Slater Returns To Form At Rip Curl Pro Search WCT–Defending Champion Fanning Eliminated

Thursday 22 June, 2006
Huatulco, Mexico

RIP CURL PRO SEARCH WCT
(20 June to 1 July)

EVENT #5 ON THE 2006 FOSTER’S ASSOCIATION OF SURFING PROFESSIONALS (ASP) MEN’S WORLD TOUR

Live on and www.ripcurl.com/searchwct

Round three of the Rip Curl Pro Search WCT, located “somewhere in Mexico, scored amazing waves yet again today.

Pumping in at around the two metre (six foot) mark, La Jolla fired all day with competitors putting on some extra special performances.

Among the best were seven-time Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour champion Kelly Slater (USA) who is showing excellent form after returning from a nasty rib injury, and Taj Burrow who scored what was arguably the longest tube ever seen in competition.

Slater, although indicating that he is still not 100 percent showed complete control in his matchup against event wildcard and ASP World Junior Champion Kekoa Bacalso and will be hard to pin down as his fitness returns throughout the event.

Like everyone else who has sampled the La Jolla goodness, Slater loves the wave and it showed on his face when he emerged from a barrel that extended for almost 50 metres and awarded him a 9.67.

“It’s kind of like all just one tube ride, said Slater. “I think I got about three barrels on the 9.67 maybe. I just stayed in the barrel for a really long time. Every wave, you’re getting the tube, and if you get a couple of maneuvers, it’s just a bonus.

“This place is better than Jeffrey’s. It’s better than the Gold Coast and those are two of the best waves in the world.”

Speaking on his fitness Slater revealed that at present he’s happy to ride barrels as they are not as testing on his body.

“I feel pretty good, said Slater. “I’m definitely not at 100 percent, but when it just barrels, it’s a little easier to get those scores. I’m not quite up to full strength yet because I haven’t been in the water a lot. You need that time in the water to get that muscle memory back. It’s not a huge difference in my surfing, but there are a lot of small details. I would probably fall less, and definitely put more power into my turns.”

Slater will face Phil Macdonald (AUS), who beat veteran Mark Occhilupo (AUS) in round four in a rematch of their controversial final in last year’s Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour event at Trestles in California.

Macdonald who was beaten by Slater back then, will be looking to get revenge and is eager to get a solid result after an indifferent start to the season.

Surfing with a rubber glove strapped over his hand and wrist after having surgery on his little finger to reconnect severed tendons less than 10 days ago, Macdonald is thankful just to be surfing at all.

“About one week ago, I was cut up coming in on the rocks at home in Sydney, said Macdonald. I had to have surgery on it about six days ago. It’s not perfect. It’s a bit tricky to paddle with, and it’s quite difficult to get up sometimes, but I came here with a fair mind just to see what happens, and if I get through a few heats, it’s a bonus.”

Talking on coming up against Slater next, the solid built natural footer and last year’s world number five indicated he would not be thinking about his foe in Slater.

“I’m not really thinking about him, said Macdonald. “I’m just going to go out there and do my thing. It’s a pretty hollow wave, and I can ride the barrel. I’ve gone out there and rattled him before, and I’ll go out there and rattle him again. I’m just taking it heat by and heat, and trying to get my hand better.”

Just edging out Slater for the highest heat score of the day was 2001 Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour champion CJ Hobgood (USA).

ASP International Head Judge Perry Hatchett labelled Hobgood’s performance “as one of the most beautifully complete backside surfing performances ever.

Hobgood screamed through one barrel, which ran for over eight seconds pluswithout grabbing his rail and showing extreme confidence.

“That wave was just amazing, said Hobgood. “I just dropped in and the thing started barreling. We go to Tahiti and Fiji, and we watch those guys get backside barrels all day long. And you want to give it a go sometimes, and the way the waves are out here, you can. This wave and this event will be voted as best of the year by the surfers for sure.”

After riding what was arguably the longest tube ever seen in pro surfing competition, Taj Burrow emerged from the water beaming at the finish of his heat.

His barrel ride extended for over 70 metres and at an early stage on the wave it looked as though he was gone for all money.

With everyone looking away from wave, figuring he was knocked off, 10 seconds later the crowd went wild as he emerged right down around the point.

While he wasn’t awarded a perfect 10 as everyone expected (due to it being the first ride of the day), the wave will be remembered for forever and a day.

“It was the best wave I’ve ever had, said Burrow. “It was amazing! In and out of four big slabs, and then the end… I just kept going and going and it was lifting my board up. I was going so fast, I knew I was coming out. There was one little window where the wave slowed up, and I shot out. It felt unbelievable.

Suffering an upset at the hands of Chris Ward (USA), defending Rip Curl Pro Search WCT champion Mick Fanning was ousted from the event in a close result.

Fanning was left in the dying stages wanting a score of 9.17 to win and as a last-minute wave approached the crowd went silent.

Fanning did everything he could on the wave but unfortunately fell short with an 8.27, handing the win to a deserved Ward who is showing his finest form for 18 months.

“That was the second time I surfed against Mick, said Ward. “And he beat me the first time. We’re one each now and we’ll probably be surfing a lot against one another. It’s great surfing against one of the guys who you look up to in surfing. I love Mick’s surfing, and he’s one of my favorites to watch.

Organisers of the Rip Curl Search Pro WCT will assess conditions at first light tomorrow morning and will make a call at 7am local time.

With only one full day needed to complete the event and with the waiting period estending until July 1, organisers have the luxury of waiting for a bigger swell.

Swell predictions indicate that the waves will drop slightly overnight but will increase the following day.

Stay tuned to www.ripcurl.com/searchwct or www.aspworldtour.com for all the updates.

Heat by heat notes can be viewed in the news sections while athlete quotes and audio downloads are available in the media centre.

Round Three Results:

Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 17.64 def. Peterson Rosa (BRA) 15.67
Heat 2: Cory Lopez (USA) 15.50 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 13.26
Heat 3: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 17.50 def. Danny Wills (AUS) 13.33
Heat 4: Bobby Martinez (USA) 17.27 def. David Weare (ZAF) 11.33
Heat 5: Taylor Knox (USA) 12.00 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 7.13
Heat 6: CJ Hobgood (USA) 18.30 def. Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 15.00
Heat 7: Phil Macdonald (AUS) 14.33 def. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 7.00
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.17 def. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 15.30
Heat 9: Andy Irons (HAW) 14.74 def. Jihad Khodr 5.00
Heat 10: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 15.50 def. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 9.33
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.67 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.00
Heat 12: Bruce Irons (HAW) 16.40 def. Mick Lowe (AUS) 2.80
Heat 13: Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.73 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 12.33
Heat 14: Tim Reyes (USA) 15.17 def. Luke Stedman (AUS) 13.17
Heat 15: Chris Ward (USA) 18.33 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.44
Heat 16: Dean Morrison (AUS) 16.97 def. Jake Paterson (AUS) 12.67

Round Four Heat Draw:

Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 2: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Bobby Martinez (USA)
Heat 3: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. CJ Hobgood (USA)
Heat 4: Phil Macdonald (AUS) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 5: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. Tom Whitaker (AUS)
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Bruce Irons (HAW)
Heat 7: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 8: Chris Ward (USA) vs. Dean Morrison (AUS)ald (AUS) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 5: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. Tom Whitaker (AUS)
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Bruce Irons (HAW)
Heat 7: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 8: Chris Ward (USA) vs. Dean Morrison (AUS)