SAN CLEMENTE, California (September 15, 2006) – Currently ranked number two in the world, Taj Burrow (AUS), raised the performance bar today when he launched aerial after aerial to make his way through to round four of the Boost Mobile Pro presented by Hurley.
The event, the seventh of 11 on the Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour was held today in excellent one to two metre (three to six foot) conditions and from heat one right through to heat 16 it was excitement plus.
When Burrow hit the water it was anticipated that he would charge hard given that he has the potential, if he claims the event, to close the gap on or even overtake ratings leader, seven-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA), but no-one expected a show like they saw today.
Burrow flowed from one huge turn to the next executing some lightening quick gouges in the critical wave sections with razor sharp precision and with his opening ride scoring an excellent 9.60 out of 10 he had his foe Roy Powers (HAW) completely on the back foot.
It was obvious that Burrow was enjoying every minute of the experience.
“I was really happy out there,” said Burrow. “These are pretty much my favorite conditions for doing turns. When you get the lineup to yourself out there it’s just the best feeling.”
Burrow was enjoying himself so much he admitted he had trouble maintaining his excitement.
“The waves that come to you out there are so much fun,” said Burrow. “I get too excited… I just want to surf my best. My boards are going great and I’m really keen to do a good job here."
While Burrow had the top score of the day (18.43 out of 20) it was 40-year-old Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour legend Mark Occhilupo (AUS) who won the hearts and the vocal support of the massive crowd on hand.
The mighty “Occy” looked like an ecstatic grommet in the walling Trestles waves, showing incredibly loose form right from his first wave where he scored an 8.17.
But before the screaming masses could take their seats he turned and locked into another great ride where he drove deep off the bottom of the wave and launched five amazing backhand re-entries to score a 9.43.
“It happened quick,” said Occhilupo. “I was just trying to take the inside and I’m happy I did. I tried as hard as I could because I’m pretty scared of Fred [Patacchia] – I haven’t surfed against him before."
Occhilupo always finds great confidence in the larger conditions and is hoping that the swell builds even further as has been forecast.
"The smaller conditions favor Fred and a lot of the new guys because there are more aerial opportunities,” said Occhilupo. “Because it was a bit bigger I had to try harder and looks like it will be bigger tomorrow as well, so I’m stoked."
Occhilupo then refuted the suggestions from the ensuing media throng that he was aging like a fine wine.
"I don’t know about that!” he laughed. “I’ve just found a good board and am doing what I can do."
Indicating that he still has plenty of fight left in the 2006 world title race was Hawaiian three-time champion of the world Andy Irons (HAW).
While Australian Toby Martin threw all he could at Irons, he just couldn’t peg the Hawaiian back after Irons powered into some of the better rides of the day.
Irons, who sat waiting for nearly 10 minutes to get his first ride, drew motivation from Martin’s solid start and lifted himself to come from behind to round out some hugely explosive off the tops on his first wave.
"You just got to take it the way it comes,” said Irons. “Toby [Martin] was getting a bit happy and he was smiling. I get so pissed when guys start to do that to me because he had his scores in and sometimes the heat can go bad and no more waves will come in."
Luckily for Irons, however, some excellent waves began to go his way and he drove the heat all the way home.
"I had to be patient and get only the right waves,” said Irons. “It’s really slow and the first one to catch waves would always be in a solid position because if there’s another 15-minute lull then you’re in trouble. I got an 8.50 on the first wave and got an 8.57 on the second wave so it went all right from there."
Leading the way for the Brazilians was pint-sized goofyfoot veteran Victor Ribas (BRA).
Coming from behind to defeat rookie Bobby Martinez (USA) in what was a nail biter.
Ribas, left his run right until the last wave where he notched up an 8.33 to hit the front just as the hooter sounded.
Ribas was thrilled with the result given that he had had such a battle and because he had claimed the result in one of his favourite locations.
“I really wanted to make this heat,” said Ribas. “The waves are very nice here in California. I love this place. Last year here, I got ninth place and hopefully I can out do that.
Ribas is also hoping he can emulate last year where he went on from this event to requalify for the 2006 top tour.
“I think this is the time of the year when my body is ready for the good results," said Ribas. “I’m enjoying the tour - it’s like I’m just starting again. I feel like a kid."
With the waves predicted to further increase in size over night all are anticipating tomorrow, the final day of the event, to be one of the most exciting of the season to date.
All eyes will be on Kelly Slater (USA) who with a win here will move ever so close to winning his eighth world crown.
Attempting to thwart his assault will be Burrow and Irons who both could potentially overtake him with a win.
Plus the likes of Mick Fanning (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Damien Hobgood and local favourite Chris Ward won’t be giving up without a fight.
Check back in to www.aspworldtour.com or www.boostmobilepro.com at 7.30am sharp where the LIVE webcast will begin the day followed by the first heat at 8am.
For the full run down of today’s play head to either site’s media centre where athlete quotes, audio downloads, video highlights and heat by heat reports can be found.
Round Three Results: (1st advances to Round Four; 2nd finishes equal 17th)
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.00 def. Marcelo Nunes (USA) 14.67
Heat 2: Danny Wills (AUS) 14.50 def. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 12.66
Heat 3: Dean Morrison (AUS) 12.50 def. Luke Stedman (AUS) 11.34
Heat 4: Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.83 def. Jarrad Howse (AUS) 9.83
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.13 def. Peterson Rosa (BRA) 12.50
Heat 6: Tim Reyes (USA) 15.26 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 13.00
Heat 7: Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 13.07 def. Trent Munro (AUS) 12.13
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.83 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.00
Heat 9: Andy Irons (HAW) def. Toby Martin (AUS)
Heat 10: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 16.24 def. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 14.17
Heat 11: Chris Ward (USA) 13.93 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 13.83
Heat 12: Travis Logie (ZAF) def. Tom Whitaker (AUS)
Heat 13: Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.43 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 10.83
Heat 14: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 17.60 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 12.67
Heat 15: Victor Ribas (BRA) 16.53 def. Bobby Martinez (USA) 15.83
Heat 16: Phil MacDonald (AUS) 14.57 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.46
Round Four Heat Draw: (1st advances to the Quarterfinals; 2nd finishes equal 9th)
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Daniel Wills (AUS)
Heat 2: Dean Morrison (AUS) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 4: Shaun Cansdell (AUS) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 5: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 6: Chris Ward (USA) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
Heat 8: Victor Ribas (BRA) vs. Phil Macdonald (AUS)