Slater and Harrison Advance Into Rip Curl Pro Main Event
Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia (Monday, April 9, 2001). Six-time worldchampion Kelly Slater (USA) and Zane Harrison (Aus) today survived a 16-manfield contesting the Reef Trials at Bells Beach to advance into the 29thannual Rip Curl Pro. They now face the world’s top-45 ranked surfers andevent wildcard Mick Fanning (Aus) in the first World Championship Tour (WCT)of the season, boasting US$250,000 in prizemoney.
The Reef Trials saw a round-robin format where all 16 competitors surfed atleast three (3) four-man rounds and were allotted points for theirrespective placing. Slater and Harrison, as well as local surfer NicMuscroft and Darren O’Rafferty (both Australian) then paddled out for thefinal 25-minute decider in somewhat tricky four-foot (1.3m) conditions atBells.
Slater, 29, who retired from full-time competition after winning hisunprecedented sixth crown at the end of 1998, won all three rounds leadingup to the Reef Trials final and was clearly odds-on favourite. Despite aslow start and evident confusion over the best location for picking off hiswinning waves, the most successful surfer of all-time eventually clinchedthe match within the last minute by pulling an aerial out of his bag oftricks to score 6.90-points.[IMAGE 1]
“I don’t like surfing trials,” said an out-of-breath Slater afterward. “Butthat was fun. I knew I had to do something at the end there. I went for anair (aerial maneuver) and landed it, and they’ve (the judges) been scoringthe big moves, so it worked out for me.
“Seriously, I’ve had trouble here,” he explained when asked about his trackrecord at Bells. “It’s been one of my worst events on tour for some reason.The wave is a lot like Makaha (Haw) and I think that’s why Sunny (Garcia)does so well out here. It’s always been a little tricky for me and I don’tthink I’ve ever had quite the right equipment for it. I think I do thisyear, but we’ll have to see. It’s a tough wave to surf.
“They seemed to be aggressive and surfing really well,” offered Slater whenasked about his competition today. “I find sometimes when I surf againsttrialists they aren’t quite as aggressive with me, but these guys definitelywere. I felt like it was three-on-one out there and they all definitelywanted to see me lose and two of them get through. I got lucky just tosqueak a few in, but they were being aggressive and paddling me deep (insidethe take-off zone). It was a little frustrating, but you don’t want to showthat out in the water. You don’t want to let the other guy know they’vegotten in your head. They definitely rattled me a little bit ’cause it’sjust been so long since I’ve really surfed contests intensely.
“Obviously the world tour and the way heats are run is a system I’m reallyused to surfing and am comfortable with even after time off,” he continued,in regard to the upcoming main event. “Surfing against one guy is a loteasier than surfing against four in some ways, however the competition isgoing to be better. The guys in the (top) 45 are going to be better surfers.
“It’s lucky for me that Sunny’s injured,” conceded Slater, when asked abouthis looming heat against the current world champion. “I definitely don’tthink he’ll be 100 percent. But Sunny at 90 percent, or even Sunny at 80percent… he can be 50 percent and still be a tough heat. And plus, he’swon here so many times, three Bells and I’ve only won a single one and had alot of 9th’s and 17th’s. His track record speaks for itself.”[IMAGE 2]
Harrison, 20, also put on a fantastic performance today, similarly winningeach of his three heats leading up to the final with Slater. Having justarrived in Victoria this morning after flying through the night from WesternAustralia, he was notably tired from his four sessions, but more so relievedby the outcome.
“I’m pretty stuffed actually,” admitted the Australian. “I’ve been awake fora couple of days now. The su was fun out there, though, so I’m just happyto get through. I haven’t had much good luck lately, so I’m pretty stoked. Ihaven’t surfed against Kelly in small waves before, but he’s good all-round,and showed us up easily.”
Muscroft (Aus), 18, won the pre-trials yesterday to earn his spot in the16-man Reef Trials and impressed everyone with a 9-point ride in his openingheat this morning. He then proceeded to make the final with two moreoutstanding heats, but together with O’Rafferty, was denied a spot in theRip Curl Pro main event by last minute rides from their opponents.
