Teahupoo, Tahiti (Tuesday, May 15th, 2001). World number 14 Cory Lopez (USA)today defeated fellow Floridian CJ Hobgood to win the Billabong Pro Teahupooevent. By amassing the day’s highest points, he earned his first WCTvictory, collected US$30,000 prizemoney and jumped to the top of the currentASP ratings.
Conditions at Teahupoo remained 4-5 foot (1.5m) throughout the day, withstrong wind and rainsqualls occasionally affecting the otherwise perfectlyhollow waves. Competition commenced with round four this morning, ranthrough the quarter and semifinals, before climaxing during the 2001 grandfinale.
Lopez, 24, began the 35-minute decider playing catch-up. After allowingHobgood to catch the first good wave despite holding priority, he wasimmediately under pressure since his close friend was awarded a near perfect9-point ride. He answered back with three consecutive high scores, however,and from then dominated. A last minute effort from his opponent narrowed thegap, but it proved too little to late.
Having made a name for himself at Teahupoo during the 1999 tournament bycommitting himself to one of the deadliest waves ever attempted, today’sperformance and ultimate result further vindicated Lopez’s legend at theinfamous reef break. He overcame Kalani Robb (Haw) first up, then ShanePowell (Aus) in the quarters, before ending the run of Flavio Padaratz (Brz)to reach his first final since 1998. After claiming the title, he wasclearly in disbelief.
“It doesn’t even feel real yet,” began Lopez on the media boat, with a coldTahitian Hinano beer in hand. “It’s like a dream. A one-day whirlwind thatstarted in the 9th (place) round and then I made the final and won. I can’tbelieve it. I’ve been waiting five years for a victory and finally got one.I’m stoked, especially here at Teahupoo, as it’s got the most prestige,right up there with Pipeline (Hawaiian event).
[IMAGE 2]“It started off with me letting a wave go by and CJ got a 9.0, so I was alittle mad about that,” he laughed, in retrospect. “Luckily I came back andgot an 8.4, and then another 8.4, and then an 8.25 all in a row. Those weremy three waves, and it only took about six minutes to get them. I wasfreaking out when he got that good barrel at the end and came out, butluckily when the scores were read out he had a 7.35 and needed an 8.56.That’s when it hit me.
“Taking the ratings lead is a first for me, but it’s only the second eventof the year and we have six more to go,” he said of his newfound position.”I hope I can keep on a roll and hold it out. There’s a ways to go, so we’llsee how it goes through Brazil, J-Bay (SAfr) and Europe. It might make mefocus a little more and do some stretches and pre-psych for the events. Forsure I’m psyched and ready to go.”
World number seven Hobgood, 21, had been in devastating form all day.Disposing of Andy Irons (Haw) in round four, then ‘Joca’ Junior (Brz) in thequarters, he went up against 1999 world and event champion Mark Occhilupo(Aus) to post revenge for their Teahupoo final two years ago. Once past’Occy’ he seemed destined to win, but again was forced to accept runner upslot. Nonetheless, the result sees him second on the current ratings.
“Another year another second (place),” laughed Hobgood afterward. “I gave itall I had. Cory’s a good friend and seriously, besides my brother (fellowWCT surfer Damien Hobgood) I couldn’t think of another person I’d be stokedto see win it. And after the performance Cory put on that one year (1999),he deserves like three of these. I made it close at the end, so that wasgood for everyone watching.
“I was trying to put my arm as far as I could in that wave to get as deep asI could,” he explained of his last ride. “If I would have gotten more lovefrom it, I may have earned the score. It didn’t happen, but I can’t tell youhow stoked I am. I love the people here and wewe them a lot for themopening up this wave to us. There’s not many of these left in the world.
“I still think I’m the underdog even if I’m high on the ratings. There’s nopressure on me. I just want to be in the hunt toward he end of the year, soif I can do that I’ll be stoked. I still think the older guys are the oneswho should win it (the world title), so I’m just going to taking it contestby contest.”
Finishing equal third today in the Billabong Pro Teahupoo were Padaratz andOcchilupo. The 30-year-old Brazilian trailed Lopez throughout their match,needing a 9.66 score at the end. He now sits equal third on the currentratings, and with the next WCT venue in his homeland; plenty of eyes will befocused on him.
[IMAGE 3]“Even though it was a really good result for me for the points andeverything, I sort of missed out with wave selection,” explained Padaratz.”I’m happy, though. Back home there’s a lot of expectations on me and todeal with that is very hard. I’ve been doing a lot of mental training withmy trainer, and that’s been helping a lot.
Occhilupo, 34, seemed unstoppable after convincingly eliminating worldchampion Sunny Garcia (Haw) in the fourth round and then Guilherme Herdy(Brz) the next. Despite losing an extremely close battle to Hobgood, the1999 champ was still thrilled with his result and about being equal third onthe ratings.
“It was a great semi,” said Occhilupo. “I thought he had me pretty much thewhole way, and then I broke my board. I hadn’t ridden the new board yet, buta really good wave came and I got a 9.0. I couldn’t believe I’d actuallycome back. At that point I thought I had it, as there was only a few minutesto go, but then another wave came. I didn’t think it was going to be enoughfor him, but CJ was that determined to beat me he just bulldogged his waythrough that barrel and got the score. I take my hat off to him.
“Teahupoo’s been so good to me,” he added. “I’ve won, and never not made thesemis. It’s a real good build for the tour. I’ve had a 9th and a 3rd (thisyear). I’m gradually getting better and am really psyched now. I’ll go homeand train really look forward to the next event.”
Garcia, 31, never really looked in contention against ‘Occy’, losing by amassive margin and slipping further down the current ratings into eighth.
“All I can say is I’m happy I’m going home to my wife,” said Garcia afterthe loss. “When it comes down to luck, you can either laugh or you cry.Right now I’m looking at the good side. Going home to my wife, sleeping in anice warm bed, an air-conditioned room and I’ll have cable TV.”
Official Results Of The Billabong Pro Teahupoo Final Day
1st Cory Lopez (USA) 25.05 – US$30,000
2nd CJ Hobgood (USA) 23.85 – US$16,000
Semifinals (losers finish equal 3rd; US$10,000)
SF1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 24.5 def. Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 24.0
SF2: Cory Lopez (USA) 21.75 def. Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 17.35
Quarterfinals (losers finish equal 5th; US$8,000)
QF1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 22.4 def. Joca Junior (Brz) 13.35
QF2: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 22.4 def. Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 14.9
QF3: Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 19.9 def. Richie Lovett (Aus) 13.75
QF4: Cory Lopez (USA) 24.6 def. Shane Powell (Aus) 22.15
Round Four (losers finish equal 9th; US$5,000)
H1: Joca Junior (Brz) 17.0 def. Renan Rocha (Brz) 10.9
H2: CJ Hobgood (USA) 24.75 def. Andy Irons (Haw) 6.65
H3: Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 17.15 def. Shea Lopez (USA) 16.25
H4: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 18.75 def. Sunny Garcia (Haw) 7.0
H5: Richie Lovett (Aus) 23.0 def. Bruce Irons (Haw) 18.25
H6: Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 14.75 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 7.35
H7: Shane Powell (Aus) 17.5 def. Shane Dorian (Haw) 6.75
H8: Cory Lopez (USA) 24.75 def. Kalani Robb (Haw) 13.5