THURSO, SCOTLAND, April 27, 2008 – It was a day for the big name surfers to shine as The O’Neill Highland Open by Swatch moved into the second round. But it wasn’t just the surfers who were putting on a great show at Brims Ness.
Conditions here in the north of Scotland finally sorted themselves out and in the words of event commentator, Dave Mailman; “We’ve got five to six foot of swell, offshore winds and sunny skies. What more could you ask for from a 6 star prime ASP WQS event.”
The answer to that was provided in the drama that unfolded throughout the day. Last year’s winner, Australian Nathan Hedge just squeezed through, needing a wave in the dying seconds of his heat in order to move up into second position.
“I couldn’t hear anything from the water,” said Nathan. “I thought I was either third or last. I had no idea I came second.
“Sometimes I feel the pressure of being the defending champion,” he said. “But on the other hand I have to think that I am the defending champion for a reason so I just have to remember that.”
Having arrived here 10 days ago, Nathan has been enjoying all the surrounds of this unique event. “This event is so special because you get really thrown into the culture and environment here,” he said. It’s just the farmers and the locals. Nothing has been affected by this surfing contest.”
Jay Thompson and Tiago Pires are the two ASP World Tour rookie surfers who have come back here to Scotland this year.
Despite discovering the joys of a few pints of Guinness yesterday, Australian Jay Thompson managed to get through his heat to the next round.
“It’s a world away from something like Teahupoo where I am going next,” he said. “But this is such a great event and I am so happy to have got through.”
Tiago Pires also made it through his heat today at The Point at Brims before it moved to The Bowl on the shift of the tide.
“I decided to do the first half of the year on the WQS,” Tiago said. “It’s good to do just incase. The first year on the ASP World Tour is not an easy one. You don’t have the same experience as some of these other guys.”
Tiago is the first Portuguese surfer to ever qualify for the ASP World Tour. “I made it a personal goal of mine when I was 18 years old to qualify. Coming from Portugal, I didn’t have anyone to follow,” he said. “I have been carving my own path.”
The biggest shock of the day was the departure of last year’s runner up, Jarrad Howse. The Australian dominated most of his heat only to fall into third during the last few minutes.
The other unexpected exits on day five included Patrick Gudauskas, the current ASP WQS tour leader, as well as his two brothers, Tanner and Dane.
The next call will be Wednesday April 28 at 8.00am
The O’Neill Highland Open by Swatch runs from 23 to 30 April. It’s not for the faint-hearted – but it is the place where you’ll see the best surfing in Britain this year.
The O’Neill Highland Open by Swatch is organized by O’Neill and supported by Swatch, Red Bull, EventScotland, Visit Scotland and HIE Caithness & Sutherland.