Neco Padaratz is emotional—more like passionate. And some people, like his fellow competitors, Western Australians, and surfing fans in general, may not understand it. Because these days passion ain’t cool—especially in surfing. Yeah, he claims a good ride. Yeah, he paddles hard and sometimes it’s around people in his heats. And yes, he wins. Somewhere it’s written that you’re supposed to be low key.
But Neco comes from a poor background in a different culture and you have to understand that to understand the man. In some ways it took a cloudy day in Western Australia in the six-star Salomon Margaret River Masters held March 29-April 4 for surfing fans to realize what true love for competition is. After a week of waves that reached twenty feet at times, Neco withstood the kind of deep and talented field you would expect in Australia’s premier non-WCT event and won 15,000 dollars for his efforts.
By the last day, the waves had dropped to three to five feet and favorites like Taj Burrow and C.J. Hobgood lost early—by the quarters Neco’s Brazilian countrymen looked to be making a strong stand in Margaret River’s unusually large surf. In the first semi, Greg Emslie and Damien Hobgood, consistent throughout the entire event, held their ground up until the last minutes of the heat where a persistent Neco found a 7.6 and knocked Damien Hobgood out and him and Greg Emslie into the final while Phil MacDonald couldn’t break out of a slump in fourth.
In the second semi, Brazilian Raoni Monteiro literally waited till the second half of the heat to knock down two scores that gave him the heat lead and a berth in the finals. Jake Paterson only found three waves to his liking but they were good enough to get him in the final as well. Tom Whittaker began with a 9.33, but couldn’t follow it up and fell into third while young Australian Dan Ross slipped into fourth.
For some reason or another, the Brazilians have been traditionally strong at Margaret River and in front of a packed beach, they had two of their soldiers in the final. This despite a one-sided crowd strongly hoping and cheering for local hero/legend Jake Paterson to win. If anybody knows this wave it’s Jake, but after two waves ridden by Neco you would never know it.
It was just one of those heats. Neco took a right in the early minutes, throwing his trademark snaps all the way into the inside section for a 9.33 and a fist pump claim—or three. Soon after, Neco was getting the best of another wave exchange, some more righthand snaps, his hands in the air like, “What, and a score of 9.17—the highest two-wave heat total of the event.
A midway lull, more waves surfed by Neco and no one else, and the WCT veteran had won with Raoni Monteiro in second, Greg Emslie in third, and Jake Paterson in fourth. Ask anyone what the highlight of the final was, and they’ll say it was his acceptance speech—a heartfelt, spur of the moment words that turned a decidedly one-sided Western Australia crowd into the Neco Padaratz appreciation club. Neco had not only claimed his waves, but a victory and stubborn onlookers half a world away—congratulations Neco, you deserved it.—Checkywoody