Monday, March 1, 2004 (Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Australia) South Africanborn Shaun Gossmann today beat an international field of 12 hopefuls to winthe Quiksilver Trials and earn the final wildcard position into theQuiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile main event. The US$260,000 WorldChampionship Tournament (WCT) enters its official waiting period tomorrowmorning, with great conditions expected to greet the highly anticipatedseason opener.
Despite one of the worst flat spells in recent memory, the Quiksilver Propresented by Boost Mobile kicked off with perfect 4ft barrels this morning.Favorable southerly winds helped create ideal offshore conditions, withspectators and fellow competitors drooling as each wave riffled along theshallow sandbank.
Gossmann, a three-time South African national champion, relocated with hisfamily to nearby Burleigh Heads two years ago and recently gained Australiancitizenship. The 21-yer-old used his newly acquired knowledge of Gold Coastpoints to advantage today, emerging through to the four-man final. Oncethere, he picked off the superior waves and posted the highest scores -including an 8.83 – to secure his first WCT berth.
“I had a slow start this morning, and then there was a tie and four of ushad to have a surf-off for the final,” explained Gossmann of the trialselimination rounds. “I ended up winning that and went into the final. Itried to be patient, and was lucky to find a really big one and get a goodscore. I’m so happy right now, especially since I lost my South Africansponsor a couple of weeks ago. I can use all the money I can get.
“It’s quite a tough heat, so I’ll see how I do,” he added, of facing world#3 Taj Burrow (West Aus) and Kalani Robb (Haw) in round one. “I’ll just tryand get the longest waves and the best barrels… do my best. I’m theunderdog, so I’m not really putting any pressure on myself. I’m just happyto be in this event.”
Gossmann has joined highly touted Californian Dane Reynolds and former ASPAustralasian Junior Circuit champion Luke Munro (Currumbin, QLD) as eventwildcards.
Earlier today at the Rainbow Bay Surf Life Saving Club at Snapper Rocks, theofficial Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile press conference tookplace with a handful of the world’s best surfers and packed room of mediapersons in attendance.
ASP President Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew got things underway with a warmwelcome and set the scene for the tournament.
“There’s a lot of anticipation for the first event, rolling out the Foster’smen’s World Tour,” stated Bartholomew. “It’s great to see world championAndy Irons here. I think the challengers are going to be pretty solid. Everyheat here in the past few years has been amazing. I’m sure the performancelevels are going to be outrageous. Local surfers have won the event the pastcouple of years – Joel Parkinson and Dean Morrison – so local knowledge hasplayed a lot of advantage, but I’m sure the international guys will reallylift their performance and take it to the local surfers this year. It’sgoing to be something really special. Everyone is on equal points right now,but tomorrow they’ll be thinking ‘yes I can win this event, and yes I can beworld champion.’ I think 2004 is going to be really exciting.”
Reigning two-time world champion Andy Irons (Kauai, Haw) explained hisoff-season and the mental strains of last year’s dramatic title showdown,but added his excitement of having younger brother Bruce on tour now.
“It’s weird to be back at a contest, the first one of the year,” beganIrons. “It felt good to just let the whole title thing soak in. I’m stillkind of riding the rush off it and it feels amazing to be back here atSnapper. The waves are so good today and hopefully it’s a good event.
“Mentally it’s really tough on you,” he added, of the tour pressures.”There’s a lot of expectations from sponsors, and I put a lot on myself, andthe end of last year was justt a full mind-fry. When it came down to the lastheat, it was pretty much my whole career coming down to those last35-minutes. It seemed like the longest 35-minutes of my life, but I stillcan’t believe it really happened and all came together the way it did.
“It will be awesome and I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” hecommented, on the addition of his younger brother Bruce to the WCT. “I thinkhe’ll cause some upsets for sure. He’s not used to our tour so it might takea couple of events, but when he does get the hang of it, it’ll be scary.”
Six-time world champion and 2003 runner-up Kelly Slater (FL, USA) againrecalled how much he enjoyed being on tour last year, and his anticipationfor this year’s tournament.
“I had an amazing year, but as it came down unfortunately there couldn’t betwo winners with Andy and I,” said Slater. “That does give me extramotivation, but on the positive side I just have to look at how my lifeturned around on the tour last year and how excited I was to be there. I’mreally happy to be here and conditions look perfect.
“I’m trying to get back to where I was for a long time,” he added, inreference to winning more world titles. “It’s been a long time since then,and I have to go out there and prove myself again, essentially. If I want tobe back in that place I have to earn it, so it’s up to me now.”
Defending Quiksilver Pro champion Dean Morrison (Aus) was presented with aframed collage of his crowning moment in last year’s event.
“Thanks to Quiksilver for giving this to me, as I’ve had a poster of Joel(Parkinson) up in my house all year, so it’s good to have something with myface on it now (laughs).
“It’s pretty cool to be able to surf an even at home,” he continued. “Havingall your friends around and the added support. Just knowing where the bestwaves break helps, since I’ve been surfing here my whole life. It was myfirst final lat year, so I was pretty excited. Hopefully I can do wellagain.”
WCT ‘Rookie’ and former Pipeline Master Bruce Irons (Haw) was also on hand,eager to commence his first year on tour.
“I’ve been trying to get on this tour for a couple of years now,” explainedBruce. “I came last year to watch and surf, and told myself if I wasn’tsurfing the contest this year I would be so bummed. To be in the event now,I’m really excited. I’ve just got to learn to be patient in the man-on-manheats, but mainly I’ll be surfing good waves at point breaks, so I can’twait.”
The Torquay ‘Time Tunnel’ award is again being offered during the QuiksilverPro presented by Boost Mobile, with AUD$5,000 up for gabs to whichever luckysurfer emerges from the longest tube during the competition. With epic wavesexpected, the bar is definitely going to be raised with some ridiculouslylong barrel rides.
The possibility of hearing what competitors say out in the lineup by, andeven the hiss of spitting barrels, will happen this coming week. InventorTim Denmark, who brings the sound of NASCAR racing to homes around theworld, has made a wireless waterproof microphone rash vest which surfershave the option of using.
“Surfing has never had any live ambient sound, and it’s probably the onlysport without any for broadcast film,” explained Denmark. “This wirelesssystem works really well out in the water. You can hear the surfers talk andthe sound of the waves and even within the tube.”
The US$260,000 Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile has a waiting periodfrom March 2nd through to the 14th featuring the worlds top 45 male surfers.
Quiksilver Trials Final (1st>Main Event)
1st Shaun Gossmann (Aus) 16.33
2nd Maz Quinn (NZ) 16.3
3rd Glenn Hall (Aus) 14.9
4th Damon Harvey (Aus) 11.16