Two-time world (1987 & 1991) and event (1988 & 1993) champion Damien Hardman(Aus) also contested the Reef Trials today, but despite a solid win in hisfirst round heat, was unable to match this form the following two rounds andconsequently bowed out. The experienced 35-year-old retired mid-way throughlast year after 12-years ranked within the top-10.[IMAGE 3]
OFFICIAL RIP CURL PRO MEDIA CONFERENCE HELD AT MELBOURNE AQUARIUM
Also held today was the official media conference for the Rip Curl Pro atMelbourne’s Aquarium. Present for the occasion was current world championSunny Garcia (Haw), runner-up Luke Egan and event wildcard Mick Fanning(both Australian).
Garcia, 31, said he’s prepared to push through the pain barrier of hisrecent knee injury to defend his Rip Curl Pro title. He strained the medialligament in his right knee while surfing at Newcastle (Aus) earlier thismonth, but doesn’t want this to stop his quest for a fourth coveted Bells’trophy. He first won the title in 1995, then repeated the result thefollowing year, before last year’s victory propelled the powerfulnatural-footer to a maiden world title.
“I’m pretty hopeful that I will be able to surf,” said the world champ. “Myknee is not as tender as it was last week. Hopefully I will be able to surfand make it a little harder for someone to take my (world) title.
“It’s a great contest,” he continued. “For me it (Bells) is just like myhome break of Makaha (Haw), just a little colder.”
Fanning, 19, narrowly missed out on a spot in this years World ChampionshipTour (WCT), and arrived at the launch fresh from his exceptional win inMargaret River, Western Australia, yesterday afternoon. Symbolic of hisposition in the Rip Curl Pro, the youngster was offered the chance to swimwith sharks today, and showed no fear by hopping straight into the tank.
Official results from the Reef Trials 2001
Final1st Kelly Slater (USA) 21.80; 2nd Zane Harrison (Aus) 21.23; 3rd NicMuscroft (Aus) 21.20; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 18.80
Round ThreeH1: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.01; Simon McShane (Aus) 18.76; Travis Lynch (Aus)17.75; Raoni Monteiro (Brz) 15.03
H2: Nic Muscroft (Aus) 21.07; Pancho Sullivan (Haw) 17.43; James Noble (Aus)14.60; Gabe Kling (USA) 14.10
H3: Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 24.37; Glyndyn Ringrose (Aus) 21.30; AnthonyPetruso (USA) 19.07; Simon Collier (Aus) 16.97
H4: Zane Harrison (Aus) 25.00; Tony Ray (Aus) 17.07; Damien Hardman (Aus)14.20; Troy Brooks (Aus) 11.43
Round TwoH1: Pancho Sullivan (Haw) 18.60; Raoni Monteiro (Brz) 17.86; GlyndynRingrose (Aus) 17.10; Tony Ray (Aus) 11.83
H2: Zane Harrison (Aus) 23.73; Travis Lynch (Aus) 21.77; James Noble (Aus)15.03; Simon Collier (Aus) 13.83
H3: Kelly Slater (USA) 25.04; Nic Muscroft (Aus) 17.77; Damien Hardman (Aus)17.47; Anthony Petruso (USA) 15.44
H4: Troy Brooks (Aus) 22.59; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 22.44; Gabe Kling (USA)18.21; Simon McShane (Aus) 15.57
Round OneH1: Zane Harrison (Aus) 19.17; Anthony Petruso (USA) 12.13; Gabe Kling (USA)11.97; Raoni Monteiro (Brz) 11.74
H2: Damien Hardman (Aus) 23.80; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 21.34; Travis Lynch(Aus) 20.97; Pancho Sullivan (Haw) 12.67
H3: Kelly Slater (USA) 23.87; Glyndyn Ringrose (Aus) 18.77; Troy Brooks(Aus) 18.30; James Noble (Aus) 17.87
H4: Nic Muscroft (Aus) 20.93; Simon McShane (Aus) 18.91; Tony Ray (Aus)18.17; Simon Collier (Aus) 9.30
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