Niijima Quiksilver Pro (June 18-29, 2003)
Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
2003 World Championship Tour (WCT)
Round Two Completed At ‘Secret Point’
Friday June 20, 2003 (Niijima Island, Japan) The Niijima Quiksilver Proresumed this afternoon with remaining round two heats completed. Organizersinitially placed the US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) on holdthis morning, but as the tide dropped out more favorable conditions were onoffer at ‘Secret Point.’
Good 3-4ft (1-1.3m) waves greeted competitors at the south end of HabushiuraBeach, with sunshine finally appearing from out of the cloud cover of recentdays.
Brazilian Victor Ribas posted the day’s highest combined score to eliminatean equally in-form Shane Powell (Avoca, Aus). Ribas earned an 8.67 on hisopening ride for a series of powerful backhand re-entries and set the heat’space. ‘Powelly’ later secured a great set wave and executed his own stylishattack for an 8.07, but the diminutive Brazilian locked in another good ridetoward the end and moved into round three.
“I felt good out there,” said Ribas afterward. “This wave looks like my homespot in Brazil, and I really like these conditions. I knew it was going tobe hard heat against Shane as we’ve had some great matches over the years,but I was lucky my first wave was really good and I scored an 8.67. At theend I another 7.33, so I was very happy and confident.
“1999 was my best year on tour and I got a good result in Japan to finish5th,” he added. “I hope this year I can comeback again and return to thetop.”
Former world #3 Danny Wills (Byron Bay) eliminated fellow Australian TomWhittaker (Bronte) with a commanding performance. The natural footer surfeda confident heat, picking off superior righthanders and lighting them upwith an array of strong forehand maneuvers. Having won back-to-back WCTtournaments in Japan during his career topping 1998 season, Wills remains afavorite in the Niijima Quiksilver Pro.
“It’s great to be back,” began Wills. “Having won two events in Japan beforethere is some added pressure to do well, but I just tried to block it outand basically surf. I ended up catching a good wave, so it’s nice to be outof that round. I felt really good and just at ease with conditions, so Ihope to keep going.”
Good friends and fellow Narrabeen (NSW, Aus) surfers Nathan Webster andNathan Hedge did battle this afternoon. Webster, who has won two WorldQualifying Series (WQS) events in Japan and also secured a semifinal finishin the 1998 WCT event at Chiba, stormed out of the gates with a fantasticrighthander to equal the best single score today for an 8.67. He then keptthe pressure on Hedge, who ultimately required another ride worth7.55-points to progress.
“I was real nervous going into that heat, especially against ‘Hedgey’ causehe’s been in great form the beginning of this year,” explained Webster. “Ineeded to win a heat really bad, so to get that first score… I was stoked.He was definitely there to catch me, but I just tried to play it smart anduse priority to my advantage.”It’s unreal to be back in Japan,” he added. “I have a great sponsor who Ihang out with and he makes me laugh, so I feel really comfortable here. PlusI’ve won WQS events in Japan a couple of times and finished third in a WCTbefore.”
Californian Pat O’Connell clinched a nail-biting victory over BrazilianFabio Gouveia. Both secured strong scores with the lead alternating, but thefinal minutes proved most dramatic. O’Connell required an average score towin, and despite riding a long wave to the beach, narrowly missed out on the5.0 score required. Within the last 30-seconds a set of good waves arrivedhowever, and on the first ride he managed to regain the lead and advance.Gouveia also picked off another good ride, but his score wasn’t enough toswing the decision back.
“I felt confidennt before the heat and after my first wave I was reallyconfident,” recalled O’Connell. “As time elapsed I kept letting him chipaway at my lead though. It was so windy I couldn’t hear the scores, but withabout 3-minutes left I heard I needed a 5.0 and was like, ‘oh, I better getto work.’ A wave came in and I rode it to the beach, but only got a 4.93. Iwas mad at myself, but thank God two more waves popped up and he let thefirst one go and it was really clean and I fit in three turns.
“After the heat people were saying I’d made it and others weren’t sure, sowhen they announced it I felt like I’d won the contest,” he laughed. “Thisis the best wave I’ve surfed in Japan, so I’m stoked.”
Michael Campbell (Port Macquarie, Aus) also won a great match over BrazilianGuilherme Herdy in the day’s final heat, with both locking in big scores.Campbell will next face Kalani Robb (Haw) in the third round.
Organizers will be evaluating conditions early tomorrow morning at 5am(local time) with a possible start to round three soon after again at’Secret Point.’ Due to the remote location, live webcasting and scores willnot be available, but a detailed release will be posted following thecompletion of the day’s surfing action.
Official Round Two Results of the Niijima Quiksilver Pro (1st>Rnd3;2nd=33rd, receives US$3,000)
H9: Daniel Wills (Aus) 14.84 def. Tom Whittaker (Aus) 9.6
H10: Beau Emerton (Aus) 13.3 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 10.83
H11: Pat O’Connell (USA) 12.03 def. Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 11.5
H12: Nathan Webster (Aus) 14.14 def. Nathan Hedge (Aus) 12.1
H13: Victor Ribas (Brz) 16.0 def. Shane Powell (Aus) 14.24
H14: Neco Padaratz (Aus) 13.83 def. Lee Winkler (Aus) 10.6
H15: Trent Munro (Aus) 13.67 def. Peterson Rosa (Brz) 10.57
H16: Michael Campbell (Aus) 15.83 def. Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 14.67