DREAMS COME TRUE AT CLOUDBREAK
News provided by ASP World Tour on 29 May 2005
THE forecast swell jumped with a vengeance today, providing an exciting and challenging 5-8’+ forum for the second round of the Globe WCT Fiji. The world famous left-hand reef break took us through as many varied faces as the 32 surfers who contested the critical quick-death round, blessing some and damning others, but for some, including trials wildcard Pete Mendia (USA) and injury alternative Guilherme Herdy (BRZ), dreams came true as they marched on to tomorrow’s round three showdowns.
Florida’s Mendia took down Tom Whitaker (AUS), whilst Herdy had the distinction of getting by goofy guru Mark Occhilupo (AUS) inthe hollow lefts, but the results for the day otherwise contained few upsets, heat winners simply those that read the ever-changing conditions wisely and adapted their surfing accordingly. It was usually the elder more experienced combatants who won through.
Mendia’s dreams continued beyond the clouds defeating Whitaker in the second exchange of the day, after former world champion CJ Hobgood had comfortably disposed of popular local wildcard Isei Tokovou to begin a long hot day in the sun. Mendia’s strong turns, linked with flow in successfully ducking for intermittent cover under hollow sections, left Whitaker needing over eight points, a typical scenario in today’s conditions.
Herdy and Occhilupo both started with long open pits to begin their heat four exchange, earning equal scores of 8.33, but the gregarious Brazilian capitalised on staying calm and founding a better rhythm. It was a sweet victory, not just in beating every goofy’s hero in Occy, but in a statement of his undoubted talent.
The Brazilian suffered a cruel fate at season’s end last year, bundled from the Foster’s Top 45 after incurring a knee injury in round three whilst critically chasing a top end result in the Pipeline Masters to re-qualify. He has obviously put that frustration behind himself, and we’ll hopefully see him back on the Foster’s Men’s World Tour next year. He showed typical forehand pit savvy today.
“ It was a great heat!” bubbled Herdy later, his blue eyes characteristically wide open with stoke and sincerity.
“Occy started with an 8.33 and just behind him I got a nice barrel, also a 8.33. Then I was back outside, and Occy got a bad wave. I paddled for the wave after his and got a nine for a nice barrel, and then I was just trying to surf and close the heat.”
“Occy needed a nine, so he tried to get a set but the waves didn’t happen for him. I got another seven for a nice barrel and was so, so, so happy. Dreams do come true!” beamed Herdy.
After a long lull and then a late wave that failed to open up, denied Occhilupo of any chance of banking the 9.01 that he needed to reverse the pending result, the ocean slapped him further a few seconds after the hooter by providing him one of the best waves of the day to come in on. It was a 9.5+. Such is the sea.
Guilherme has drawn reigning World Champion Andy Irons in tomorrow’s round three schedule of this the fourth fixture of the Foster’s Men’s World Tour. If the event is back at Cloudbreak his chances against the champ cannot be denied, but if it’s at Restaurants, perhaps Andy’s genius has a better chance of shining. It will be interesting.
Other standouts today included the stylish Daniel Wills (AUS) who had his tight and polished act honed in ousting Globe trials wildcard Luke Hitchings (AUS), and Bruce Irons who continued in distinctive form giving his brilliant best to every section that came at him against Shea Lopez who had a couple of good turns, but generally had trouble sparking up in the less than desirable waves that he was left.
Two of the better pits of the afternoon were bagged by Raoni Monteiro (BRZ), in his heat against Australia’s Troy Brooks, and by Tim Curran (USA), who basically waxed Brazil’s Marcelo Nunes, yet again looked hesitant in his wave choice. Curran’s wide-armed stance deep in the groins of a long pitching section on his second last wave was timeless, but unfortunately the judges, looking on from the reef tower could not assess what he was up to behind the cascading curtain. If they had, it perhaps might have been a still higher score.
