The world’s best surfers have congregated on Australia’s Gold Coast for the opening events of the 2007 Foster’s ASP World Tour and ASP Women’s World Tour, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and Roxy Pro Gold Coast respectively.
The Quiksilver Pro press junket this weekend featured reigning and eight-time Foster’s ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 2006 Foster’s ASP World Tour runner-up Andy Irons (HAW), and Australian superstars Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Jake Paterson (AUS) as the international press corps fired off questions about world titles, event favorites and new faces.
Slater, who has been absent from the water as of late, assured all that he is both motivated and relaxed as he prepares for the opening days of competition. “I haven’t surfed in about three weeks so I’m excited to get in the water each time now,” Slater said. “I have a bunch of new boards and I’m on a bit of a health kick right now. I’m juicing every morning and watching the surf – I feel very relaxed and in a good place at the moment.”
Although guarded about his aspirations for an unprecedented ninth Foster’s ASP World Title, Slater made clear his intention at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. “I’m here now and I’m just focused on winning this next contest,” said Slater. “That’s how you win titles – just by winning the next heat.”
Last year’s Foster’s ASP World Tour runner-up Andy Irons (HAW) is hungry to regain his former world champion form, however a current bout of the flu has the powerful Hawaiian cautious when measuring up his competition on the Gold Coast.
“The locals here definitely have the advantage,” Irons said. “They know the wave so well; they know how to surf it properly. Those are definitely the guys you have to look out for.” The former three-time Foster’s ASP World Champion won’t have to look long as he has drawn local indigenous Australian, and Quiksilver Pro Trials Winner, Dale Richards (AUS) in the opening round of competition.
Out of a star-studded trials final that included reigning ASP World Junior Champion Jordy Smith (ZAF), former Foster’s ASP World Tour competitor Kirk Flintoff (AUS) and Tahitian powerhouse Michel Bourez (PYF), it was the 19-year-old Richards who stole the win and the remaining Quiksilver Pro wildcard from the rest of the fold.
“It’s all a bit too much for me right now – I guess it really hasn’t set it yet,” Richards said. “I couldn’t hear the scores or anything out there, just my mates hooting every time I took off. I’m really stoked. I’m frothing so hard to be in the main event right now, I don’t even care who I draw.”
Reigning and seven-time ASP Women’s World Champion Layne Beachley (AUS) fielded a barrage of questions at this morning’s Roxy Pro press launch about her motivations for another world title.
Surrounded by former ASP World Champion Chelsea Hedges (AUS) and highly-touted rookie Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), the veteran competitor assured the media that the swarm of talented rookie faces will have her as motivated as ever to prove her mettle against the world’s best.
“I am really looking forward to surfing Snapper,” Beachley said. “It’s one of the best waves in the world and I’m looking forward to seeing how the girls have improved over the last few months, and especially the likes of Stephanie (Gilmore) and Caroline (Sarran) and Amee (Donohoe) and all the new girls coming on. That’s one of the main things that has motivated me to stay on tour this year is the young crop of surfers coming on because they really inspire me to be a better surfer.”
Beachley will have her first chance to surf against the future in the opening round of competition as she has drawn Roxy Pro Trials Winner, 14-year-old Carissa Moore (HAW). Moore left the field of fellow trialists finalists needing two rides to catch her after netting 17.20 out of a possible 20.
“We just arrived two days ago, and I’ve been surfing a lot with my friend Coco (Ho),” Moore said. “I’m very thankful for this opportunity that Roxy has given me and I am looking forward to the main event. Layne (Beachley) will be a tough first draw, but I am just going to keep surfing how I am surfing.”
Former Roxy Pro Gold Coast Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) is the heavy rookie favorite for both this year’s Roxy Pro and potentially the ASP Women’s World Title, yet despite the substantial hype surrounding this season, the prodigious natural-footer remains calm: “I am feeling pretty relaxed this year,” Gilmore said. “No more trials, I’m straight in there. I know there are a few expectations floating around, but I’m just really excited. I want the tour to start already so I can get straight into it and see how I do.”
The waiting period for the Quiksilver and Roxy Pros runs from February 27th, 2007. Be sure to catch all the action on www.aspworldtour.com.