Rip Curl Pro 2001

Wildcard Fanning Defeats Wills To Win Rip Curl Pro

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Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia (Easter Monday, April 16, 2001). WildcardMick Fanning today created history by defeating fellow Australian DannyWills to win the 29th annual Rip Curl Pro in the country’s richest eversurfing event. Although not a member of the World Championship Tour (WCT),he currently leads the World Qualifying Series (WQS) and proved his place isamong the best with an outstanding performance throughout this tournament.

Perfect 4-5 foot (1.5m) conditions continued throughout the final day, witha capacity crowd on hand to vocally encourage the first all-Australian finalsince 1997.

Fanning, 19, narrowly missed a spot on this year’s WCT, but already issuednotice for 2002 with an unbelievably good start to the season. He took outlast weeks’ 6-Star WQS event in Western Australia to jump to the top ofthose ratings, and today joined a prestigious group of wildcard surfers toactually take out a championship event.

[IMAGE 1]The 40-minute final saw the lead change a number of occasions, but Fanning’slast wave score of 7 points was enough to seal his fate at the top of thedraw and earn him US$30,000.

“Oh wow, I’m just so stoked,” began a shocked Fanning. “To win at Bells isjust ridiculous. Last week in West Oz was just a dream too, so to back it upwith this… I’m just so stoked.

“Willsy’s such a tough competitor,” he added. “He’s always so focused. Tohave a final against him is great. I was just stoked to be out in the watersurfing against that guy cause he’s so good. To actually beat him makes itso much better.

“I guess so,” he reasoned, when asked if this result serves notice he’ll beon the WCT next year. “I’m just having fun and everything that comes alongthe way… I’m just stoked. I’m not really worried about the money. I gointo all the events just trying to get good experience and good points forthe WQS. Money just comes with it, so I’m stoked. Hopefully I’ll get a newhouse (laughs).”

Wills, 25, entered the Rip Curl Pro rated 29th in the world, but now leadsthe WCT after securing his best result since 1998 when he finished 3rd inthe title race. He injured his ankle at Bells during the 2000 tournament andconsequently placed equal 33rd. After overcoming the hardest of opponents indefending world and three-time event champion Sunny Garcia (Haw) thismorning, and then world number 16 Andy Irons (Haw), he ultimately had tosettle for second in the grand final.

“Absolutely stoked to make the final,” said an out of breath Wills. “Justdisappointing when you make the final and don’t win. But it’s probably oneof the best places to get second, so that’s good.

“It was hard, I just couldn’t get on a roll or get the waves. Mick surfedwell, so it’s basically the way it goes. It’s just going to be a long year,so I’m going to have to take it as it comes.”

[IMAGE 2]Twice Rip Curl Pro champion (1977 & 1981) and inventor of the revolutionarythree-fin ‘thruster’ surfboard, Simon Anderson (Aus), was on stage topresent the finalists with their coveted Bell trophies and summed up thesentiments of many.

“Danny, bad luck,” said Anderson. “You made the final and were blasting itoff the top all week. You took out Sunny (Garcia) here, who was pretty muchon fire even though he’s only surfing on one leg, so good effort. And Iguess look out world, here comes Mick.”

Finishing equal third today in the Rip Curl Pro was Irons, as well as worldnumber 34 Paul Canning (SAfr). Irons, 22, executed the maneuver of the eventwhen he pulled a forehand carving reverse 360 out of his bag of tricks on asolid 4-foot (1.3m) wave to collect 8.75 points. Despite putting him back incontention against Wills, he still needed a 7.91 score when time ran away.

“I’m just stoked to make the semis said Irons. “I’ve never really donewell here, so I’m psyched with the points being worth more here (due to theprime rating of the event).

“The wave just had a good section and I knew I needed a big score,” heexplained of the critical maneuver. “I blew the heat earlier, I fell on twowaves and wasn’t patient. Just little mistakes like that, and Willsy made nomistakes the whole heat, he was just calm and cruising, getting sets andripping.”

