted competitors at dawn and the event came close to being called off. Then the wind began to clock and before long the rubble was transformed into airbrushed barrels. For those spectators who braved the conditions, the returns were huge.
Heading on to the next event, the following ASP World Qualifying Series surfers are considered "safe" for qualifying for the 2009 ASP World Tour: Nathaniel Curran (USA), Michel Bourez (Tahiti), Chris Davidson (Australia), Gabe Kling (US), Jihad Khodr (Brazil), Josh Kerr (Aus), Kekoa Bacalso (Hawaii), Nic Muscroft (Aust), Tim Boal (France), Tiago Pires (Portugal) and Dustin Barca (Hawaii).
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series now moves to Sunset Beach for the men's O'Neill World Cup of Surfing and the women's Roxy Pro. The holding period for these events begins Monday, November 24 and runs through to December 6.