Jeffreys Bay, South Africa (Wednesday, July 24) Former world #2 Taj Burrow (Aus) today dominated the Billabong Pro with two commanding performances. After six days wait, the US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) recommenced with round three and then two heats of the fourth this afternoon. Epic clashes resulted in many upsets, including six of the top 10 being ousted.
Clean 4-5ft (1.5m) waves remained all day, though sets were inconsistent at times.
Burrow, 24, won his highly anticipated clash with six-time world champ Kelly Slater (USA) this morning, and then dominated the day’s final heat over current #3 Shea Lopez (USA). The Australian amassed the best two-wave tally against Slater for 18.25 points, and then collected a 9.75 for a spectacular ride made up of two amazing floaters and two deep tubes when faced by Lopez.
“I feel great,” began Borrow. “I wanted to make that floater so much cause it was a good wave. I’m stoked I got a good score. I owed Shea as he got me here last year and in Fiji this year. I was so keen to beat him (laughs). I finally feel like I’m getting this wave down.
“That was pretty special,” he said after beating Slater. “I just tried for the last six days to talk myself into not being nervous for the heat.”
Slater secured an 8.5 ride, but watched as Burrow slotted into the heat’s best wave for a 9.5 and the win. Having lost early in all events this year, the Floridian commented on his lack of motivation and need for focus heading into the remaining tournaments in 2002.
“There wasn’t a lot of surfing going on in the heat and unfortunately I didn’t have time to find the rhythm,” said Slater. “It’s a bummer to lose out here when you know the waves are going to get better.
“It’s been horrible,” he added of his results. “My worst year on tour ever. I’m just having trouble with two things, basically. My confidence for one, since I haven’t surfed so many heats for a while, and my motivation is another. If you don’t have just one of those two things you’re going to be in trouble, so I was anticipating to have a little struggle here. I guess changes in my life and years off the tour have seen my focus change. I have to try and zone back in on where to put that and how to put energy into it.”
Local wildcard Sean Holmes (SAfr) continued his giant killing run in the Billabong Pro by eliminating current ratings leader Andy Irons (Haw). Holmes, who beat current #2 Cory Lopez (USA) in round two, went one better today by outscoring Irons in stellar form. On his second ride the South African slotted in and out of two deep tubes, posting a near-perfect score of 9.8 points, and supported this on his last ride with another 8.0 for the convincing win.
“It’s always nice for me to come up against the top dogs,” said Holmes. “Gives me a chance to lift up my level of surfing. If it wasn’t for guys like Andy… they’re the standouts people gauge the rest of us by. But any single guy can win out here and it’s just whoever gets the waves. I’m not taking anything away from Andy as he’s a great surfer, but today was my day and I’m stoked.”
Irons, who turned 24 today, unfortunately didn’t receive the present he wanted. Playing catch up from the outset, the Hawaiian failed to find form and ultimately required a combination of scores worth 11.06 points.
“I stalled too much and the waves were going quick,” said Irons, of his tube riding tactics. “I heard him get a 9.8 so I knew I needed a big score. He’s definitely one of the best surfers I’ve seen surfing out here and I hope he wins it.
“I’m looking forward to the next event at Trestles (USA),” he added. “Last time they held that I did really well and won, but right now I’ve had two 17ths in a row, so hopefully I don’t keep that up. I just want to dust it off and we’ll see who’s on top at the end of the year at Pipe (Haw).”
Current #46 Phil MacDonald (Aus) improved his standing by eliminating reigning world champ CJ Hobgood (USA). The Australian showed experience beyond his maiden WCT season, only catching waves that offered optimum potential and surfing them superbly. With four minutes remaining he required a 7.16 since he’d only ridden one at that point, but then locked in an 8.5 double barrel ride to advance.
“You’ve got to get the best waves to beat these guys and my first was an 8.75, so I was feeling confident,” said MacDonald. “I probably let three or four waves go, and just prayed the wave I needed would come. I’ve had two really good heats in a row, so it’s a confidence boost.”
Hobgood, currently rated fifth, conceded his waves let him down and reasoned it’s symbolic of his year in general.
“I did all I could on my waves, but both of his were better and that was the difference,” said Hobgood. “Things aren’t going my way this year. I can totally feel it. I’m knocking on the door and surfing the way I surf, but little things aren’t going my way. It happens.”
Current #35 Fabio Gouveia (Brz) continued the upsets, stopping #4 Luke Egan (Aus). The Brazilian came on strong toward the end posting an 8.25, and will now face 1999 Billabong Pro winner and current #7 Joel Parkinson (Aus), who eliminated Shane Dorian (Haw) this afternoon.
“Having Luke is so hard because he’s one of the best surfers,” said Gouveia. “He had a good start, so I waited and when my wave came I got a good barrel and that made the difference. I made a board with local shaper Spyder Murphy and it works so well. I’m very happy.”
