Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
2001 World Championship Tour (WCT)
WCT Rookie Trent Munro Defeats Occhilupo To Win Event
By Jesse Faen
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Wednesday, July 4th) World #41 Trent Munro todaymade history by defeating fellow Australian and 1999 ASP world champion MarkOcchilupo to win the final of the Rio Surf International. In only his thirdevent on the World Championship Tour (WCT), he became the fastest rookie toclaim victory, collecting US$30,000 and 13th position on the currentratings.
Competition again took place at Arpoador in 2-3 foot (1m) peelinglefthanders, with the semifinals commencing at 9:30am (local time), followedby the decider.
Munro, 22, began his maiden WCT season with two second round losses thisyear, placing him equal 37th on the ratings heading into Brazil. Byeliminating many of the top rated surfers during earlier rounds, includingworld #6 Taj Burrow (Aus) and #16 Andy Irons (Haw), and then fellow Aussierookie Nathan Hedge in the quarterfinals yesterday, he paved the way forglory today.
The final against Occhilupo was never going to be easy, but Munro played itlike a seasoned professional, taking his time to wait for the superior wavesand unleashing his vicious backhand attack to full effect. By half-waythrough the 35-minute decider he’d created a strong lead, but when ‘Occy’used priority on a small ride with five minutes remaining, the youngeropponent capitalized by posting the day’s best ride, a 9.0, to leave himneeding a combination of rides worth 13.26 points.
“I can’t believe it,” began Munro, with media fighting to get within hearingdistance. “It’s unbelievable, I couldn’t feel any better. It’s the day of mylife I think. I love Brazil.
“I knew ‘Occ’ had that first wave and I was just trying to stay calm andrelaxed and wait for the good waves,” he continued. “There wasn’t manywaves, but I was luckily enough to get them all (laughs). When he did losepriority I just paddled as hard as I could to try and go out there and getit, and stick with the game plan and finish it off. It’s good to beateverybody, but especially when it comes to the final and you’re surfingagainst somebody like Occy. It’s just the best feeling in the world.
“All of us rookies have just had a good event and I think there’s a lot moreevents we’re going to be doing good at,” he added. “I’ve had two 33rd’s now,so I’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Hopefully it all gets betterfrom now. I’ve never been to J-Bay (next WCT in South Africa), so it’s goingto be great. I’ve wanted to surf it for years.”
Occhilupo, 35, who clinched his 1999 world title during the Rio SurfInternational, was at a disadvantage in the small surf, but never showed it.His speed and power more than compensated for his size, even landing him anaerial on one ride against Munro. Though hoping for his first win in Brazil,the result still shot up him into number two on the ratings and added plentyof confidence to his campaign.
“I am a bit disappointed,” admitted Occhilupo afterward. “Mainly because Ihaven’t won here in Brazil before, but on the other hand I was reallypleased to make the final having had to battle against small waves the pastcouple days. So it’s been like a bonus going into South Africa. I reallywant to do well at Jeffreys (Bay). I haven’t won there either. But it’s justgreat to make the final here. Trent was surfing so good. His backhand waspar to none, so I take my hat off to him.
“I’m so stoked for the kid,” he continued. “As soon as he had me in acombination I had to go up and shake his hand (laughs). Trent is a reallynice guy and I’ve seen him surfing for a long time, so I knew he was goingto come real good, and he has now.
“It’s a real confidence boost for sure,” added the 1999 world champ. “I feelreally good at the moment. I’ve got a lot of good rhythm and my board isworking really well. I don’t even feel superstitious like I used to at allthe events with people I might be lless confident against. It’s a really goodfeeling I’ve got going this year. I’m looking forward to the rest of it.”
Finishing equal third today in the Rio Surf International was currentratings’ leader CJ Hobgood (USA) and WCT rookie Joel Parkinson (Aus).
Hobgood, 22, commanded the first half of his semifinal with Occhilupo, butthen wrongly used priority to catch a poor wave, allowing his opponent tosurf the better one behind it and move back into contention after scoring an8.0. From there the tide turned, so to speak, and his lead diminished untilhe was eventually trailing. The Floridian waited patiently, but it proved invain.
“I don’t think I could have made a bigger mistake,” said a frustratedHobgood afterward. “Always seems like when I have a big, big, bigopportunity to do something I kind of blow it. I had priority and was twowaves up on him, but then I took off on a wave and it wasn’t that good. Ishould have just held my ground. I took off on a stupid wave and he got thebomb behind it and got the score he needed. Then I held priority again andjust sat waiting for what seemed like forever. The wave just didn’t come in.I was asking God to send me one, as I knew I could do it. It never camethough, so it all boils down to that one mistake I made earlier in the heat.It might not have seemed so significant at the time, but it ended up beingthe whole heat. I’ve blown it big time, I think.
“He’s still got my number,” continued Hobgood, who beat Occhilupo in thesemifinals during the WCT in Tahiti last month. “In Tahiti I think we werefair game, but I had a big advantage out here. He’s a lot bigger a guy thanme, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of it. I feel pretty bummed outright now. J-Bay’s next and everyone knows how good ‘Occ’ is at J-Bay. So, Ineeded to capitalize on that opportunity then, and it didn’t happen.”
Parkinson, 20, who actually won the Jeffreys Bay tournament as a wildcard in1999, had suffered a disappointing start to his rookie WCT season prior toRio. Sitting in equal 30th position after a 17th and 33rd place finish,today’s result signified a huge jump into 16th on the ratings. Although weakfrom a stomach bug, he contested the highest scoring match of the day withMunro. At one point even managed to claw back from needing a combination ofscores to take the lead, thanks largely to a priority mistake by hisopponent. Still, Munro had more in reserve and clinched it with another twocritical rides within the final two minutes.
“I wanted to get a good start and I thought I did, but then I finished mywave and saw Trent on that next one and get an 8.5,” said Parkinson afterhis loss. “Since I’d been watching it today it didn’t seem like there weretwo wave sets, but I think it’s Trent’s day, so I can see him going a longway in the final. I’m stoked for him. It’s our first year, so it good’s tosee.
“I knew that was a good thing,” he continued, of Trent’s paddling mistake.”But I knew Trent still wasn’t going to need much and the way he’s surfing,it was nothing for him to score a six. I was happy to get back in the leadafter being comboed, but then I made the mistake of going that one I thoughtwas going to be a really good one, but it wasn’t.
“This has given me a lot more confidence, and I always feel confident atJ-Bay, so hopefully I can get a third or better there.”
Official Results of the Rio Surf InternationalFinal
1st Trent Munro (Aus) 23.25 – US$30,000
2nd Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 13.75 – US$ 16,000
Semifinals (Losers finish equal third, receive US$10,000)
SF1: Trent Munro (Aus) 23.8 def. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 22.05
SF2: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 19.0 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.75