Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
2002 World Championship Tour (WCT)
Lowe Defeats Lopez Brothers To Win Event
Tavarua & Namotu Islands, Fiji (Friday, May 31) World #8 Michael Lowe (Aus)today defeated Shea Lopez (USA) to win the final of the Quiksilver Pro Fiji.The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced this morningwith three Floridians in contention, but it was the lone Australian whoreceived a huge ratings boost, as well as the US$30,000 first placeprizemoney.
Competition began at ‘Cloudbreak’ in solid 8-10 ft (2.5-3m) surf, with onlythe first semifinal decided before organizers were forced to place thetournament on hold. The higher tide and difficult conditions led competitorsto push for a change of venue, and after lengthy evaluation, it was agreedto move back to the famed left-handers of ‘Restaurants’. Perfect 4-6ft(1.5-2m) waves then showcased the second semifinal, as well as the grandfinale.
Lowe, who had earlier today posted the highest three-wave total of theentire tournament for 25.5-points against Cory Lopez, went on to better thisin the final against older brother Shea for a 25.7 tally. Having opening hisaccount with an 8.0, he continued to amaze onlookers with his lighting fastre-entries and critical maneuvers down the long walls of ‘Restaurants’. Hisbest score of 9.0 at the midway mark put the pressure squarely on hisopponent, and when he secured another 8.7 the door began to close. With the40-minute decider coming to an end, the sound of Aussie cheers in the lineupsaid it all.
“I’m glad I didn’t peak too early and lasted until the end,” began Lowe onthe shoreline, after being handed an Australian flag by his mates. “It wasso fun out there and really rippable. It’s been my dream to win an event inhollow lefts, and this event’s probably been the best one to win. We’ve hadperfect waves since day one, so to come out winning is phenomenal.
“After my two second places in Hawaii over the past 18-months it feelspretty good not to be the bridesmaid,” he continued, of securing his firstWCT win since 1999. “To beat Shea in those conditions, I’m pretty stoked.This place is heaven on earth.
“That’s a lot of Australian pesos,” he joked of his prizemoney, beforegiving credit to his vocal cheer squad. “It’s one thing you can say aboutthe Australians. They really stick behind each other, as you can see by theflag. There was only me, and three other blokes who had a chance of winning,but they had enough faith to bring the flag out for me, so this one’s forthe boys.”
Lopez, who moved into third position on the ratings following his finalsberth, also put on an incredible display today. The Floridian’s speedfloaters and aerial maneuvers off the lip kept him within range, but he wasunable to secure the higher points of his opponent. His first final since1999, where he also placed runner-up, Lopez is primed heading into the nextWCT in South Africa, where he collected a perfect 10 last year, for hisbackhand barrel riding skills.
“It came down to the fact I had priority and I let him go on the firstwave,” reasoned Lopez. “There was a big one behind it I thought it was goingto barrel, but it was just a little too big and he got a 9.0 on his. Thatput him ahead and I was just playing catch-up after that. All I could do wasjust keep trying and do my best. It was definitely amazing out there.
“I’ve got to get rid of these seconds,” he continued. “We’ve got threequarters of the year still, and I’m looking forward to J-Bay (next WCT inSAfr) a lot. I want to get barreled some more.”
Finishing equal third today in the Quiksilver Pro Fiji were two moreFloridians, reigning world champion CJ Hobgood and current ratings runner-upCory Lopez.
Hobgood, 22, began his semifinal against Shea at ‘Cloudbreak’ with threequick rides from the outset. He then became more selective, and togetherwith Lopez, were caught inside by numerous 10-12 ft (3-4m) set waves thattumbled them like clothes in a washing machine. Despite securing two decentscores midway through, and losing a fin off his board that requiring achange of equipment, it was his opponent’s 8.5 barrel that changed the toneof the match. From there he was behind, and while he earned a 6.65 towardthe end, he ultimately required another worth 7.61 points in his besttwo-wave total that wasn’t found.
“I really thought I was in it until the very last second,” said Hobgood. “Iwas just hoping that last set was going to come to me, but it ended upgetting us both. I kept catching the bombs and they’d have a sick drop, andthen they were so intense through the inside. I got worked pretty much everywave I stood up on, as well as cleaned up a bunch by the sets.
“Thankful enough we’re fortunate to have the Jet Skis,” he added, of therescue/assistance they received. “Whenever you were in a tricky situationyou could get washed in, take a couple beatings and then they would come andget you. Those sets did start taking a toll though, as I was really tiredtoward the end. In conditions like that it was you against the ocean, and Iguess I didn’t prevail.”
Lopez, 25, suffered a similar fate to his brother at ‘Restaurants’.Searching for the long barrels a little too often, he missed opportunitiesto belt the wave’s lip, as proved Lowe’s advantage. Still nursing an ankleinjury than surprisingly didn’t appear to affect his approach, he ultimatelyrequired a combination of scores worth 10.91-points.
“There were some good waves, but I think I was going for the barrel toomuch,” conceded Lopez. “He was going strictly for maneuvers and I keptwiping out in the barrel. I went for it, but it just didn’t work out. He gotthat last good wave and I was comboed. I wish I could have been in the finalwith my brother, but that’s the way it goes.”
Also of note today was two-time world champion Tom Carroll (Aus), who madegood use of the evaluation period at ‘Cloudbreak’, taking out a 5’4″ towboard behind Tavarua Island’s managing director Jon Roseman’s Jet Ski, andthen brilliantly surfed a handful of rides. While eliminated from thetournament by Cory in round two, his rides this morning had the judgesclaiming perfect 10’s.
ASP President/CEO Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew, the 1978 world champion, wason hand this week to witness the Quiksilver Pro and summed it up as followsthis afternoon.
“We’ve had great waves and this is the second time throughout the eventwe’ve been able to have some of the heats at ‘Restaurants’,” he said. “I’dhave to say that Mick Lowe and Shea surfed exceptionally well all week.They’ve been very versatile, getting the big barrels out at ‘Cloudbreak’during the big days and out here, I think it offered a little bit morefreedom to open up their repertoire.
“The lineup of talent and performances by the athletes has beenexceptional,” he continued of the tour this year. “The level raised about20-25 percent this year, so that’s fantastic. Everyone’s been calling thisthe dream tour and it’s certainly living up to its reputation. We’ve had agreat event here at the Quiksilver Pro. Four great events now, so it’s beenan incredible start to the world tour.”
Official results of the 2002 Quiksilver Pro Fiji Final Day
1st Michael Lowe (Aus) 25.7 – US$30,000
2nd Shea Lopez (USA) 23.05 – US$16,000
Semifinals (defeated finish =3rd; receive US$10,000)
SF1: Shea Lopez (USA) 14.25 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 11.65
SF2: Michael Lowe (Aus) 25.5 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 20.1
Men’s WCT Ratings Top 10 After Evt#4
1st Andy Irons (Haw) 3612-points
2nd Cory Lopez (USA) 2988
3rd Shea Lopez (USA) 2928
4th Luke Egan (Aus) 2724
5th CJ Hobgood (USA) 2688
6th Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 2640
=7th Michael Lowe (Aus), Joel Parkinson (Aus) 2568
9th Kalani Robb (Haw) 2556
10th Sunny Garcia (Haw) 2523