Defending Drug Aware Pro Champ, Tom Whitaker lost his leg rope and board today in large six to eight foot surf at Margaret River. Losing ten minutes of the heat to a monster ten foot plus wave, Whitaker lost his early advantage, with Leigh Sedley and Adam Robertson going through.

This was the least of the day’s controversies as riders snapped boards, stole boards, and generally re-wrote the rules out on the surf. Read on, it’s interesting and a little bit funny. I’m off to buy some tarpaulin for my van, in preparation for an Easter surfing extravaganza. Have a good weekend people.

MARGARET RIVER, Western Australia (Friday, April 3, 2009) - A perfect day of surfing with Margaret River serving up ideal large six-to-eight foot (3 metre) surf, seeing plenty of outstanding high scores, some big upsets, broken boards and legropes and some serious controversies.

Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Dream Tour surfer and defending champion of the Drug Aware Pro, Tom Whitaker, was dealt a cruel blow by the powerful swells today. Whitaker, who is presently rated 9th in the world and is also the No. 1 seed at this event, opened his heat with a strong 7-point ride and looked well in control of his Round 2 heat.

Then Margaret River decided to serve up the set of the day, with a very large 10-foot plus set closing out the reef, forcing Whitaker and his opponent Adam Robertson (AUS) to take the set on the head. When the wave cleared, Robertson and his surfboard survived intact, but unfortunately for Whitaker, his legrope snapped and he was forced to swim over 100m to get his back up board, get back in the line up and resume his heat.

The ordeal cost him 10 minutes in the 30 minute heat and while he remained in control and leading the heat until the final minute, he never found a decent backup score and was eliminated with Leigh Sedley (AUS/Qld) taking the win and Robertson (AUS/Vic) taking second place on his final ride.

“That’s surfing, you can be winning one event and last the next because the ocean dishes you a blow like that," Whitaker said. “We didn’t expect a set that big and were caught out of position and totally cleaned up, my leash snapped like a rubber band and after a big swim I was out of synch and any little error like that at this level and your competitors will exploit you."

Pablo Paulino (Brazil) provided the day’s most controversial incident during his heat win over Kirk Flintoff (AUS), who also advanced in second place.

In what is believed to be a first in professional surfing, Pablino snapped a board early in the heat and without a backup board in place on the nearby buoy, simply swam to the buoy and took Kirk Flintoff’s backup board and surfed the remainder of the heat.

The board worked exceptionally well for Paulino and he scored strong 7.50 and 6.5 rides to win the heat.

Protests from his fellow competitors about Paulino’s tactics saw ASP officials penalise him an interference which resulted in a 3.25 score deduction but Paulino’s scores then totalled 10.75 and he still won the heat.

While some thought he should have been disqualified, the rules indicated the unusual interference could only be penalised as an interference.

“I guess if I had have been eliminated in 3rd place and given it was my board he took I would have been really upset and fought even harder for disqualification but seeing I placed second well, I’m not that fussed really" Flintoff said.

Australia’s Daniel Ross was easily the day’s standout surfer, scoring two outstanding 9.65 rides to notch up the days highest -coring ride and highest scoring heat tally of 19.30 out of a possible 20 in his huge win over Paulo Moura (BRA) on 12.33.

“I love it here and have placed 3rd in this event the past two years and feel like I can win," Ross said. “I’m riding a bigger board which is 7 feet, probably longer than anyone else and while it’s big I figure I have an advantage out here."

Local WA surfers Jay Davies (Yallingup) and Luke Campbell (Trigg Point) are both making their presence felt here and both are through to the final 24 surfers’ round at this event. Davies again a standout with an excellent 9.33 ride in his win today and it will give the large local crowds on the weekend added interest as they head into the serious end of this event.

Other strong performances today came from Adam Melling and Owen Wright (both AUS/Lennox Head) who thrived in the big waves, South Africa’s Brandon Jackson, Gony Zubizaretta (Spain) and Brett Simpson (USA).

The waves remained good all day and the outlook for the weekend finals indicates both Men’s and Women’s Drug Aware Pro should be run in outstanding surf.

The women’s Quarterfinals through to Final will run tomorrow while Men’s Final will run on Sunday.