Makaha, Oahu, HAWAII – January 28, 2003 – The secret fountain of youth was discovered on the West Side of Oahu today, at Makaha Beach, where the finals of the Quiksilver Masters were held. 1978 world surfing champion Wayne Bartholomew (Australia) was back on the winner’s dais, winning the final of the Grand Masters division (45 years and over) from 1979-1982 world champion Mark Richards (Australia). The final of the Masters (35 to 44 years) was taken out for the third consecutive year by Gary Elkerton (Australia). Elkerton defeated Brad Gerlach (Encinitas, Ca.), the only American to reach the finals. The fourth and final day of the event basked in hot sunshine and perfect waves of four-to-six feet.
It was 25 years ago that Bartholomew first raised the world champion’s trophy overhead, yet he bore the grin of a teenager and surfed with the same level of enthusiasm and stoke to do it again today. Born and raised on the right-hand point breaks of Queensland, Australia, Bartholomew (48) felt right at home at Makaha today. His rhythm with the pick of set waves was on-beat and he carved each successive ride apart to top the day’s scores in the final. He posted 17.5 points out of a possible 20 against Richards (46).
A die-hard tennis fan, Bartholomew said he drew his inspiration for this event from tennis ace Andre Agassi. “In order to win a Grand Slam in tennis, you’ve got to win seven times,” said Bartholomew. “So I drew my inspiration from Agassi coming into this event and that’s exactly what I did. I accomplished every goal I set out to achieve.” Bartholomew was the only surfer in either division to win all seven of his heats four preliminary rounds, the quarter final, semi-final and final.
“To win the Masters for a second time feels great. Mark beat me to win in Ireland at the last Masters and we were one apiece. I was pretty disappointed after that, so I went home and I’ve been training really hard.”
“Surfing really needs this. Golf’s got it, tennis has got it, and now here we are stirring up some modern-day rivalries in the Grand Masters of surfing!” As President of the ASP, surfing’s governing body, Bartholomew has been a strong supporter of the Quiksilver Masters from both sides of the fence.
Equal third place in the Grand Masters went to Hawaiian pair Buzzy Kerbox (Maui) and Bobby Owens. Equal fifth after quarterfinal losses were Australians Paul Neilson and Terry Richardson, Shaun Tomson (South Africa) and Michael Ho (Hawaii).
In the Masters, the surfing was as hot as you’d find at any elite level pro surfing event, particularly in the final and semi-finals. Elkerton faced three-time world champion Tom Curren (California 1985, 86, 90) in the quarters, and 1989 world champion Martin Potter (UK). While Elkerton battled his demons with these two in the ’80′s, they were no match for him today. The 39-year-old put it all down to a level of fitness far superior to anything he enjoyed during his hey day.
“It all comes down to physical conditioning, and if I was in this shape when I was 18 to 25 years of age, I would have won all those titles I missed out on,” said Elkerton.
“The final was the best heat I surfed in the whole event. I started to come alive in the semis with Tom Curren. This was the easiest Masters final I’ve won not to take anything away from the others, it’s just that my fitness and my head-space is right there.”
“The concept of the Masters is extraordinary. It would be a shame if it wasn’t available. It’s great for the public and it’s great for the younger surfers to see. It’s given us all an extension where you can still surf, have a family and enjoy life.”
Masters runner-up Brad Gerlach, 36, surfed incredibly well throughout the day, but found himself out of sync with the larger, longer waves that Elkerton tapped into. His precise maneuvers and unsurpassed style couldn’t have been better, but his scores were limited by his choice of waves. Like his Grand Masters counterpart Mark Richards, there was definitely nothing wanting about his surfing level.
“I haven’t surfed a man-on-man heat since 1992, but I still remembered some stuff!” said Gerlach. “It sure has been nice here, especially on this side of the island. The color of the water, the waves, the weather, it’s truly beautiful.”