The OP Pro Boat Challenge Gets Underway

SURVIVOR MEETS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IN THE EPIC SURF OF INDONESIA’S MENTAWAI ISLANDS

THE 2001 OP PRO

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. – The 2001 Op Pro, Presented By Surfer Magazine, June 11 to 23, is a one-of-a-kind floating surf contest,transporting cut-throat, winner-take-all competition to an isolated, exoticisland wilderness. A $127,500 total prize purse-and the potential to takehome the biggest paycheck in surfing history-plus the opportunity to surfthe dream waves of Indonesia’s fabulous Mentawai Islands is incentiveenough to lure the world’s six best men and four best women surfers to WestSumatra for the two week event.

“It’s the best contest I have ever been involved with,” says Australia’sMark Occhilupo, 2000 world professional champion and winner of last year’sinaugural Op Pro Boat Trip Challenge. “I will never forget the surfing, thesurfers and the beautiful vibe. The whole thing just felt so…historic.”

Historic was also the equal opportunity provided to the world’s best femalesurfers, who shared both the epic waves and the innovative format with themen.

“Women’s surfing took a greater quantum leap during this single event thanin the entire previous decade,” explains Sam George, SURFER editor and 2001Op Pro co-director. “They really showed what was possible, when given thewaves and the freedom to do so.”

More of a floating expedition than a conventional surf contest, under coverof darkness and utilizing state-of-the-art satellite forecasting equipmentthe four-vessel Op Pro flotilla will travel from break to break searchingout and competing in what have been called the best, most challenging wavesin the world.

“With the discovery of the Mentawai’s in the early 1990s, surfingperfection was re-defined,” says George, one of the world’s best-known surfadventurers. “Who could have known that this forgotten island chain wouldoffer waves with the symmetry and shape that every surfer dreams of?”

But this perfection comes at a steep price. Malarial jungles, poisonoussea-snakes, sharks, razor-sharp coral reef, powerful swells generated frommassive storms as far south as Antarctica, violent tropical squalls,equatorial heat, total isolation…well, imagine the âEco Challenge butbarefoot-and with no medical rest stops.

Competitors will be tested in multiple locations, taking advantage of theboats’ mobility to access a variety of surf breaks and conditions. “Sincewaves will vary between left and right-hand breaks in large surf, barrelsand smaller high-performance waves, the Op Pro is the ultimate test of asurfer’s all-around abilities,” said Kevin Meehan, SURFER’s seniorpublisher. “With this format, if the surf isn’t good at one location, wepull up anchor and move to the next uncharted spot.”

This year judges will be implementing a new “survivor” competition formatthat will accentuate the demanding nature of this wild Indonesian venue.All surfers will compete together (six in the men’s division, four in thewomen’s) in a series of heats, or rounds. After each round, the lowestscoring surfer will be eliminated, delegated to the boat, while the highestscoring surfer, rather than immunity, will win $5,000 and the right to wearthe “Yellow Leader’s Jersey” in the next round.

When the field has been whittled down to the top two male surfers, a “do ordie” heat between the four previously eliminated men will give one surfer asecond chance to compete for the $30,000 first place prize. The women arebattling for $20,000 and $2,500 per heat. All competitors receive a minimum$5,000 appearance fee.

Surfers invited to attend include reigning world champion Sunny Garcia(Hawaii), 2000 Op Boat Trip Challenge winner Mark Occhilupo (Australia),2000 Pipe Masters champion Rob Machado (California), (Florida), Tim Curran(California), Shane Dorian (Hawaii) and CJ Hobgood (Florida).

Last year’s inaugural Op Pro Boat Trip Challenge, Presented by SurferMagazine, which overcame one of the largt earthquakes in history,encouraged new and radical maneuvers. The groundbreaking format saw two andsometimes three-hour heats, culminating in the then-world-champion MarkOcchilupo (Australia) receiving the largest payday in professional history- $65,000.

The Op Pro is an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) specialtyevent. The contest will be updated daily with results and photos availableat www.surfermag.com.

THE DAILY RACING FORMParlay a few quid with Surfermag.com’s unofficial OP PRO betting guide.

Padang, Sumatra (June 11, 2001)

It’s 10pm. Our four boat armada (now officially known as the OP PRO) leaves the Harbor in Padang, and heads for the steamy, jungle waters off the Mentawai Islands. Tommorrow, the first day of the event waiting period begins.

The opening ceremonies of the OP PRO 2001 went off at the lavish Hotel Bumimanang. Traditional dancers, a gamelon orchestra and a gourmet buffett highlighted the ceremonies. Gifts were also exchanged. Surfer magazine editor Sam George announced the commencement of a scholarship program in the name of Surfer magazine to a deserving young islander.

Today’s arrival of OP PRO men’s defending champion, Mark Occhilupo (and theother surfer’s as well), has led many of us to speculate about who isfavored to take this year’s OP PRO crown. So, just as the Occster would doat his favorite TAB on the Gold Coast, we’re going to offer you a littlelight-hearted handicapping to help you fill out your PICK SIX card. Justfor the sport of it, here’s our informal “book” on the event.

MEN’S HANDICAP

Mark Occhilupo: Last years happy go lucky champion. You have to put him inyour trifecta–experience, contest savvy, sizzling on both rights andlefts. He maximizes tuberides and torching cutbacks. However, last yearswin came in the midst of his global World Championship victory lap. Andwith absolutely nothing to lose, his surfing at last years OP PRO was on anetheric level. He was floating. That’s not the case this year, and he willcome down to earth. Nevertheless, the morning line on Occy is steady at 3to 1.

