The Best Surf Contest Ever?


Mainland Mexico Pumps, And Andy Irons Turns It On
The rumors started near the end of 2005 about Rip Curl bringing its annual “floating” WCT event down to Mainland Mexico. But where and why? We’ve all seen how epic the pounding beachbreaks of Puerto Escondido can get and heard the whispers of perfect left-hand point breaks way down south; some images of mysto-perfection have even appeared in magazines in recent years-but a WCT-class wave in Mainland Mexico?
In 2005, the Rip Curl Pro Search WCT was held on the beautiful left-hand point break of St. Leu in Reunion Island-a beautiful and consistent contest venue, and a favorite to more than a few pros on the tour. Moving the Search event to Mexico was a gamble, but as we all saw, the gamble paid off in spades.

Somewhere In Mexico
Rip Curl kept the location hush, only tagging it in ads as “somewhere in Mexico,” and throughout the event, never even called it by its real name (so I guess we won’t either, even though it’s already been in our magazine), everyone involved simply called the spot “La Jolla.”
Rip Curl decided to roll the dice (to the tune of around a million bucks). The world was about to see just what this area of the world had to offer.
“Part of The Search is finding perfect waves and not saying where it is,” says Marty Thomas, marketing director of Rip Curl. “We want people to search for themselves, and we don’t want to blow places up. We want to keep these places pristine, and of course be respectful to the locals.”
The locals and visitors are, however, thankful that the event wasn’t intended to whore out a sick spot, but meant to show the world that Mexico has world-class waves and the country itself is capable of handling a major world tour event.
“I went a few days early with Parko and Taj, and the waves were sick,” remembers Andy Irons. “I’ve been down there once before for a few days, but this year, the wave had to have been one of the most rippable waves I’ve ever surfed.” This coming from a guy who’s surfed nearly every rippable wave on the planet.
On the flipside, a lot of the tour had never even been to Mexico. “I heard it’s really dangerous,” said Mexico virgin Trent Munro a month prior to the event. “I don’t know about that place, mate,” he grumbled unknowingly. He’d soon find out.

Pre-Event Warm-Up
“The sessions we had before the event were all-time,” says Irons. “I was feeling real loose and I had good boards. I remember feeling good out there before the contest started. I was pretty psyched and thinking, ‘F-k, I need a win,'” laughs Andy. And while he was sitting high on the ranks of the WCT, Kelly was still ahead by a big margin, even after a no-show at the Globe WCT Fiji. “I wasn’t looking at it like a make-or-break event or anything,” says Andy. “I just wanted to go there and do what I do. Every contest means a lot to me, and of course I want to win.”

Arrivals
“Three or four days before the event, I was walking down to the beach and saw Taylor Steele with Parko and Andy,” remembers Kalle Carranza, 2005 Mexican National Champ and a sometimes local at the point breaks of Oaxaca. “That’s when it really set in that all the world’s best guys were going to be surfing down here.”
The pre-event visitors were greeted with perfect conditions for warming up for the contest-head-high, rippable, uncrowded, and absolutely perfect. “The day before the event was pretty big, and about as good as I’ve ever seen the place after going there for eight years,” smiled Kalle. “The pros were owning the lineup, and the local guys from the surrounding area and down from Puerto were so stoked to see this kind of surfing in real life. To see Pancho doing these big hacks, surfing this heavy, eight-foot wave like it’s two-foot-ripping the biggest turns ever-the locals got to see the potential these waves had.”
“On those days before the event, we’d all be out there laughing and hooting for each other,” Andy sa. “It was one of the more fun sessions I’ve ever had-that wave is so perfect.”

Locals And Trialists
A series of trials events went down before the main event to decide which Mexican nationals would get the remaining wildcards.
Usually, the thought of the world’s top pros invading your homebreak would sound like a nightmare, but the Mexican surf community seemed to see that a contest of this magnitude can only bring good things. “I think within the next decade or so, you’ll see some WCT surfers out of Mexico,” remarks Kalle. “This contest is such a great inspiration to us. And the surf tourism industry down here will no doubt grow after this.”
The Squalo trials, which took place two days before the main event, showed signs of things to come for the Top 44. “It really started pumping for the trials event,” smiles Kalle, who eventually took third behind David Rutherford and Oscar Moncada. “There had been a series of big swells before the contest, so the sand was built up perfectly at the point. When the waves started getting bigger, everybody knew it was going to be as good as it gets.”
Trials winner and one of Mexico’s biggest surf stars, Oscar Moncada, couldn’t believe his luck. After winning the trials, he surfed against his hero, Kelly Slater, and became the first Mexican to ever surf in a WCT event. “Kelly’s been his hero for years,” says Kalle. “To see Oscar’s smile when he came in from the water after surfing against Kelly was amazing. It was a special moment for Mexican surfing as a whole.”

