Pancho Sullivan and Bruce Irons Advance To The Main Event Of The Rip Curl Cup
Sunday, November 24 (Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii) Hawaiian Pancho Sullivan today won the Rip Curl Cup Trials, while Bruce Irons (Kauai) also advanced into the main event by placing second in this afternoon’s final. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced this morning on the first scheduled day of the waiting period, with four rounds completed before the two wildcards were selected.
Perfect eight- to twelve-foot surf greeted organizers this morning at Sunset beach, with mostly clear skies and a lack of wind creating picturesque conditions. Swell decreased throughout the day, but great six-foot waves were still on offer for finalists between the ‘Bowl’ and ‘Point’ sections.
Sullivan, a previous two-time contest winner at Sunset, was slow to make his mark during the 30-minute decider. The 29-year-old fell on his first two rides, but eventually paddled over towards the Point, and it was there he locked into a long tube ride and the 7.67 score that catapulted him into the lead. During the final ten seconds, he then picked off another good barrel to seal victory.
“I didn’t really feel like I found a good rhythm or was surfing to the best of my ability,” began Sullivan afterward. “I just kept chipping away and took waves that looked like they might offer up a little barrel section. After seeing a couple of scores they (judges) gave tubes earlier, I figured I’d stick to my little corner section when it’s this size and I got lucky.
“It means so much to me,” he continued, on making the main event. “I’ve had some really bad luck out here the past couple of years in this event. I grew up surfing Sunset, and it’s been a long time since I actually did well here. It starts to eat away at your confidence level. It’s a goal of mine to win the Triple Crown during my career and I feel I have the ability to do it.
“Oh definitely, he’s my inspiration,” added the Hawaiian, when asked about Myles Padaca’s Rip Curl Cup victory last year, having gone through the Trials. “He and I are best friends and we surf a lot together. I was so happy to see him do well last year. The guy deserves it more than anyone, but it made me re-focus this year and realize a local guy can do it. Come out of the Trials and win the whole event. It is my home break and I feel like I can surf as good as anyone else in the world out here.”
Irons, who led from the outset following another of his many tubes today, was pushed into second following Sullivan’s best wave. The 23-year-old regained the front spot on his last ride, but the counterattack of his main opponents higher scoring 6.93 proved too much. Nonetheless, the younger brother to current WCT ratings leader Andy Irons is in fine form, having collected a near-perfect 9.57 during his first heat this morning.
“It was a hard day and the final was the most intense,” said Irons. “I made it all the way there and was just hoping I wouldn’t blow it there. You can’t hear the scores out there, so I didn’t have any idea how I was doing.
“Sunset is a great wave when it bigger,” he added of the venue. “You ride a bigger board and can do some big turns. I’m just stoked to make it through, as for me it’s a lot harder here than at Pipe. You just have to get lucky with the waves.”
Former WCT surfer Ross Williams (Haw) posted the highest two-wave total of the day during his opening heat for 18.17-points. Unfortunately the Hawaiian wasn’t able to repeat the result in the quarterfinals, where he was eliminated.
The Rip Curl Cup marks the second leg of the 20th Anniversary Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and will very likely host the crowning of the 2002 ASP world champion. The penultimate event, now in its 28th consecutive season, showcases the world’s top 45 rated surfers, last year’s defending champion Myles Padaca (Haw), as well as the two wildcards selected from today’s 32-man Rip Curl Cup Trials.
The Rip Curl Cup Trials consisted of 23 Hawaiians, two mainland USA competitors, one Spaniard, a Tahitian, one Frenchman and Brazilian, as well as three Australian hopefuls. The Hawaiians were made up of select Sunset specialists, while the others either Rip Curl team riders from around the globe, or those who distinguished themselves during the previous two World Qualifying Series (WQS) tournaments this winter.
Official results of the Rip Curl Cup Trials (1st & 2nd advanced into main event)
1st Pancho Sullivan (Haw) 14.6
2nd Bruce Irons (Haw) 13.43
3rd Brian Pacheco (Haw) 8.04
4th Mikala Jones (Haw) 7.1
=5th Tom Whitaker (Aus); Fred Patacchia (Haw)
=7th Jason Bogle (Haw); Roy Powers (Haw)
=9th Kahea Hart (Haw); John Gomes (Haw); Ross Williams (Haw); Kaipo Jaquias (Haw)
=13th Tamayo Perry (Haw); Jamie O’Brien (Haw); Nainoa Surratt (Haw); Marcus Hickman (Haw)