Lacanau, France (Wednesday, Aug 15, 2000). Current rating’s leader Sunny Garcia (Haw) today began his European leg of the World Championship Tour (WCT) campaign in winning form, defeating Damien Hobgood (USA) and wildcard entrant Pablo Gutierrez (Spn) in round one of the TC Lacanau Pro. In clean 4-foot conditions at Grand Plage the Hawaiian dominated his opponents to take a commanding victory.
Garcia, 30, has lead the way since winning the opening two events back-to-back, and extended his position even further with a second place finish during last months’ WCT at Huntington Beach (USA). He also went on to win the 6-Star World Qualifying Series (WQS) tournament the following week a Huntington, adding to his well of confidence.
“It was kind of hard to catch waves and the Spanish guy (Pablo Gutierrez) kept hassling me and paddling on my inside,” explained Garcia after his heat today. “I guess he thought he was in an amateur event or something? I just sat and waited and found some waves and fortunately for me my board works really well.
“It felt really good winning the WQS,” he added about his last result. “But it would have felt even better if I won the WCT the week before (laughs). A win’s a win though, so I felt happy. I’ve had about two weeks in between events to work on my boards and they feel pretty good.”
Also on a winning streak at the moment is Australian Danny Wills, who has won the last two WQS events back-to-back, including the 4-Star O’Neill Surf Challenge only yesterday. Wills, 24, is no stranger to consecutive victories, having gained international acclaim when he won back-to-back WCT Grade 2 events in Japan during the 1998 season. Today he added another heat win to his tally beating Rob Machado (USA) and Armando Daltro (Brz).
“It’s been really good,” Wills said about his string of excellent results. “Funnily enough we had waves in England (for the 4-Star Rip Curl Newquay Pro), then we had really good waves again yesterday at Anglet (France).
“It’s just the way it seems to go (laughs),” he continued. “You get on a high and just try and stay on the roll and keep focused. I really want to do well on the WCT though, that’s where it’s at – I want to make the top 16 this year (he finished 22nd in 1999). I’ve built up a lot of confidence and my boards are working really well, so I hope it all works out.”
Current world champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) wasn’t so fortunate today, however, placing second to fellow countryman Luke Hitchings. Occhilupo will still contest the ‘Sudden-Death’ round two, while Hitchings progresses straight into round three together with all those who won their first round match-up.
“At the start of the heat Conan (Hayes) let me have a wave and it ended up being pretty good,” explained Hitchings afterward. “I didn’t really see Occy get any good waves, though I think he was just unlucky not to find any waves that offered him anything at all. It was pretty fickle out there and hard to position yourself for the good waves. It’s always good to start with a win though, so hopefully I will build some momentum. With four contests in a row here in Europe, it’s going to be important.”
Brazilian Peterson Rosa was the day’s top scorer, finishing ahead of South African Greg Emslie and American Ben Bourgeois.
“I found good waves out there then,” Rosa said. “I’ve been training a lot in Brazil and I want to do good this year. I started out OK, but I want to do even better now toward the end of the year. I like it here in France, I always have a good time.”
Hawaiian Andy Irons managed the highest single score of the round, a 9.25 out-of-a possible 10-points, finding himself in the event after two-time world champion Damien Hardman (Aus) again decided not to compete.
Official Results of TC Lacanau Pro Day One
Heat 1: P O’Connell (USA) 17.15; S Dorian (Haw) 16.00; Y Sodre (Brz) 10.20
Heat 2: J Paterson (Aus) 21.00; R Rocha (Brz) 18.75; P Canning (SAfr) 13.75
Heat 3: R Lovettt (Aus) 18.65; F Padaratz (Brz) 16.65; K Malloy (USA) 13.65
Heat 4: R Winter (UK) 21.90; S Powell (Aus) 19.75; N Webster (Aus) 14.50
Heat 5: S Beschen (USA) 17.65; T Burrow (Aus) 17.30; T Martin (Aus) 15.80
Heat 6: A Irons (Haw) 23.25; M Lowe (Aus) 14.60; C Lopez (USA) 14.50
Heat 7: L Hitchings (Aus) 19.75; M Occhilupo (Aus) 13.75; C Hayes (Haw) 9.80
Heat 8: S Garcia (Haw) 20.15; D Hobgood (USA) 17.25; P Gutierrez (Spn) 14.80
Heat 9: L Egan (Aus) 19.90; V Ribas (Brz) 18.90; E Rebiere (Fra) 16.75
Heat 10: S Lopez (USA) 21.65; E Acero (Spn) 16.00; M Campbell (Aus) 15.20
Heat 11: P Rosa (Brz) 23.30; G Emslie (SAfr) 16.20; B Bourgeois (USA) 14.05
Heat 12: K Robb (Haw) 20.10; G Ringrose (Aus) 20.00; G Herdy (Brz) 17.70
Heat 13: CJ Hobgood (USA) 21.75; N Padaratz (Brz) 19.75; T Prestage (Aus) 16.80
Heat 14: D Wills (Aus) 22.85; R Machado (USA) 19.60; A Daltro (Brz) 18.20
Heat 15: F Gouveia (Brz) 15.75; T Curran (USA) 15.10; R Williams (Haw) 13.70
Heat 16: T Knox (USA) 19.20; S Sutton (Haw) 17.15; B Emerton (Aus) 16.70