March 9, 2003 (Snapper Rocks, QLD, Australia) Rising star Dean Morrisontoday overcame 1999 world champion and fellow local Mark Occhilupo to winthe Quiksilver Pro. The US$250,000 World Championship (WCT) commenced withround four this morning, running right through to the climax and withcountless highlights in between. Two Mitchell Surfing Foundation (MSF)expression sessions also took place, one prior to and another following thegrand finale.
Great 3-4ft (1.3m) waves were on offer at Snapper Rocks, with anothercapacity crowd turning out to support their hometown heroes.
Morrison, who was granted a full-time wildcard position on this year’s WCTfollowing a severe head injury at the end of last season in Hawaii, easilyjustified the spot today. Commencing his assault this morning againstsix-time world champ Kelly Slater (USA), the 22-year-old gained momentum ashe disposed of Jake Paterson (Aus) in the quarterfinals and then good mateMick Fanning in the semis.
Against Occhilupo in the 30-minute decider, ‘Dingo’ set a blistering pace.Having opened with a 9.0, he then lifted the extremely high level with anear-perfect 9.73, followed by another 9.23. With only ‘best two’ counting,he created a daunting total for his more experience opponent to try andcatch. As the huge and vocally supportive crowd cheered him on, the quietlyspoken Morrison claimed his maiden WCT title, US$30,000, and leads the 2003world title race.
“I don’t want to go to sleep ’cause I think when I wake up this would be adream,” began Morrison, after being carried by mates through the thousandsof cheering fans. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what to say.
“I was just stoked about my first heat this morning,” he continued. “I wasup against Kelly and to make the quarters was the best result I’d ever had.Then I got through and was up against Mick in the semifinals. He’s my goodmate, so I was thinking at least one of us was going to make the final. ThenI went out there then and it was just like a dream. I got three waves offthe bat. I didn’t think they were so high, but when I heard, it was just adream.
“I was just glad to be in this year,” he added, of the World ProfessionalSurfers (WPS) granting him a wildcard spot. “There was no pressure on methis event. I felt like… I don’t know what I feel. I’m overwhelmed(laughs). I’m just going to take this year one heat at a time. The boys areall just getting warmed up and everyone is going to be on fire.”
Occhilupo, who seemed invincible en-route to the final, later acknowledgedsurfing four heats at Snapper had taken its toll. While he still executedsome amazing backhand re-entries, Occy fell a number of times and the titleslipped from reach. In the end, the 36-year-old required a combination ofscores worth 12.84-points.
“I feel sore, actually,” said Occhilupo afterward. “I said to Deano halfwaythrough, ‘aren’t your legs sore?’ He said, ‘yeah, they’re cramping.’ Icouldn’t even feel mine. It’s really strenuous surfing four times,especially with the length of ride here. It’s not really a good excuse’cause Deano had plenty and ripped so hard. It’s such a deserving win andI’m really happy for him. He’s got such a big future.
“It’s the best start I’ve had,” he continued. “I’m feeling really good andcan’t wait for Bells (next WCT, April 15-26).”
Equal third in the Quiksilver Pro were 2002 Rookie of the Year Mick Fanning(Aus) and Pat O’Connell (USA). Both received US$10,000 and a great start totheir 2003 WCT ratings campaign.
Fanning (Aus), who posted the only perfect 10-point ride of the QuiksilverPro, as well as the highest combined total of 19.6 – out of a possible20-points during his quarterfinal – couldn’t repeat the unbelievableperformance against good mate Morrison. The world #5 appeared destined foranother finals berth, but inferior wave selection proved his ultimatedownfall, needing a combination of rides worth 10.24-points.
“It was really special,” said Fanning nonetheless, of the pair’s firman-on-man WCT heat. “We grew up surfing against each other all the time andever since we were little kids Deano beat me, so I guess it just keeps ongoing on (laughs). I’m stoked to get a good start to the season though, andstoked for Deano to make his first final.