With no disrespect to a solid enough performance from Brooks, Monteiro had one of those heats that he presumably just wasn’t supposed to win. He had several waves where he was slotted position wise, but needed some stalling tactics to properly park in the pit. On another he was indeed deep, but then appeared to bail when it looked like he need not have. It was later revealed that back there in the green room, he had heard and felt the sickening sound of the entire bottom of his board de-laminating, foam exposed from nose to tail. No wonder he looked like he put the brakes on.
At heat’s end, Monteiro, obviously having swapped boards, needed an 8.83, but the hooter blew. He paddled away from the take-off zone, but then commentator Mike Parsons announced ‘Sorry Raoni, that was an accident. You have another 15 seconds!” Less than 10 seconds later, a beautiful specimen of a wave, peaked and peeled from where he had been, but alas he was by that stage out of position, and it was all over. The automatic electronic timer had inexplicably malfunctioned.
Whilst the wind and ever changing tide had conditions varying all day long at Cloudbreak, the wind settled abruptly in the midst of the Brooks/Monteiro clash. In the space of five minutes the lineup had an oily surface and the waves were transformed from being mushburger-ish on the bigger sets, to peeling perfection.
After a prolonged lull, which saw the Brooks and Monteiro a long way up the reef, a three-wave set came through at 2.27pm. The surface of the first wave was pristine glass, but it failed to pitch as it’s capable until the solid 6-8’ monster hit the inside reef and yawned through a couple of sections. The next wave was an absolute A-grade Cloudbreak specimen, a gaping womb grinding from way outside to dry reef in front of the judges tower. Unfortunately no one was on it, but it was a beauty to behold just the same.
The following heat between Hawaii’s Kalani Robb and Australia’s Lee Winkler, saw the Coffs Harbour nugget transformed to gold. It was the heat of the day, a thrilling blow for blow exchange that had the spectators hooting. The open waves were hard to find, but the duo hunted relentlessly, alternating coverage with totally committed critical hits. It was awesome.
”I was hoping before my heat that Kalani was ready for a big heat!” said Winkler after the stunning exchange. “It was good because I’ve been training really hard, and my mindset is totally different this season to what it’s been the last three or four years. It’s been good to toughen myself up, and know when you get out in a heat that you’ve done the positive work and can’t really ask for much more at the end of the day…if you’ve put your best in, you can’t be too bummed with it. That’s the way it’s been for me over the last four months or so”.
Chasing the lead in need of a 6.91, one of Winkler’s hits prompted comical commentator Brad Gerlach to declare “…Well, that was fair in the kisser!” However, on a day and in a location where it’s all about the barrel, he needed more. Kalani lengthened his lead on the next wave, leaving Wink in want of 7.20.
After the dual cavalcade of hits from the talented pair, Winkler finally grabbed the seesawing lead after backing up two more upside-down smacks with one of the most dramatic, gutsy, and downright suicidal floaters ever witnessed. He didn’t make it, but he left no doubt that his five foot whatever stature is about nine parts testosterone. He got the score, Kalani left hunting 8.20 with 50 seconds remaining. It was game, set and match.
“In Tahiti I had a heat against Cj and I had a bung thigh, and there was one turn on my last wave, a floater, that I had the opportunity to go, but I didn’t go it because I didn’t think my thigh would take the force at all,” commented Winkler on his motivation to take on that huge final section that he committed to this afternoon.
“I only needed to get a 5.5 on that wave, and I would have got it if I’d done the floater, so I thought this time, though it was a lot bigger floater, I felt I was going to have to go for it, so I did. I think that if I hadn’t gone for it, the judges might not have given me the score.”
“I think I showed that sort of commitment the whole heat, that I really wanted to win. I pushed all my turns as hard as I could, and they weren’t small waves either, so I was pretty happy!” said Wink heading back to Tavarua for a well earned cold Fosters.
We’ll be seeing more of that commitment in round three tomorrow from the remaining 32 surfers in the event. The swell is expected to dip slightly tomorrow, and the wind drop off as well, so we should see a major clean up in conditions. We should be in for another epic day.
The next call for the Globe WCT Fiji will be at 6.30am tomorrow (Monday morning May 30th).
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