The O’Neill Deep Blue Open Kicks Off


O´Neill Deep Blue Open 2002

Republic of the Maldives June 10th-17th 2002

Association of Surfing Professionals, 80,000 (USD) 5 star World QualifyingSeries (WQS)

Lohifushi Island, Maldives (Tuesday 12th June 2002). The opening heats ofthe O’Neill Deep Blue Open kicked off at Jailbreaks, a super fast right-handwave situated off of Himmafushi Island. The storms that dogged the islandsyesterday eased off and shortly after 7 o’clock local time, round onecompetitors joined the flotilla of boats moored on the shoulder of theJailbreaks wave. What greeted them was a super fun 1-meter right-handersrifling off the point. By the end of the day, the 16 heats of the firstround were completed and a mixed bag of surfers from across the planetavoided relegation to progress to round 2.

The conditions remained consistent throughout the morning and the islandswitnesses some awesome surfing to kick start the contest but unfortunatelyas midday drew nearer the winds and torrential down pours rolled in off theocean making conditions for the rest of the day tricky and inconsistent.

“First thing this morning it looked really really good as the tide pushedand this made the first few heats really good” said surfing Australia’scontest director Steve Robertson. “The waves were only a meter but they wereexcellent and really fast as they peeled off the reef, really great waves.We saw Troy Brooks freesurfing before the contest started (AUS) and hepulled into the longest barrel we have ever seen at Jails, he was completelylost in the tube for about 5 seconds, we’re talking seriously goodconditions at first light. But unfortunately as the morning has wore on theconditions deteriorated a bit, the winds have picked up but neverthelessthere are some really good high scoring waves out there”

Stand out performances from the opening rounds were delivered by AustralianKirk Flintoff in heat one while South African Shaun Gossmann upped the pacescoring some great waves to take the top spot in heat six. Mitchell Ross(AUS) came out on top from heat 7 before the Maldivian sky filled with blackangry clouds, the winds howled and the heavens opened with a torrentialdownpour leaving the competitors in the following heats with some of themost difficult conditions to contend with.

“That was an amazing heat, looked like it was going to be pretty fun.” Saidheat 8 winner Kai Otton (Aus) who bore the brunt of what must have been thehardest heat of the day “There were a few nice rights when we were firstpaddled out there but about five minutes into the heat, whooshka, thebiggest storm in the world came through. We couldn’t see the island, thewaves or anything. The other guys in the heat had a couple of waves alreadyand I was just freaking. I only took two waves the whole heat but luckily itwas enough and that was all I needed”

Heat 9 saw a surprising addition to the Deep Blue contingent. Current worldnumber 9 on the women’s World Championship Tour and O´Neill team riderRochelle Ballard from Hawaii (WCT) was seen pulling on a contest singlet andthen paddled out to pit her skills against the men’s WQS riders.

“The conditions first off were pretty bad but it was a good experience. It’sthe first time I have ever competed in a men’s WQS event.” Said Ballard”All I needed was another set wave and I would have made it, I got into onebut it shut down on me so it wasn’t meant to be. The judges are much harderin the men’s event I think but it was a good experience, I just went for it,I had nothing to loose.”

As the day progressed the conditions remained changeable, with occasionalblustery winds and heavy rainsqualls unleashing heavy curtains of rain overthe Jailbreaks line up. These testing conditions pushed the skills of theWQS surfers to the limit as they hunted for the elusive set waves. When theycame, freight train walling rights wrapped their way around HimmifushiIIsland.

Familiar faces returning for a second helping of the Maldivian reefsincluded Paul Parkes (Aus). Paul who had a good run last year leaving theislands with a ninth position was stoked to be on form and dominating heat13.

“That heat was really hard, I went out there thinking I’d sit and wait tocatch two good waves and then build on that. It ended up, I only got twowaves, so it was really hard.” I did well here last year, got a ninth sohopefully build on that this year, you never know.I really enjoy being inthe Maldives, it’s a bit lumpy out there today but its an awesome wave, Ilove it”

As the day drew to a close heat 14 saw the Jake Boex from the UK open hisO´Neill Deep Blue account surfing against Portugal’s David Luis, TeppeiTajima from Japan and Australians Colin O´Reilly. Teppei stole 1st placewhile Jakes fluid backhand assault on the Jailbreaks wave earned him a placein round 2.

“Yeah I really enjoyed that, such a good wave, very fast” said a beamingTeppei on the deck of the contest boat. “There were a few good waves comingthrough?it was so fun. This is my first time in the Maldives, it’s sobeautiful, such an amazing place to hold a contest. I’m really stoked to besurfing here.”

Rookie O’Neill team rider Jake Boex remained modest about his 2 place spothe earnt today.

“Yeah I’m really pleased with that its good. My first heat in the event sowe’ll see how the next one goes. I got a good first wave, it was quite niceso it put me at ease then I got another, which was ok, not great but it wasjust enough to get through-the conditions were quite good for my heat, Ithink the wind has eased off a bit for my heat so there were some nicelyshaped waves coming through with smooth faces and long rides. If you claimthe right ones.”

“I have Jason Shibata from Hawaii and Odirlei Coutinho from Brazil in myheat tomorrow. I’ve surfed with Jason before in the Pro Junior but its goingto be a hard heat, all heats at this level are really hard.” Jake added.

Tomorrow will see the first and second placed surfers from today’s heatstake on the seeded surfers in round two. Amongst the 2nd round seeds is 2001Pipe Master Bruce Irons. Irons has been spotted free surfing at Lohi´s andwill be paddling out in to the Maldivian arena tomorrow to make an impact onthe Maldivian contest. Some electric surfing has set the O’Neill Deep Bluecontest firmly on its way. The conditions for tomorrow look promising as thecontest steps up a gear as we head in to the second round.