Rob Machado Heads List Of Quiksilver Pro Trialists

Swell Charts Look Promising

Former number two world ranked surfer Rob Machado is returning to top-level competition this weekend as an entrant in the Quiksilver Trials at Tavarua and Namotu Islands, Fiji.

Eight people will contest the Quiksilver Trials as a lead-in to the Quiksilver Pro, including dynamic Hawaiian Fred Patacchia, Pipeline specialist Strider Wasilewski, top WQS surfer Troy Brooks, Spain’s Jonathan Gonzalez, local Fijian expert Waqa “Tavarua” Mata and two other local Fijian qualifiers.

The top two trials placegetters will receive wildcards into the main event of the US$250,000 Quiksilver Pro, the fourth event on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) 2002 World Championship Tour, where they’ll take on the Top 44.

ASP president Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew said that the international Quiksilver Trials would be a great curtain-raiser to the prestigious Quiksilver Pro.

“Top guns such as Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, Mark Occhilupo, Luke Egan, Cory Lopez, CJ Hobgood and Joel Parkinson will have the luxury of assessing conditions at the legendary Cloudbreak Reef before engaging the break themselves,” Bartholomew said.

“Eight hotties will go hammer and tong for the honour of challenging the tournament’s top two seeds, Andy and Occy, in the first round. With performance levels going through the roof, Cloudbreak will bring the best out in the guys.”

Contest director Rod Brooks said the swell charts on the Internet looked promising for an early start on Sunday 26 May, the first day of the 13-day event window which runs through to Friday 7 June to allow for the best competition conditions.

“There is a strong low in the Tasman Sea, which we call ‘Pinball Alley’ between Australia and New Zealand,” Brooks said. “The East Coast of Australia has been hit with the coldest weather so far this year, dumping half a metre of snow in the mountains. This system will also produce a consistent, moderate sized swell from the south which is ideal for Cloudbreak, a shallow coral reef two kilometres south of Tavarua and Namotu Islands.”

Californian Rob Machado’s return to major competition has created a lot of interest in surfing circles. The 2000 Pipeline Masters winner, now the father of a young daughter, is fit and ready to challenge the world’s best.

“Surf-wise I had some of the best waves I’ve ever seen in California this past winter … and finally had the opportunity to ride any and all the surfboards I ever wanted to ride,” Machado, 28, said. “To me, I feel like my surfing is in the best place that it’s ever been in. Maybe not according to the contest criteria, but definitely in my mind. So I’m excited to put my past experience, along with my new love for surfing, up against the Top 44.”

Machado particularly likes the wave at Cloudbreak and tries to travel there at least once a year.

“Fiji could possibly be one of my favorite places to visit. The Fijian people are by far some of the kindest people that I’ve come across in the world – and they have the best hair. Who ever said that afros went out of style?”

Machado said the Quiksilver Trials list sounded great and he was very excited about competing again.

“I’ve gone on a few trips with Fred and he’s a great surfer. Troy surfed great in the event a few years ago and made the quarter-finals. And Waqa, he’s the man. The mellowest, nicest person I know. He definitely has the hometown advantage and the homebreak advantage. It’ll be fun.”

Fellow Californian Strider Wasilewski also has something of a local advantage, once being a boatman at Tavarua Island for six weeks, taking guests surfing.

“I got to know the wave pretty well and think I have a great chance to win the Quiksilver Trials,” Wasilewski said. “This would be my forte so to speak – big left barrels! We’ll see anyway; we are dealing with mother nature and the last time I was there I dislocated my shoulder and got seven stitches in my foot! So I feel I have paid my dues and if nothing else it’s a great excuse to go to one of my favorite places.”

Australian Troy Brooks, a quarter-finalist in the 2000 Quiksilver Pro, said the Trials were shaping up as being a very hard event.

“Heats in the main event won’t be too much harder because most of those surfers have competed on the WCT and Rob Machado finished second before,” Brooks said.

“I got a 5th at Cloudbreak in 2000. It’s a bit trickier on your backhand. The barrel is a little bit harder to work. I’m just going to go out there and have fun and hopefully do what I did two years ago.”

Spain’s Jonathan Gonzalez will be on his backhand as well and said he was very happy to have the opportunity to surf amongst the world’s best surfers.

“It represents a place in what would be the most important contest in my life, so I hope totake advantage of this great opportuntity and that I’ll surf my best,” Gonzalez said. “I would be really thankful if I could get a wildcard as it would open up the door to the WCT for me.”

Hawaiian goofyfooter Fred Patacchia said that if the surf is good, all the trialists have achance to win. “They are all great surfers and competitors,” he said.

“I think Cloudbreak is one of the best waves in the world and to compete against the Top 44 is a dream. I can’t wait, but I’m also nervous as I don’t want to let the boys down back home.”