ANGLET, France (Tuesday, May. 1, 2007) – The first round of the Oxbow World Pro Longboard Championship got underway this afternoon, following the completion of the trials event, which determined the four remaining wildcard spots for the main event.
The four wildcard spots were all taken by rookies, and they will each now surf in an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) International rated longboard main event for the very first time. The winner of the Oxbow Pro will be crowned the 2007 world longboard champion. The youngest of the four rookies to gain a wildcard spot was Harrison Roach (AUS), who is only 17 years old.
"I am sooo stoked," said Roach after his win. "I just can't wait to surf against all the best longboarders in the world in the main event. I've already achieved what I set out to do, so now I'll just do my best and hopefully do okay. Harrison Roach, world champion!!" The youngster laughed.
He will be joined by two other rookie Australians wildcards, 23-year old Jared Neal and 22-year-old Jackson Close.
"This was my first time ever to Europe," said Neal. "But I've been loving it. I like it when the surf is bigger and I felt pretty comfortable out there. But now, surfing in the main event, I'll have to surf way better to match these guys."
His compatriot Jackson Close was also comfortable in the solid conditions and performed a whole range of radical turns under pressure.
"I can't believe I've made the main event," Close said. "Now it's time to step it up. I'll have to mix it up more and surf way harder. This is my first event at this level, so yeah I'll have to adjust, but I can't wait."
He certainly did just that when he performed a radical aerial maneuver in the dying moments of his first round heat of the main event to secure a nine point wave score and an amazing win.
"What a day, I can't really believe it," said a stunned Close afterwards. "From surfing the trials to now, making it through my first round heat. I just went for a big air and somehow made it and obviously the judges liked it. It's been one of my best days ever."
San Clemente surfer Troy Mothershead earned the final wildcard slot. The 18-year-old is traveling with his parents and girlfriend and was over the moon at his efforts.
"It's my first time at an ASP world championship rated event so I'm so happy right now. I usually go for nose rides straight up, but these guys seem to be just power turning from the start, so I might have to mix it up more. But I'm here just to surf and have fun, so I'll just keep doing that," said Mothershead.
As mentioned though, the rookies didn't have much time to reflect on their efforts with the round 1 one of the main event kicking off straight away.
This saw the return of some of the legends of the sport and they didn't disappoint. Former world champions Bonga Perkins (HAW) and Colin McPhillips (USA) led the way, winning their heats and so progressing straight through to round 3 and avoiding the sudden death round 2.
McPhillips' efforts were particularly noteworthy as he had recently suffered a major knee injury and was rumoured to not even be competing.
"I thought I blew my knee out last Tuesday," said McPhillips. "Even on Thursday, I couldn't make my flight. But I straightened it out, and arrived just last night. That was my first surf in the competition area and I went through, so I'm stoked. Now I'm not thinking about my knee till after the event, it will start hurting afterwards, but for now it's all good," said the two-time world champion.
The only real major upset apart from the previously mentioned Close, came from Bryce Young (AUS). Bryce, the son of surfing legend Nat and also brother to former longboard world champ Beau, had been given a wildcard into the event by Oxbow and surfed radically to progress straight through to the third round.
"I was a little nervous, but the waves were so strong and punchy and I managed some good waves. It's so good to be here, all my family are here, so I just want to do my best, find the best waves and see how I go," said the 17-year-old Young.
His father Nat, a patron here for the Oxbow Pro World Longboard Championship, nervously watched his son surf his heat.
"Yeah I had all the butterflies of being a father, plus all the butterflies of being a surfer, because I can think what I would be doing in the same situation," said the elder Young.
"But he was so radical out there, continued Nat. "He does much more radical moves than Beau or I can do on a longboard. In fact, he is a much better surfer than Beau and I. He can go straight up and straight down."
The round was halted after heat 8 due to deteriorating conditions. Organisers have predicted more swell and improved winds for tomorrow, with the heat 9 of round 1 set to start at 8.00am local time. With the mix of radical rookies and all the established best longboarders in the world all still in the event, it promises to be another classic day of longboard surfing. For more information go to www.oxboworld.com
Round 1; 1st advances to Round 3, 2nd and 3rd surf Round 2
Heat 9: Ned Snow (HAW), Noah Shimbakuro (HAW), Harrison Roach (AUS)
Heat 10: Harley Ingleby (AUS), Ben Skinner (GBR), Jared Neal (AUS)
Heat 11: Grant Thomas (AUS), Jeremias da Silva (BRA), Michael DeTemple (USA)
Heat 12: Jonas Lima (BRA), Arni Nabeshima (JPN), Takuji Masuda (JPN)
Heat 13: Danilo Rodrigo (BRA), Joe Aaron (USA), Dodger Kremel (USA)
Heat 14: Josh Baxter (USA), Dennis Bourg (USA), Jamie Viudes (BRA)
Heat 15: Tomothee Creignout (FRA), Brett Heimstra (USA), David Kinoshita (JPN)
Heat 16: Romain Maurin (FRA), Eduardo Bage (BRA), Keegan Edwards (HAW)
Quarter finals: 1st and second advance
Quarter 1: Jackson Close (AUS) 13.25; Jared Neal (AUS) 12.50; Robledo de Oliveira (BRA) 9.50; Sam Bleakley (GBR) 8.30
Quarter 2: Elliot Dudley (GBR) 13.50; Troy Mothershead (USA) 10.25; James Parry (GBR) 7.50; Dino Miranda (HAW) 5.95
Quarter 3: Harrison Roach (AUS) 13.75; Tony Silvagni (USA) 12.25; Eduard Delpero (FRA) 11.55; Claude Maki (JPN) 6.15
Semi finals: 1st and 2nd progress to main event
Semi 1: Jared Neal (AUS) 14.75; Jackson Close (AUS) 10.65; Dudley Elliot (GBR) 8.15
Semi 2: Harrison Roach (AUS) 11.90; Troy Mothershead (USA) 11.75; Tony Silvagni (USA) 10.55
Oxbow Pro World Longboard Championship
Round 1; 1st advances to Round 3, 2nd and 3rd surf Round 2
Heat 1: Kai Sallas (HAW) 16.15; Alex Salazar (BRA) 12.85; Diego Rosas (BRA) 11.75
Heat 2: Marcelo Freitas (BRA) 16.50; Phil Razjman (BRA) 16.35; Antoine Delpero (FRA) 11.50
Heat 3: Duane de Soto (HAW) 12.00; Jonathan Larcher 4.70; Jed Morouse (USA) 4.70
Heat 4: Bonga Perkins (HAW) 13.35; Alban Meric (FRA) 12.60; Tom Lloy (USA) 8.50
Heat 5: Mathew Moir (SAF) 16.10; Nobuhiro Ogashira (JPN) 9.25; Roger Barros (BRA) 8.75
Heat 6: Bryce Young (AUS) 13.00; Amoro Matos (BRA) 12.00; Carlos Bahia (11.05)
Heat 7: Jackson Close (AUS) 15.25; Taylor Jensen (USA) 11.35; Kekoa Uemura (HAW) 6.75
Heat 8: Colin McPhillips (USA) 14.60; Josh Constable (AUS) 13.60; Troy Mothershead (USA) 10.25