Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia (Thursday, April 12, 2001). Rip Curl Proevent wildcard Mick Fanning (Aus) today caused a major upset by defeatingcurrent world number-three rated surfer Rob Machado (USA) and Renan Rocha(Brz) in their opening match-up. Close friend and World Championship Tour(WCT) rookie Joel Parkinson also created an upset when he beat experiencedtour veteran Taylor Knox (USA) and Guilherme Herdy (Brz).
Stormy conditions greeted competitors early this morning and forcedorganizers to place the event on hold for two hours, but as the wind settledand solid 6-foot (2m) waves made their way through the lineup, the remainingseven heats of round one hit the water.
Fanning, 19, narrowly missed out on a spot in the World Championship Tour(WCT) this year, but has already made his intentions clear in 2001. Hecurrently leads the World Qualifying Series (WQS), thanks mainly to winningthe last 6-Star WQS event in Western Australia less than a week ago, as wellas placing second the month prior in another qualifying event. Showing hisconfidence can cross tour boundaries, the young Australian surfed acommanding heat to advance straight into the third round.
[IMAGE 1]”I got a good wave at the start – a 7.50, so I just tried to build up onthat and it paid off,” explained Fanning afterward. “I’ve actually beencoming to Bells for so long and I just love the wave, they’re nice andpowerful and have long walls. You can just do so many different things onthem. It’s good to come here and be able to surf with only two other guys.
“I’d love to, but I doubt it will happen,” he laughed, when asked about hischances of winning the Rip Curl Pro. “I’m just going to try and surf thebest I can and I’ll be happy if I do. Whatever else comes I’ll be stokedwith. It’s really good to be here and see what these guys are doing inheats – good experience.”
Parkinson, 20, led his entire heat against Knox and Herdy, and lived up tothe hype preceding his WCT debut. With a WCT title already to his credit asa wildcard two years ago in South Africa – the same year he won the ASPWorld Junior title – the rookie stormed out of the gates this morning andwas able to walk away with the win, despite allowing Knox a last minutechance by leaving him alone in the lineup. The American only needed a lowscore of 4.76 points, and with 20 seconds remaining picked off a decentwave, but unfortunately for him, fell on the inside section.
“I actually thought Taylor would have gotten his score on that last wave,but luckily enough he didn’t,” said Parkinson. “It was a bit of aheart-stopper for me, but I guess you can’t give them an inch out there.
“I want to win (the Rip Curl Pro), definitely, but I’m looking for somewhereto start from, really,” he reasoned. “I’ve never done this (WCT tour)before, so whether I win, lose or draw, it’s somewhere to start from. That’sall I need or want. I’m just happy to have gotten through the heat.
[IMAGE 2]”It’s great being here at Bells, it’s in Australia and I love it. It’s alittle cold though, from the Gold Coast (his hometown area in Queensland).
“They’re 45 of the best surfers in the world,” added the 20-year-old whenasked who his main threats on tour were. “It doesn’t matter if you get the45th or the 1st (rated surfer). You can win or you can get whipped, itdoesn’t really matter. I think you just have to forget who you’re surfingagainst and just keep on improving how you’re surfing and your strategies.”
World number 29 Danny Wills (Aus) posted the highest total of the day with20.6 from a possible 30 points, ahead of Marcelo Nunes (Brz) and MichaelLowe (Aus). Despite having slipped down the ratings in recent years, Willsclearly announced his desire to regain some lost ground with a polishedperformance.
“I had a lot of fun, but it was really tricky and hard to pick the right ones,” said Wills. “I just tried to snag a few of those medium-sized waves andtheyy turned out to be the best.
“This is probably my favourite event of the year,” he stated. “The wavesuits my surfing and I really enjoy it.
“Last year was tough, I actually hurt my ankle here really bad, so that putme out for one event and I basically wasn’t 100 percent for three events. Ihad to go back on the WQS to secure my spot, but I feel good this year andam just trying to stay away from injury and hopefully everything will cometogether.”
World number 27 Neco Padaratz (Brz) won a count-back decision with SheaLopez (USA) today, after the pair had originally tied for points. Lopezneeded a 5.01 on his final ride, but was ultimately awarded a 5.0 by thejudges after he surfed his last wave.
“I’m lucky I got through that heat,” said Padaratz after the decision wasofficial. “I need it really bad.
“It was our childhood dream to be on tour together, and we’ve been workingsuch a long time to achieve it,” he explained, of having his older brotherFlavio on tour with him. “We’ve come a real long way, but there’s still alot of work. We’re just trying to do our job and make people happy,especially in Brazil. Fly our flag around the world.
[IMAGE 3]South African Greg Emslie was another round one winner, overcoming closefriend and fellow countryman Paul Canning, as well as current world number15 Nathan Webster (Aus). Emslie surfed the long right-handers with plenty offlair, and now moves directly into the third round.
“I’m super stoked,” said Emslie. “It’s really difficult conditions out thereand it’s always good to get through your first heat in any event, let alonethe first one of the year.
“I was very nervous, especially after having a three-month break,” he added.”I haven’t been doing contests, so to go straight back out there… it’snerve-racking. I was trying to calm down and not fall off. After a couple ofwaves you settle down.
“Paul and I are best of friends and we travel together, but there isdefinitely a lot of rivalry coming from the same country. I’m sure he’shappy for me, although he will be very bummed that he lost.
“I think it’s everyone’s goal to take back a Bell (trophy). It’s the oldestrunning WCT contest in the world and is very prestigious. It’s definitely agoal for me and I would do anything to get that.”
Official results of the Rip Curl Pro Day 3; Round OneH10: Mick Fanning (Aus) 20.50; Renan Rocha (Brz) 16.30; Rob Machado (USA)16.05H11: Neco Padaratz (Brz) 18.25; Shea Lopez (USA) 18.25; Chris Davidson (Aus)14.10H12: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 16.40; Taylor Knox (USA) 14.90; Guilherme Herdy(Brz) 6.90H13: Danny Wills (Aus) 20.60; Marcelo Nunes (Brz) 15.60; Michael Lowe (Aus)13.50H14: Ben Bourgeois (USA) 17.40; Cory Lopez (USA) 16.50; Russell Winter (UK)11.20H15: Greg Emslie (SAfr) 18.25; Nathan Webster (Aus) 14.55; Paul Canning(SAfr) 10.85H16: Andy Irons (Haw) 14.25; Shawn Sutton (Haw) 12.15; Pat O’Connell (USA)10.30
* All heat scores are always available on www.aspworldtour.com