O’Connell, currently rated 39th, missed two World Championship Tour (WCT) events earlier this year due to knee surgery. Today, however, there were no signs of lingering effect, as he surfed a calculated heat against the world champ to secure his best result to-date in 2000.
“There were some OK waves out there, but it was really messy,” explained O’Connell afterward. “I watched heats all morning and was pretty focused on it. I had a game plan and I knew what I wanted to do. I felt real lucky getting a couple of good ones. I was really nervous, though. I fell on a couple and didn’t surf that great on a couple, but I’m stoked. It feels good.
“I haven’t won many heats this year,” he continued. “After having knee surgery you get really excited about surfing again. I didn’t surf for two-and-a half months, so it feels good to be out in the water. I came here pretty focused. I went to Sumatra (Indonesia) just before here and got great waves and feel like I’m surfing well again. I’m really confident and my knee isn’t bothering me, so I just told myself this is the time to buckle down and try and find some results. I love France, but I’m not going to let the fun get in the way of my concentration. I do that sometimes here, it’s easy. There’s too much good red wine (laughs).”
Daltro, who currently sits in 34th position after four consecutive 33rd place finishes, put on an inspired performance against the super fast Burrow. Both started slow, but the Brazilian came alive mid-way with a 7.50-point ride to take command.
“I started bad, but Taj started bad too,” explained Daltro. “He got the first good wave, but then I scored a 7.50 and told myself I have to win. I felt good in the water. I think Taj might have surfed more powerfully on his waves, but I selected the better ones. Now I feel stronger after winning a hard heat. I hope to get a good result because in the last few events I’ve lost in the first round.”
Current rating’s leader Sunny Garcia also won his match over fellow Hawaiian Andy Irons today, moving one round closer to the elusive world title he has been chasing throughout his illustrious 14-year career. Garcia, 30, amassed the highest total of the day, as well as the best single wave score of 9.25 during his annihilation of Irons. Still, he admitted being nervous going up against a surfer he holds much respect for.
“Last night I was really nervous and I came down for a free-surf and I didn’t surf all that well,” Garcia said. “Then I found out I was surfing against Andy today. I surf with him and Bruce (Andy’s younger brother) everyday, so of all the competitors I get to surf against, I guess I would say I have more respect for Bruce and Andy than anybody else. They’re like my little brothers, they live down the street and I know what they are capable of doing. So, I was really nervous, and after my first wave today I (only) got a 4.50, so I thought this might be the one event I don’t do good in. Fortunately Andy made a mistake in the middle of the heat and took one of the first waves of the set and I got the one right behind it that gave me the 9.25. From there I just seemed to get everything, I was lucky.”
Also progressing today were good mates Danny Wills and Michael Campbell (both Australian). Wills overcame Brazilian Peterson Rosa to continue his good run of results after winning the past two World Qualifying Series (WQS) events, while Campbell, who won the last WCT event three weeks ago, eliminated American Keith Malloy in their match.
“I got a couple of good ones, but it was really hard to pick them,” said Wills after his heat. “Peterson got a good wave at the start, so I knew it was going to be a good heat.”
Official Results of TC Lacanau Pro Day Three
Heat 1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.00 def. R Rocha (Brz) 12.35
Heat 2: N Padaratz (Brz) 18.50 def. C Lopez (USA) 9.30
Heat 3: R Machado (USA) 16.25 def. R Lovett (Aus) 15.85
Heat 4: P O’Connell (USA) 18.75 def. M Occhilupo (Aus) 13.85
Heat 5: J Paterson (Aus) 21.70 def. T Knox (USA) 17.95
Heat 6: S Dorian (Haw) 17.25 def. F Gouveia (Brz) 16.65
Heat 7: M Lowe (Aus) 16.75 def. L Hitchings (Aus) 12.80
Heat 8: S Garcia (Haw) 24.25 def. A Irons (Haw) 14.00
Heat 9: L Egan (Aus) 20.70 def. R Winter (UK) 19.25
Heat 10: S Lopez (USA) 20.10 def. S Beschen (USA) 15.65
Heat 11: R Williams (Haw) 19.80 def. N Webster (Aus) 18.50
Heat 12: D Wills (Aus) 21.95 def. P Rosa (Brz) 16.00
Heat 13: M Campbell (Aus) 15.10 def. K Malloy (USA) 13.35
Heat 14: V Ribas (Brz) 19.40 def. S Powell (Aus) 18.75
Heat 15: A Daltro (Brz) 19.00 def. T Burrow (Aus) 17.05
Heat 16: G Herdy (Brz) 18.00 def. K Robb (Haw) 17.60