The Main Event

In the early rounds, it was plain to see that this event was going to be epic. From twenty-second tubes to outrageous power hacks, the Top 44 were clearly blessed by the wave gods; bare in mind, however, to get the good waves, the surfers had to fight through brutal conditions in the water. “The current is so gnarly out there,” says Kalle. “You have to time your paddle out or you’re gonna get dragged all the way down the beach. At low tide, the wave bowls so hard that it makes turns near impossible, that was until I saw what the top guys on tour were doing out there.”
It was truly a spectacle. Dozens of broken boards, the world’s top pros being tossed about like mice in a washing machine, and some of the best surfing the WCT has ever seen. While the beach was home to a few hundred spectators each day, the Web was where it was at with more than 100,000 unique visitors to the contest Web site and over 30,000 viewers during each day of the event. The TransWorld SURF offices, as well as every major surf-brand headquarters, practically shut down during the event-only the constant flow of adjectives and point totals spewed from commentator Marty Thomas could be heard over the “oohs” and “aahs” circulating from everyone watching the Webcast.

Befores And Afters
Before the heats, each day was a free-for-all of tube riders, locals, media guests, contest organizers, and practicing pros. Some would say that’s where the crazy shit went down. “We’d charge out there every day before the heats started and surf our brains out,” says Reef Team Manager and pro surfer Heath Walker. “Sitting on the beach and watching the waves all day was torture-it was beyond perfect.”
After the heats ended each day, the same barrage of visitors and locals alike would bombard the point. And even as surfers started losing out of the event, many of them stayed and frothed for the sessions before and after the contest each day. “Mate, I stuck around for a few days after the event,” explained Parko. “That wave is so bloody sick-I can easily say it was one of the best contests I’ve ever been in, or seen for that matter.”

The Hot Gets Hotter
As the contest powered through, the waves stayed epic-the early rounds showcasing grinding barrels and deep tubes, and the latter rounds offering up some of the most rippable waves you could ever ask for. For any of you poor suckers out there in Web world who didn’t glue your eyes to your monitor-I am sorry for you-you missed Taj Burrow’s barrel.
In the opening seconds of the first heat of round three, Taj Burrow got what many are claiming as the best tube ride in ASP history: a 50-yard smoker of a tube that should’ve been an eleven, but wound up scoring a high nine-a ten being reserved just in case someone got a longer tube later in the day.

The Lion Growls
Andy Irons, who generally comes out of the gates in the beginning of the year with all guns firing, had started off the first four events winless, with Kelly taking home the first two events and Andy slipping behind in the ratings. The Rip Curl Search Pro needed to be a big event for Andy if he hoped to keep on Kelly’s heels.
Kelly, who missed the previous event in Fiji, showed up to Mexico in form and looking to capitalize on his early-season lead, a crowd-pleasing Kelly-versus-Andy final looked like it was in the cards. That was until Kelly’s close friend, an on-fire Taylor Knox, came into the quarterfinals against Kelly like a bat out of hell.
“Taylor’s turns were incredible,” says competitor-turned-spectator, Kalle. “He was doing these railgrab cutbacks that might have been some of the best turns ever done.”
Not to be outdone, Andy made mincemeat out of his brother Bruce in the quarters and then Tim Reyes in the semis. “I felt good, my boards were good, I just had a great feeling throughout the whole event,” recalls Andy. “It helps when the waves were that good-it makes my job that much easier.”

The Nail In The Coffin
By the final, the surf world was buzzing about the Rip Curl Search Pro. Every bro-brah hug-and-a-handshake was followed by, “Have you been watching the event?” The lineups of the world were empty by the time the finals came around-everybody was online, watching the contest of the year.
The finals started out with Taylor hacking his way to a lead, then Andy answered back by coming within a few points. As the conditions deteriorated, something crazy happened: Andy pumped down the line of a mediocre-looking wave, and a section popped up in front of him that begged for a giant boost, “I saw that section and knew it was a good ramp,” says Andy. “I got a little burst of speed and just blasted and it felt like I went straight up. I grabbed my rails and nearly jumped off because I thought for sure I was gonna break my board, but then I just thought, “F-k it, if it breaks it breaks.’ Luckily I made it, and I think that sealed the deal for me.”
It was the air heard round the surf world, and quite possibly the biggest air ever done in a WCT-another notch in the belt of the Rip Curl Search Pro.

