First surfed in the early 1960s, a host to the Australian Titles as far back as 1969, and home to a professional surfing event (albeit one with many names) since 1985, Surfer's Point at Margaret River in Western Australia has a long, rich, and illustrious surfing heritage. In 2014, with the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro returning as just one of the 10 events on the Samsung Galaxy ASP World Tour, it regains its rightful place as one of the premier locations in surfing. With less than two weeks to the start of the waiting period, we look at five magic moments in pro surfing from Margaret River.
Occy takes first title
Mark "Occy" Occhilupo started his lifelong successful relationship with Margaret River by winning the 1985 Emu Bitter Pro (Emu Bitter is a beer, by the way) over Mark Richards in the first-ever professional event held there. Occy has gone on to make numerous finals, including another title win in 2006. In 2012, a full 27 years after he raised the initial trophy, Occy was granted a wildcard and surfed his way to third. Not bad for a 45-year-old.
The event has a long history of locals doing well, started off by a win in 1989 by Dave Macaulay. Since then, other Western Australian (known as Sandgropers in the local vernacular) winners have included Jake Paterson, Taj Burrow, Jodie Cooper, and Melanie Redman-Carr. This year, Burrow will be the only local flying the flag, hoping to further a long tradition of West Aussies performing on their state's biggest stage and to add to the titles he won in 1997—at 18, he was the youngest ever—and in 2006. Here, Burrow talks about competing and surfing near home:
Gigantic waves pound Margaret River
1990 brought the biggest swell ever seen in Australia for a professional surfing competition, with waves nearing the 20-foot range. In the then-named Drug Offensive Surfmasters, Barton Lynch took the final over American Jeff Booth. However, it was a wipeout by eventual semifinalist Nick Wood, who went over the falls on a monstrous wave at least 30 feet high, that remains the defining moment for that historic event.
Sharks, Jet Skis, and close finals
A four-star qualifying event, the 1999 Coca-Cola Masters final featured the most drama of any Margaret River contest in its 30-year history. Luke Egan won a very close final—only 1.85 points separated first from fourth place—but elsewhere a pack of reef sharks swam underneath Burrow as he rode a wave and a Jet Ski was upended and left on the reef. Sharks are a common sighting in these waters. In 2008, the competition was halted when Amee Donohe saw a shark while competing. Donohe, who was leading the heat at the time, told ASP officials that she saw "a shark that had a massive fin and a wide girth. It was definitely no dolphin." Competition resumed later that day.
Josh Kerr's victory over Taj Burrow in 2010 featured one of the greatest comebacks in the event's history and one of the most dynamic aerial displays ever seen in competitive surfing. Seemingly down and out with five minutes to go, Kerr landed two huge aerials on one wave to score a perfect 10, then sealed the win with another huge boost. Also runner-up in 2013, Kerr must be considered an outside favorite for this year's Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. Check out his own recap of that victory here:
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