Current #17 Kieren Perrow ended the dream of defending two-time consecutive Billabong Pro champ and fellow Australian Jake Paterson. Both only caught two rides in the wave starved heat, with Perrow’s proving superior.
“I’m stoked,” said Perrow. “It’s a bit disappointing when you don’t really get to trade off a few waves when it comes down to the wire. We were waiting and he didn’t need a big score, but I had priority, so obviously I wasn’t going to paddle for anything terrible. I was feeling really nervous before, but hopefully I’ll be able to relax a little bit more now.”
Paterson, the only surfer to claim back-to-back titles at J-Bay, earned the heat’s best single ride for a 9.0, but ultimately needed to replace his lower score with a 7.01.
“It’s a lonely walk up the beach this year,” joked Paterson afterward. “What can you do? He got two better ones than I did. This waves been pretty good to me so I can’t be too angry. Both of us only caught two waves, and one of mine closed out and that was the whole heat.”
2001 World Qualifying Series (WQS) winner Mick Fanning (Aus) was another to post two big wins today, eliminating current #14 Damien Hobgood (USA) and then current #9 Kalani Robb (Haw) this afternoon. The Australian, anxious to improve on his series of third round losses this year, has already secured his spot in the first quarterfinal against Burrow.
“I’m so stoked,” said Fanning. “Kalani’s been one of the best surfers all week. It’s been a big day, but I’m so happy to finally got out of that third round. I haven’t made it further all year, so it’s great to have half a result already.”
Current #24 Lee Winkler (Aus) created a career highlight by eliminating 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia (Haw). The Australian surfed a patient heat only riding three waves, but secured eight plus points on two. Garcia posted the best single score for an 8.75, but required another worth 7.76 points. Nonetheless, the Hawaiian leaves Jeffreys Bay with more fans after he donated his cash prize from yesterday’s MSF expression session, and then today his six-board quiver to the local underprivileged kids in the ‘Development Surfing Schools’.
“I feel really good,” said Winkler. “Sunny had a better one than me, so I had to wait for the best wave and in the last five minutes it came and I did enough to put the nail in the coffin. Just to be in the top 46 is good, but to beat guys of his stature makes it so much better.”
Australians Dean Morrison and Shane Powell surfed arguably the best heat of the day; exchanging amazing barrel rides in classic J-Bay conditions. Morrison opened with his first perfect 10 in competition, before Powell took a commanding lead climaxed by his 9.15 ride. The WCT newcomer fell on a wave toward the end and it appeared his fate was sealed, but then another wave appeared and he was able to thread his way through the eye of numerous tubes for an 8.1 to advance.
“I can’t believe it,” began Morrison. “I got that 10 and was stoked, but I surfed a pretty bad heat after that ‘cause I went a wave I shouldn’t have and then ‘Powelly’ got that nine. I almost gave up there at the end after I fell. I figured I had the chance and you only get one, but then that last one came and let me get a couple more barrels.”
1999 world champ Mark Occhilupo dominated his clash with fellow Australian Luke Hitchings, equalling the highest combined two-wave total of 18.25 points. The goofy footer looked completely at ease and together with fellow countrymen Mick Lowe and Parkinson, was one of only three from the top 10 to survive the day.
“It was just one of those heats when I got all the waves I wanted,” said Occhilupo. “I was nervous after watching so many big names lose today, but I’m stoked to get through. My form in that heat has done a lot for my confidence.”
Official results of the 2002 Billabong Pro
- H1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 15.0 def. Kalani Robb (Haw) 14.65
- H2: Taj Burrow (Aus) 17.35 def. Shea Lopez (USA) 14.25
- H1: Mick Fanning (Aus) 16.25 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.95
- H2: Kalani Robb (Haw) 14.75 def. Beau Emerton (Aus) 12.0
- H3: Taj Burrow (Aus) 18.25 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.25
- H4: Shea Lopez (USA) 15.25 def. Michael Campbell (Aus) 15.15
- H5: Daniel Wills (Aus) 16.0 def. Nathan Webster (Aus) 14.5
- H6: Lee Winkler (Aus) 16.5 def. Sunny Garcia (Haw) 15.75
- H7: Dean Morrison (Aus) 18.1 def. Shane Powell (Aus) 17.9
- H8: Sean Holmes (SAfr) 17.8 def. Andy Irons (Haw) 13.0
- H9: Phil MacDonald (Aus) 17.25 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 15.9
- H10: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 16.0 def. Jake Paterson (Aus) 14.75
- H11: Michael Lowe (Aus) 16.5 def. Greg Emslie (SAfr) 11.5
- H12: Pat O’Connell (USA) 14.75 def. Peterson Rosa (Brz) 14.25
- H13: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 18.25 def. Luke Hitchings (Aus) 7.0
- H14: Nathan Hedge (Aus) 14.5 def. Trent Munro (Aus) 10.5
- H15: Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 14.9 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 14.5
- H16: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 14.4 def. Shane Dorian (Haw) 10.75