“The waves were so fun,” he added, of his epic quarterfinal. “Everythingjust felt right. I guess I was just trying too hard in the semis, but it’sall good.”
O’Connell, the only non-Australian to reach the semifinals, was exceptionalthroughout the Quiksilver Pro. The Californian led at the halfway mark, butthen Occhilupo regained the lead with a mediocre 6.2 ride. With 8-minutesremaining it seemed plenty would still happen, but the ocean failed toco-operate until the last minute. Pat required a 6.64 and while he managed afew turns down the line on his final attempt, it wasn’t enough and thejudges awarded a 5.07 score.
“It’s funny, as one of the best things to ever happen in my career was whenOccy and I had a heat here back in 1998,” recalled O’Connell. “He needed a5.9 for about eight minutes and nothing ever came. I won and was so excitedabout it. Then halfway through the heat today, he needed a 5.9 and I juststarted laughing. But for me it’s a real honor just to be in the water withhim, win or lose. It was a great contest and sure I would have liked to getthose last couple of points, but I think I did everything I really couldhave in that heat. Pretty stoked.”
Finishing equal fifth today were Australians Taj Burrow, Jake Paterson, anddefending Quiksilver Pro champion Joel Parkinson, along with lone BrazilianNeco Padaratz.
Burrow, in particular, deserves further mention following his quarterfinalperformance. The West Australian was in stunning form, posting a 9.37 and9.1, yet still required two scores worth 10.23-points to match Fanning. Thepair’s combined total of 38.07 is the highest since the ‘best two’ waveoption came into affect at the start of last season. The world #4’s total of18.47-points would have been enough to win any other quarterfinal.Additionally, he collected the ‘Torquay Time-Tunnel’ award for the longesttube ride (clocked at 8-seconds) in the Quiksilver Pro for a bonus AUD$5,000bonus.
Two Mitchell Surfing Foundation (MSF) expression sessions also took place,with one prior to and another following the grand finale. Both extraordinarydisplays had cash incentives up for grabs totaling US$10,000.
Kelly Slater and Troy Brooks (Aus) took out the best aerial category intheir respective sessions for US$1,500 each. Jake Paterson and NathanWebster (Aus) proved the most radical for US$1,500. Taj Burrow and RichieLovett (Aus) the most innovative for another US$1,500 apiece, while last butnot least, the most entertaining bonuses went to Joel Parkinson and finallyToby Martin (Aus).
Live broadband video webcast was available on www.aspworldtour.com duringcompetition hours courtesy of ASP and www.coastalwatch.com
Official results of the Quiksilver Pro
1st Dean Morrison (Aus) 18.96 – US$30,000
2nd Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 12.84 – US$16,000
Semifinals (defeated=3rd receive US$10,000)
SF1: Dean Morrison (Aus) 18.17 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 15.83
SF2: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 14.2 def. Pat O’Connell (USA) 13.9
Quarterfinals (defeated=5th receive US$8,000)
QF1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 19.6 def. Taj Burrow (Aus) 18.47
QF2: Dean Morrison (Aus) 16.57 def. Jake Paterson (Aus) 15.66
QF3: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 18.07 def. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 15.46
QF4: Pat O’Connell (USA) 17.24 def. Neco Padaratz (Brz) 16.2
Round Four (defeated=9th receive US$5,000)
H1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 17.9 def. Sunny Garcia (Haw) 15.03
H2: Taj Burrow (Aus) 17.6 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 9.94
H3: Dean Morrison (Aus) 16.17 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.16
H4: Jake Paterson (Aus) 18.87 def. Andy Irons (Haw) 16.07
H5: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 18.54 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.7
H6: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 17.5 def. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 15.33
H7: Neco Padaratz (Brz) 18.1 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 15.03
H8: Pat O’Connell (USA) 18.83 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 16.23: Neco Padaratz (Brz) 18.1 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 15.03
H8: Pat O’Connell (USA) 18.83 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 16.23