Tavarua & Namotu Islands, Fiji (Thursday, May 30) Reigning world champion CJ Hobgood (USA) today charged into the semifinals of the Quiksilver Pro. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) began this morning with remaining round four heats, before the quarterfinals were then decided, with four goofy-footers advancing — three from Florida.
Offshore winds and 6-8ft (2-2.5m) waves provided ideal conditions at ‘Cloudbreak’, though the higher tide this morning forced organizers to wait until midday.
Hobgood, 22, dominated the first quarterfinal against Peterson Rosa (Brz) with an outstanding display of tube riding skills. The Floridian secured his first perfect 10-point ride in the Quiksilver Pro, as well as another 9.4, for the second best two-wave total of the tournament so far (19.4-points). His Brazilian opponent locked in one good barrel for an 8.4, but still required a combination of rides worth 11.01-points.
“The ocean just kind of turned on and I was having so much fun,” said Hobgood, before describing his 10. “It wasn’t like a super big one, but I dropped in and put my arm in (the wave) and started stalling. Then it started racing past me and I was trying to catch up. It was really deep and long, so when I knew I was coming out I was stoked.
“If the waves are good I’ll be trying to have as much fun out there as I can,” he continued of the upcoming semifinals. “There’s been waves the whole time, so I’ve been enjoying myself and to keep going in the contest is that much more enjoyable.”
Current ratings number 8 Shea Lopez (USA) furthered his campaign by eliminating ratings number 15 Taj Burrow (Aus). Already equaling his best result of the year by reaching the semifinals, Lopez will now meet fellow Floridian Hobgood in what is sure to be a battle of the barrel hunters.
“I got a 6.75 for the lead, but after that big set it went dead out there,” explained Lopez, of the inconsistent heat. “I fell and buckled my board on a smaller wave, but I figured it would hold. Taj had priority and missed a good one, which I barely got into for a good 8.0. He was comboed with a couple of minutes to go, but then go that 7.25 at the end to come back some.
“Hopefully this is going to be the best result so far this year,” said Lopez. “It’s just perfect out there. I’m loving it and can’t believe we get to surf with just one other person and now I have another chance to get some barrels.”
World number 8 Michael Lowe proved a giant killer today by eliminating fellow Australians Mark Occhilupo and defending Quiksilver Pro Luke Egan. In the quarterfinal against Egan both contestants were smashed by larger set waves prior to the match commencing, but when it did, he emerged from two barrels on one wave for a fantastic score of 9.4-points. His opponent waiting patiently, and it proved in vain as he still required another 8.81-points at heat end.
“We got hit by a good 10ft (2.5m) set before out heat even started and we ended up down on the reef,” began Lowe. “But I was luckily enough to pick up some good ones during it. To win the event is obviously my dream, but to make the semis and catch so many good waves has been a pleasure. Being a goofy-footer in these lefts is pretty much heaven on earth.
“It’s been a great day for me,” he continued. “First of all was ‘Occy’ this morning and then Luke. Two of my childhood heroes, and here I am knocking them off in perfect waves. It’s unbelievable. I just can’t wait to get back out there and hopefully get some more barrels.”
Egan, 32, has shown great form of late, finishing runner-up in the previous WCT in Tahiti and fifth today. While the waves didn’t cooperate during his quarterfinal, he eliminated six-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) today and remained gracious in defeat this afternoon.
“”I waited it out and I was ready if one came, but unfortunately it didn’t,” said Egan. “I’m pretty stoked, though. I’ve put two good places togeether in a row. I’m back in the hunt and picked up my form. I’m bummed I couldn’t get further in this contest, but it’s the way things go. ‘Lowey’s’ been surfing fantastic all event and he deserves a good result.”
Current ratings runner-up Cory Lopez (USA) continued his momentum this afternoon over 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia (Haw). The Floridian dominated his fourth round heat this morning to eliminate Dean Morrison (Aus) with a combined total of 19.2 out of a possible 20-points, and then picked off another 9.35 against the Hawaiian. He’ll now face Lowe in the second semifinal.
“That was a tough one against Sunny,” said Lopez. “He’s a fierce competitor and started with an 8.1 right off the bat. I didn’t get anything good at the beginning, but luckily I got some later. I had two really good heats today, so hopefully I can keep it going tomorrow. Lowey’s gnarly and I know he’ll charge, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Slater, who had been the form surfer of the Quiksilver Pro, was forced to settle for an equal ninth place finish. The highly anticipated clash with Egan saw both ultimately waiting for waves not on offer, and while Slater took the lead on his final ride, his opponent bettered his lowest counting score directly after to advance.
“I got the score I needed at the end, but then Luke came back and one-upped me again,” explained Slater. “Unfortunately it went against me. My expectations were pretty high after the last couple of heats. I waited too long for my first wave, then ate it on a couple and had to play catch up.
“When the year started I said it would probably take me five or six events to get moving again, and that’s proven to be true,” he continued. “I’m still stoked with this past week. I’m going to stick around and get some more surf and relax.”
1999 world and inaugural Quiksilver Pro champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) also finished equal ninth after his loss to Lowe. Despite finding some good waves, he wasn’t able to secure the points he required.
“I felt like I could have gotten into a good rhythm,” said Occhilupo. “It was just a matter of picking the waves when they were right in front of you. I thought there’d be more. I’m a bit bummed, but I’m pleased to lose to Mick ’cause he’s a good friend and I hope he does really well.”
The 2002 Quiksilver Pro is likely to conclude tomorrow, with a decision being made by organizers in the morning as to the day’s schedule. A detailed release will follow soon after.
Official results of the Quiksilver Pro
Quarterfinals (defeated finish =5th; receive US$8,000)
QF1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 19.4 def. Peterson Rosa (Brz) 14.9
QF2: Shea Lopez (USA) 14.75 def. Taj Burrow (Aus) 11.5
QF3: Michael Lowe (Aus) 16.8 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 13.25
QF4: Cory Lopez (USA) 18.25 def. Sunny Garcia (Haw) 16.1
Round Four Heats
(defeated finish =9th; receive US$5,000)
H5: Michael Lowe (Aus) 14.0 def. Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 11.75
H6: Luke Egan (Aus) 12.2 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 11.75
H7: Cory Lopez (USA) 19.2 def. Dean Morrison (Aus) 15.95
H8: Sunny Garcia (Haw) 16.0 def. Danny Wills (Aus) 10.6