Quiksilver Pro (May 26 – June 7)
www.quiksilver.com & www.aspworldtour.com
Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
2002 World Championship Tour (WCT)
Patacchia Wins Trials; Slater Dominates Round One
Tavarua & Namotu Islands, Fiji (Sunday, May 26) The Quiksilver Pro commencedthis morning with Fred Patacchia (Haw), Rob Machado (USA) and Troy Brooks(Aus) all advancing through the Trials into the US$250,000 WorldChampionship Tournament (WCT). 14 of the non-elimination opening round heatswere then completed in epic conditions, with six-time world champion KellySlater (USA) producing a near-perfect performance late this afternoon.
Extremely hollow 6-8ft (2-2.5m) waves were on offer throughout the day at’Cloudbreak’, allowing for an amazing display of critical barrel riding.
Slater, who enjoyed two great sessions out at ‘Restaurants’ prior to theday’s final heat against Paulo Moura (Brz) and Kieren Perrow (Aus), wassimply outstanding. He waited patiently before picking off a 9.25 ride, andthen posted the only perfect 10 of the tournament so far for an incredibletwo-wave tally of 19.25 out of a possible 20-points. His flawless ride hadthe judges watching a seemingly empty barrel from start to finish, as heremained hidden virtually the entire time. Emerging with both arms raised,even he couldn’t believe how long the tube had lasted.
“I took off and just barely got to my feet in the whitewater,” explainedSlater of the exceptional ride. “The first barrel spat and almost threw meoff my board. As soon as I made that it started walling up and I grabbed the(wave) face and slowed down and stayed in the barrel for about 10-seconds(laughs). That was one of the longest barrels I’ve ever had for sure. I’vehad deeper ones, but it was that long I was starting to get mesmerized inthere.
“It’s pretty much one of the best waves in the world right here, if notthese best,” he continued. “I surfed ‘Restaurants’ twice today, and that’sone of the most perfect waves in the world too, and then I got to surf’Cloudbreak’ and scored two perfect waves. It’s been a pretty amazing dayand a good start to the event.”
Reigning world champion CJ Hobgood (USA) faced Trials winner Patacchia, aswell as Mick Lowe (Aus) in his round one clash. The Floridian took controlwith two high scores, happy to avoid one of the tournament wildcards in thesecond round.
“There are a lot of good wildcards in this event,” began Hobgood. “I justreally wanted to make that heat and avoid going up against another one ofthem in the 33rd place round. I was kind of scared of that, so I really putsome pressure on myself to win so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.
“We’re spoilt brats I guess you could say,” he added, of the conditions hereand in Tahiti for the previous WCT. “To be on tour and compete with a coupleguys out in waves like this… it’s such an honor to be a surfer and travelwith the guys and go to the places we do.”
Patacchia, who dominated both early heats en-route to the Trials victory,kept the pressure on Hobgood, but ultimately required another wave worth8.61-points. He will now face world #16 Richard Lovett (Aus) in round two.
“I had a great time out there during the Trials,” said Patacchia after hiswin. “I love Tavarua and was really honored just to be invited. To make themain event is just the best feeling ever.”
Current ratings leader Andy Irons (Haw) continued his momentum againstformer world #2 Taj Burrow (Aus) and two-time world champion (1983-4) andevent wildcard Tom Carroll (Aus). The Hawaiian, who has won the past twoWCT’s, overcame one of his heroes to advance directly into round three.Burrows, meanwhile, did well just to make it to Fiji, as he still has 11staples in his head following a bad wipeout in Western Australia last week.
“That was the first time I’ve surfed against Tom Carroll and he’s alwaysbeen a hero of mine,” said Irons. “It’s pretty cool and memorable tto get tosurf a heat against him at 6-8ft Cloudbreak.
“It’s an incredible feeling and I still can’t believe it,” he continued, ofhis recent success. “Especially Teahupoo, as I’ve always wanted to winthere. This one as well, Cloudbreak is such a good wave and I’d love to dowell. I’m psyched, definitely.”
1999 world and event champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) dominated his match withTrials runner-up Machado and Nathan Hedge (Aus), posting the day’s secondbest total for 18.15-points. Securing a 9.25 and then an 8.9 later in theheat, the inaugural Quiksilver Pro Fiji winner is in awesome form.
“I was a lot more anxious than usual going up against Rob and Nathan,”admitted Occhilupo. “It was a hard heat, so it boosts my confidence to havea win like that.
“It really is special,” he continued of the venue. “I’ve seen some of thebest waves I’ve ever seen at Cloudbreak. It’s amazing here today. It’s beenan unbelievable year.”
Machado, who put his stylish act to good use during three heats today, willnow meet 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia (Haw) in a highly anticipatedround two decider.
“It feels good just to be here,” said Machado after the Trials final. “I hada good time surfing the Trials and had some good waves. I’ve been inCalifornia for a while, so I haven’t really surfed anything of a dangerousnature. It’s been really fun catching some real waves and feeling my boardgoing fast again.”
Wildcard Brooks (Aus), who was last to qualify for the main event, createdan upset by defeating current #2 Cory Lopez (USA) and Shane Powell (Aus)this afternoon. After being caught and pushed down the reef by a series oflarge waves during the middle of the heat, ‘Brooko’ managed to secure twogood rides on his last two attempts, taking the lead in the dying secondswith an 8.0. Having finished equal fifth as a wildcard in the 2000tournament when Lopez eliminated him man-on-man, today’s win held addedsatisfaction.
“I got flogged halfway through the heat pretty badly,” explained Brooks. “Igot one alright wave, then with less than 10 seconds to go I managed to takeoff on a bomb and it lined up and I got the score. I’m pretty happy with theway I surfed.”
Defending Quiksilver Pro Fiji champion Luke Egan, who won the event when itlast ran in 2000, took out a fantastic clash this morning against twoAustralian WCT newcomers Dean Morrison and Darren O’Rafferty. Havingfinished runner-up in the Tahitian WCT last week, the powerful goofy-footerfought off valiant efforts by his opponents, with both needing solid scoresat the end.
“You’ve just got to take it every heat at a time,” said Egan, of defendinghis title. “Otherwise it gets away from you. Today is epic out there and somuch fun. ‘Deano’ and I were screaming at each other and just having aball.”
Current ratings #5 Joel Parkinson (Aus), who won the Quiksilver Pro inAustralia as the 2002 WCT season began, today won his opening heat againstfellow Australian Lee Winkler and Brazilian Marcelo Nunes, after locking ina near-perfect 9.6 on his second ride.
“I had a bad run through Tahiti and earlier in the year Bells (Beach,Australia),” said Parkinson. “Hopefully I can turn that around here and comeup with something solid. Andy deserves his lead (on the ratings) at themoment, but still, I don’t want to see him get too far in front and becomecocky (laughs).”
Peterson Rosa secured Brazil’s only round one win today, defeating 2001World Qualifying Series (WQS) winner Mick Fanning and fellow Australian BeauEmerton. Rosa secured a 9.0 during the midway through, before earning a 7.0and the match on his last wave.
“My style does better in these conditions,” said Rosa. “I’m stoked to havewaves like this and I train hard for this. I hope to do well.”