Striking Distance
With that win, Andy comes within striking distance of Kelly, and we all know what that means: a juicy little thing we media bastards like to call the “rebirth of the Andy/Kelly rivalry,” a yearly battle that fans of surfing, surf mags, and mainstream media love to prod on and inflate.
Encouraging this media spectacle is what we all love, and this year it’s looking ripe for the hype again.
Thankfully for us fans, and Andy alike, a win on the fifth stop of the ASP World Tour helps spur on the spectacle we all love to watch. At press time, Andy had bowed out early in the Billabong Pro at J-Bay, we’ll have to wait and see how this affects the world title race.
What we do know is that when the title race heats up this early in the tour, we all win: and when the world’s best surfers surf the world’s best waves, the world takes notice and our sport grows by leaps and bounds and is recognized yet again as the coolest sport in the world.
ld who didn’t glue your eyes to your monitor-I am sorry for you-you missed Taj Burrow’s barrel.
In the opening seconds of the first heat of round three, Taj Burrow got what many are claiming as the best tube ride in ASP history: a 50-yard smoker of a tube that should’ve been an eleven, but wound up scoring a high nine-a ten being reserved just in case someone got a longer tube later in the day.

The Lion Growls
Andy Irons, who generally comes out of the gates in the beginning of the year with all guns firing, had started off the first four events winless, with Kelly taking home the first two events and Andy slipping behind in the ratings. The Rip Curl Search Pro needed to be a big event for Andy if he hoped to keep on Kelly’s heels.
Kelly, who missed the previous event in Fiji, showed up to Mexico in form and looking to capitalize on his early-season lead, a crowd-pleasing Kelly-versus-Andy final looked like it was in the cards. That was until Kelly’s close friend, an on-fire Taylor Knox, came into the quarterfinals against Kelly like a bat out of hell.
“Taylor’s turns were incredible,” says competitor-turned-spectator, Kalle. “He was doing these railgrab cutbacks that might have been some of the best turns ever done.”
Not to be outdone, Andy made mincemeat out of his brother Bruce in the quarters and then Tim Reyes in the semis. “I felt good, my boards were good, I just had a great feeling throughout the whole event,” recalls Andy. “It helps when the waves were that good-it makes my job that much easier.”

The Nail In The Coffin
By the final, the surf world was buzzing about the Rip Curl Search Pro. Every bro-brah hug-and-a-handshake was followed by, “Have you been watching the event?” The lineups of the world were empty by the time the finals came around-everybody was online, watching the contest of the year.
The finals started out with Taylor hacking his way to a lead, then Andy answered back by coming within a few points. As the conditions deteriorated, something crazy happened: Andy pumped down the line of a mediocre-looking wave, and a section popped up in front of him that begged for a giant boost, “I saw that section and knew it was a good ramp,” says Andy. “I got a little burst of speed and just blasted and it felt like I went straight up. I grabbed my rails and nearly jumped off because I thought for sure I was gonna break my board, but then I just thought, “F-k it, if it breaks it breaks.’ Luckily I made it, and I think that sealed the deal for me.”
It was the air heard round the surf world, and quite possibly the biggest air ever done in a WCT-another notch in the belt of the Rip Curl Search Pro.

Striking Distance
With that win, Andy comes within striking distance of Kelly, and we all know what that means: a juicy little thing we media bastards like to call the “rebirth of the Andy/Kelly rivalry,” a yearly battle that fans of surfing, surf mags, and mainstream media love to prod on and inflate.
Encouraging this media spectacle is what we all love, and this year it’s looking ripe for the hype again.
Thankfully for us fans, and Andy alike, a win on the fifth stop of the ASP World Tour helps spur on the spectacle we all love to watch. At press time, Andy had bowed out early in the Billabong Pro at J-Bay, we’ll have to wait and see how this affects the world title race.
What we do know is that when the title race heats up this early in the tour, we all win: and when the world’s best surfers surf the world’s best waves, the world takes notice and our sport grows by leaps and bounds and is recognized yet again as the coolest sport in the world.