Nine Surfers Still Have Chance For WCT Title

ASP Int’l, Australia (Monday, Oct 8, 2001) Following a unanimous resolutionby the ASP Board last week to proceed with the 2001 World Qualifying Series(WQS) and World Championship Tour (WCT) events in Hawaii, the ratings’possibilities for the respective world crowns and 2002 WCT positions havebeen deduced. While it’s impossible to predict any certain outcomes, theanticipation and eventual climax is sure to create an amazing showdown forthe world’s best surfers in the ultimate proving ground.

Nine (9) surfers are left in contention for the men’s WCT title, set toconclude during the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach (Nov 26-Dec 7). Currentratings leader CJ Hobgood (USA) holds a 278-point advantage over his nearestrival, 1999 world champ Mark Occhilupo (Aus), and is another 36-points aheadof close friend Cory Lopez (USA) in third. From there he has a further228-point spread on #4 Taylor Knox (USA), and 130-points on reigning worldchamp Sunny Garcia (Haw).

Andy Irons (Haw) and Jake Paterson (Aus), 7th and 8th respectively, alsohave a chance, as do Danny Wills in 10th, and Shane Powell (both Aus) in11th. Despite currently being higher on the ratings, Shea Lopez (USA) andNathan Webster (Aus) in equal 8th already hold bigger ‘throwaway’ resultsand cannot claim the top spot, regardless of their Hawaiian placing.

If 22-year-old Hobgood finishes at least 7th at Sunset, Powell and Wills areout of the running. As it stands now, they, as well as Garcia and Irons needto win the Rip Curl Cup for any hope. Paterson is looking for a 1st or 2ndplace finish, while Knox a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd to keep the dream alive. As forOcchilupo and Lopez, either of them can claim it with a finals’ berth in thefour-man decider, pending CJ’s result. If he finishes 2nd, Cory can’t passhim on points, though ‘Occy’ can still win with a win.

“I’m going to order a lot of big boards, go there early and surf Sunset alot, and try not to get hurt before the contest,” said Hobgood, from hishome in Florida, in preparation for the all-important last tournament. “I’msure every surfer was bummed that Europe was canceled, no matter wherethey’re sitting on the ratings. I know I was, but we have to look past allthat stuff.”

Paterson, 28, who won the last WCT at Jeffreys Bay (SAfr) for the secondconsecutive year this past July, has already begun his Hawaiian trainingcampaign in a bid to improve his chances, but reasoned Garcia is still theone to watch at Sunset.

“Sunny would have to be the one to look out for,” said Paterson. “He doesthe biggest turns out there and is the defending camp at Sunset, also. He’dhave to be the favorite.”

“It’s going to be exciting,” he continued. “At Sunset anything can happenanytime. I can’t wait.”

As for those WCT surfers further down the ratings still hoping tore-qualify, all are in with a mathematical chance. Everyone from former #2Taj Burrow (Aus), who is currently in equal 33rd, right through to #46 ChrisDavidson (Aus), have their work cut out. Marcelo Nunes (Brz) in #42, ShaneBeschen in #44, Rob Machado (both USA) in #45, as well as Davidson, all needto make the final at Sunset, but even those rated higher at the moment stillrequire a solid finish as this season goes down to the wire.

Former world #8 (1999) Beau Emerton (Aus) is an interesting twist to theratings equation. Although failing to re-qualify for the WCT in 2001, he hasamassed enough points from the three starts he has been granted this year asa replacement to be a real threat. Should he again hit the water during theRip Curl Cup, he is assured of a spot in 2002, in what would be anunprecedented achievement.

In the race for the women’s WCT crown, the numbers are even closer given thefact only two events have been contested in 2001. With the Billabong Girlstournament set to unfold at Honolua Bay, Maui (Nov 26-Dec 7), it really willcome down to who puts it together on the day, as any of the current top 11could claim the top spot with a win. Equally important, the bottom placegetters will find their positions for next year’s WCT on the line.

Three-time consecutive (1998-’00) world champion Layne Beachley (Aus) holdsthe slenderest of leads with a 30-point advantage over equal runner-upsMelanie Redman (Aus) and Rochelle Ballard (Haw). Megan Abubo (Haw) is onlyanother 120-points behind in #4, while Serena Brooke (Aus), Keala Kennelly(Haw) and ‘Tita’ Tavares (Brz) are all tied for #5 just 60-points furtherdown. Jacqueline Silva (Brz), Heather Clark (SAfr), Kate Skarratt andNeridah Falconer (both Aus) are also within reach, but for them fate isequally in the hands of those already rated higher.

Beachley, 29, who claimed her 2000 title at Honolua Bay, with an equal 5thplacing, will be fighting for a similar outcome in 2001. Though thecloseness of the whole top 15 places more pressure than ever on the champ todo well.

“I’ve only got a 30-point lead going into Hawaii, which is the most pressureI’ve ever had,” explained Beachley. “In the past I’ve had at least a600-point advantage.

“It’s so close right now if I don’t progress through a few heats I might noteven re-qualify,” she added, grimly. “So many careers are on the line at themoment.”

Redman, 26, who already has two previous Hawaiian WQS wins to her credit,reasoned her chances are pretty good considering her home breaks in WesternAustralia provide similar conditions in which to prepare for the finalevent.

“It’s pretty easy to prepare for Hawaii while spending time in WA ’cause wehave lots of big and windy surf conditions, similar to over there,” reasonedRedman. “I know if they (her boards) go good at home then they will go goodthere, and I have lots of good ones at the moment.”

The WQS, which for the most part has had a full year of events, concludes atHaleiwa with a men and women’s 6-star tournament scheduled Nov 12-25. TheG-Shock Hawaiian Pro showcases the men, while the women will contest theRoxy Jam.

In the men’s ranks, Burrow is leading the way from rising stars Mick Fanning(Aus) and New Zealand’s first assured WCT surfer, Maz Quinn. Following them,other newcomers already guaranteed of a start in 2002 are Keiren Perrow andDean Morrison (both Aus), currently sitting in 6th and 14th position,respectively. Former world #3 (1999) Victor Ribas (Brz) has fought his wayback into the upper echelon, after failing to re-qualify in 2001, holdingthe current position of 9th.

The likely points needed for qualification is the 7,800 mark. Given this,there’s a lot of room for additional newcomers to make the cut for 2002,pending final results at Haleiwa, and then the WCT at Sunset.

As for the women, cutoff for qualifiers appears to be around 6,000-points.Lynette MacKenzie (Aus), who is rated equal 14th on the WCT and wouldotherwise be gone, is leading the qualifying series, while Sofia Mulanovich(Peru) is currently the last in on 5,341-points, holding down position #9.Amee Donohoe (Aus), another new face on the verge of WCT status, is sittingtight at #6.

Regardless of outcome, all the action will be available as it happens onwww.aspworldtour.com, with live scores, daily releases, digital images andvideo highlights keeping you abreast with competitors.