“I’m just psyched on Teahupoo,” he added, of the upcoming event. “Two moreweeks and we’ll be in Tahiti getting barreled in trunks (shorts). Therearen’t too many contests this year, so to start with a good result, I’mstoked.”

Canning, 25, proved to be the dark horse of the tournament, disposing ofmany top names before Fanning was able to stop him. The South Africandisplayed the strength of his backhand attack and almost clawed his way backwith a 7.75 score near the end. Nonetheless, he now holds the enviousposition of being equal third in the world on current ratings.

“It was a good heat and I was stoked to get some high scores,” said Canning.”I was watching Mick from behind and he was just going mental. Every movehis tail was coming right out the back (of the wave). He was surfing reallywell. I’m stoked, though, my best contest ever. I made it through so manyheats and beat so many good guys that I look up to and respect.

“It’s unbelievable,” he added. “A lot of confidence and I’m looking forwardto Tahiti cause it’s a lefthander and should be a bit easier for me. Tostart like this… hopefully I can keep it going throughout the year. FirstI’ve got to make a final, and then I can look for a win after that. For thenext two weeks I’m third in the world (laughs), it’s unbelievable.”

Defending world and Rip Curl Pro champion Sunny Garcia (Haw) was eliminatedin today’s quarterfinals. The Hawaiian had proved too strong for six-timeworld champion Kelly Slater (USA) and then 1999 world and 1998-eventchampion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) leading up to the match with Wills, butinferior wave selection cost him. A final ride had the potential to scorethe needed 6.41, but the judges only rewarded him 6.2.

[IMAGE 3]“Like I always say, I wouldn’t want to be a judge,” said Garcia after theloss. “I don’t always agree with their opinions and their scores. My opinionis that had I maybe surfed a little weaker and a little more cautious Iwould have maybe made that heat. I go out and try to put all I can intoevery turn, and unfortunately they didn’t see it my way this time.Considering I have a bung knee and wasn’t even planning on coming here, toget a fifth makes me really happy, though. I guess if I had to lose tosomebody, Danny Wills is a really good competitor and a really good surfer,and he was ripping yesterday.

“It doesn’t hurt to start off with a win,” he reasoned. “But I guess withfifth place I’m not that far behind and am still on the pace. Hopefullygoing into Tahiti, and then through Europe I can put together a couple ofwins and be fine.

“I got good waves with Kelly and Occy. Unfortunately the waves aren’t asgood today, so it’s a little disappointing to lose a heat where more luckcomes into it. If we had waves like we did yesterday the story would belittle different. Danny got really good waves and mine weren’t quit as good.It was a close heat, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. This yearunfortunately we don’t have Pipeline, but we do have Sunset (last event ofthe season in Hawaii), which I won the last two years. We’ll be ending in mykind of wave, so if I’m in the hunt, or leading going into Hawaii, Iwouldn’t bet against me.”

Official results of the Rip Curl Pro Final Day
1st Mick Fanning (Aus) 20.85 – US$30,000
2nd Danny Wills (Aus) 19.15 – US$16,000

Semifinals (=3rd place earns US$10,000)
SF1: Danny Wills (Aus) 22.8 def. Andy Irons (Haw) 20.15
SF2: Mick Fanning (Aus) 22.8 def. Paul Canning (SAfr) 22.1

Quarterfinals (=5th place earns US$8,000)
QF1: Andy Irons (Haw) 19.75 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.75
QF2: Danny Wills (Aus) 20.9 def. Sunny Garcia (Haw) 20.7
QF3: Mick Fanning (Aus) 17.4 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 16.25
QF4: Paul Canning (SAfr) 20.7 def. Shane Powell (Aus) 20.2

* All heat scores and digital images are always available onwww.aspworldtour.comns (Haw) 19.75 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.75
QF2: Danny Wills (Aus) 20.9 def. Sunny Garcia (Haw) 20.7
QF3: Mick Fanning (Aus) 17.4 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 16.25
QF4: Paul Canning (SAfr) 20.7 def. Shane Powell (Aus) 20.2

* All heat scores and digital images are always available onwww.aspworldtour.com