With more than 250 of the hottest surfers converging on the famed West Australian break for the 6-star prime-rated ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) event for Men and 5-star Women’s event, the surfing which eventuated was of the highest calibre despite the difficult conditions.
Without doubt the highlight of the opening day of competition was the return of 2000 ASP World Champion, Sunny Garcia who drew upon every bit of experience and knowledge en route to an impressive Round One victory.
Garcia, who has returned back to the professional surfing arena after an imposed hiatus, was in scintillating form with an awesome display of power surfing – producing the highest wave score of the event, a 9.17 (out of a possible 10).
“It was challenging, but really fun out there,” he said.
With an aim of requalifying for the Dream Tour in 2009, the 38-year-old is focused and looking forward to the gruelling WQS schedule, and all that lies ahead.
“My main aim for this year is to definitely requalify.”
“At the start of the year I didn’t realise how tough it would be, but the level of surfing that is being produced from all the younger kids is awesome. It is definitely going to be harder than I had anticipated.”
“Its been really good to meet the younger guys and get to know them – something I really didn’t get the chance to do when I was on the WCT,” he mused.
“It’s a lot different to what I remember – there aren’t as many big personalities and characters like there used to be. But, the kids today have so much energy. It’s really fun for me to embrace that in my surfing.”
When asked about the prospect of a considerable increase in swell size, Garcia welcomed the opportunity to compete in the bigger conditions.
“This place (Margaret River) really suits my style of surfing – especially if the waves pick up. I’m really looking forward to doing well at this event and surfing as best I can.”
Led by some young Australian competitors, the early morning action was electric, with competitors battling towards a share of the combined prize purse of US$165,000 and valuable ratings points.
One such surfer was Noosa’s Ryan Campbell (QLD) who showed greatness in the rugged conditions.
“It’s really tricky out there,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to the swell that is supposed to arrive throughout the week. It’s forecasted to get pretty big, so it should be fun as we don’t really get to surf the bigger stuff outside of Hawaii.”
Cottesloe surfer David Delroy-Carr (WA) also stood out, placing a very respectable second to Sunny Garcia and sealing a birth in Round Two.
Yallingup brothers and local luminaries Jake and Paul Paterson (WA) were both bungled out of the competition in Round One.
The women’s action was equally as compelling with Alana Blanchard (HAW) carrying on her excellent early season form to advance to the next round.
Blanchard, who is currently second on the WQS women’s ratings, was impressive in her Round One heat despite the difficult conditions.
“It was so tough out there. I couldn’t hear a thing out there because it was so windy, but I am really happy to have gotten through,” she said.
Boomerang Beach’s Jess Hickson (NSW) was also in great form and has set up a meeting with teen sensation and current WQS leader Sally Fitzgibbons (NSW) and local Claire Bevilacqua (City Beach, WA) in Round Two.
Tomorrow heralds the increase of swell, with conditions forecast to reach death-defying sizes throughout the week, which will be sure to test the skills and courage of all surfers and be a great spectacle for all.
As well as intense action in the surf, Saturday, April 12 features a massive ’Party on the Point’. From 2.30pm, there is free entertainment overlooking the ocean at Surfers Point, with The Simon Kelly Band, Operation Beehive and The Remedials performing live on stage, plus vert ramp aerial demos by BMX rider Chris Jones and pro-skaters Darren Pryor and Cliffy.
Major sponsors of the 2008 Drug Aware Pro Margaret River include Healthway / Drug Aware, EventsCorp and O’Neill. Support sponsors include SupaShake by Brownes, Nova 93.7, Department of Sport & Recreation, Surftech Australia, Odyssey 2020, The Sunday Times, Margarets Beach Resort, Leeuwin Estate, Corona, Pump Water, MR Law, Tracks Magazine, Shire of Augusta Margaret River, Tracks, Surfersvillage.com, Surfing WA and ASP Australasia.
Visit www.drugawarepro.com for further details and to view the live webcast. The event website will feature live scores, heat by heat results, daily news as well as photo and video galleries updated daily.