Shane Dorian: New house, soon-to-be-married, all his stars seem to bealigned. He is the only Men’s surfer to get to Indo early, so he’s wellrested. Be advised, however, he hasn’t surfed in three weeks–since theTahiti event. This may hinder his chances in early heats, and the “advanceor you’re out” competition format could take him down early. Smart moneydoesn’t see this happening. Morning line on Dorian: 5 to 2.

CJ Hobgood: Going into this event CJ has a number two ASP WCT worldranking. He’s obviously determined. But will these “relaxed fit” heatduration’s (1-2 hours) throw him off? He may burn out early. CJ has darkhorse written all over him. He’s your money horse, and when the dust hassettled and the results “official,” you’ll want him somewhere in yourexacta wheel. Morning line on CJ: 4 to 1.

Tim Curran: Toss last year’s event out of the equation. Even the greatestof horses (Point Given, Cigar) have an occasional bad race. And withspectacular past performances in hot dog waves as a guide–talent wise–Timhas what it takes to go wire-to-wire. Tim is the only one of the abovementioned surfers who can match the talented Irons Brothers in aerialantics. If the contest comes down to hotdogging at Macaroni’s, Tim is theman. Morning line: 8 to 1, expected to drop rapidly as “fast” money rollsup to the betting window right before post time.

Andy Irons: Could be unstoppable if “Lance’s Right” is happening. He lovesthis track, and runs very fast here. The fact that his younger brother,Bruce, will be in the water with him makes Andy even more dangerous. Moredetermined than his laid back demeanor suggests. Must “use the whip” at thefinal turn. Morning line on Andy Irons: 5 to 2.

Bruce Irons: This early speed horse may go wire-to-wire, and most bettorshave him on top in their exactas. His versatility makes him hard to ignore.Big waves, small waves, aerials–whatever it takes to get him home in themoney, Bruce has it. If he doesn’t run out of steam too early, he shouldwin going away. Morning line: Even money.

Our exacta pick: Bruce Irons wheeled on top, with either Dorian or bigprofit horse Tim Curran to grab second.

Best money bet: CJ Hobgood at 4 to 1.

THE ARMADA ARRIVES

After a mostly comfortable trip from Padang to the Mentawai islands, the OPPRO armada dropped anchor at Lance’s Rights. A hot sunny day accompanied a3′ swell, which rolled methodically into the reef–a fun day of surf andideal for a tune up. The cobwebs of travel have now been cut away.

One of the boats in our fleet opted to move over to Lance’s Left. However,at Lance’s Right, Occy, Tim Curran, Bruce Irons, Andy Irons, CJ Hobgood andShane Dorian tore into small but rippable surf. After a few hours the girlsjoined in on the fun and the vibe was terrific.

Shane Dorian, who hasn’t surfed in three weeks, paddled straight into theheart of the lineup and turned on set wave. He took off and pulled in. Sixseconds later he came flying out of a voracious tube. “My first wave inthree weeks!” screamed Dorian ecstatically.

The “survivor” contest(pr link) format was the topic of the morning out inthe lineup. “Any format, no matter what it is, will have it’s flaws,” saidOP PRO judge Damien “Dooma” Hardman. “The “survivor” format is different,and in that sense alone it makes it kinda interesting. I reckon it’s prettycool–unless you lose first.”

Being on the ‘CT, we’re used to surfing two heats, no matter what,” addedCJ Hobgood. “But this is a different event, and I kinda like the survivoridea. It adds drama.”

On another note, Dr. Warren Kramer was put to work early, as a member ofthe Bluetorch film crew plastered his head onto the reef, requiring sixstitches to the scalp. The slightly groggy lensmen is gonna make it. No amputation needed.

Tomorrow holds the hope of bigger surf. Either way, contest director Bernie Baker is chomping at the bit to get the first heat in the water. And evenat this size (3′), it’s totally contestable.ials–whatever it takes to get him home in themoney, Bruce has it. If he doesn’t run out of steam too early, he shouldwin going away. Morning line: Even money.

Our exacta pick: Bruce Irons wheeled on top, with either Dorian or bigprofit horse Tim Curran to grab second.

Best money bet: CJ Hobgood at 4 to 1.

THE ARMADA ARRIVES

After a mostly comfortable trip from Padang to the Mentawai islands, the OPPRO armada dropped anchor at Lance’s Rights. A hot sunny day accompanied a3′ swell, which rolled methodically into the reef–a fun day of surf andideal for a tune up. The cobwebs of travel have now been cut away.

One of the boats in our fleet opted to move over to Lance’s Left. However,at Lance’s Right, Occy, Tim Curran, Bruce Irons, Andy Irons, CJ Hobgood andShane Dorian tore into small but rippable surf. After a few hours the girlsjoined in on the fun and the vibe was terrific.

Shane Dorian, who hasn’t surfed in three weeks, paddled straight into theheart of the lineup and turned on set wave. He took off and pulled in. Sixseconds later he came flying out of a voracious tube. “My first wave inthree weeks!” screamed Dorian ecstatically.

The “survivor” contest(pr link) format was the topic of the morning out inthe lineup. “Any format, no matter what it is, will have it’s flaws,” saidOP PRO judge Damien “Dooma” Hardman. “The “survivor” format is different,and in that sense alone it makes it kinda interesting. I reckon it’s prettycool–unless you lose first.”

Being on the ‘CT, we’re used to surfing two heats, no matter what,” addedCJ Hobgood. “But this is a different event, and I kinda like the survivoridea. It adds drama.”

On another note, Dr. Warren Kramer was put to work early, as a member ofthe Bluetorch film crew plastered his head onto the reef, requiring sixstitches to the scalp. The slightly groggy lensmen is gonna make it. No amputation needed.

Tomorrow holds the hope of bigger surf. Either way, contest director Bernie Baker is chomping at the bit to get the first heat in the water. And evenat this size (3′), it’s totally contestable.