After several days of harsh conditions the 5th annual Sebastian Inlet Pro commenced on a picture perfect day. Unlike the previous days that forced spectators and competitors alike to bundle up in winter clothing the final day saw temperatures rise into the 70's with light winds and a very contestable 2 to 4 foot peaky swell. – Kevin Welsh
Last Year's Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) champion Nathaniel Curran (Oxnard, CA), 24, claimed the 2009 ASP WQS 4-Star O'Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro presented by Ron Jon title today over fellow finalists, Aaron Cormican (New Smyrna Beach, FL), 26, Blake Jones (Melbourne, FL), 20, and Cory Lopez (Laguna Niguel, CA), 31, in peaky two-to-four foot (1 metre) conditions. Curran's victory at the season opener continues his reign atop the ASP WQS ratings.
The O’Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro is the first event of the 2009 ASP WQS season, with all of the series’ competitors striving to earn points towards qualification for the prestigious ASP World Tour the following year.
Curran jumped out to an early lead in the Final by issuing several beyond-vertical backhand snaps on the lefthanders down the beach at Sebastian Inlet. The quiet regular-footer's backside performance earned him a heat total of 15.43 out of 20, which proved to be an unattainable score for his fellow competitors.
"I'm stoked," Curran said. "I had a couple of weird heats today and the Final clicked for me. I was stoked to be in the Final. All of those guys were ripping. Cormican was doing huge airs and it was a fun heat."
Curran picked up where he left off last year with a victory at this year's O'Neill SI Pro.
The Californian will not surf another event until his first contest on the ASP World Tour, and was happy to get a few heats under his belt on the ASP WQS before he embarks on his maiden ASP Dream Tour voyage.
"I just wanted to come out here and warm up for the beginning of the year," Curran said. "I wanted to see how I was feeling. There has been a four month break for me and I didn't want to go into my first event without doing anything."
Although Curran's primary focus will be on his ASP World Tour campaign, the talented Californian still plans on surfing some events on this year's ASP WQS. "I'm probably going to do some select events and luckily there are a lot of contest at home this year," Curran said. "It makes it really nice for us, being on the World Tour, so I'm going to see how the first couple events go on the World Tour and go from there."
Cormican, who was a local standout throughout the event, blasted huge airs on the way to his Final berth. The Floridian came close to taking out this year's event champion, Curran, with an amazing performance in the Final, but fell just short with a last-minute attempt and finished second overall.
"The level of surfing has been sick," Cormican said. "I'm psyched, the conditions were better, and I was stoked to be able to surf a contest at Sebastian and put some cash in my pocket."
Jones blasted the event's highest single wave score of a near-perfect 9.67 out of 10 by punting a huge frontside air reverse in his Semifinals heat, which secured his first ASP WQS Final appearance in front of his home crowd. The talented local surfer also ousted current ASP World Tour campaigner Gabe Kling (St. Augustine, FL), 28, and ASP WQS standout Brett Simpson (Huntington Beach, CA), 23, on the way to his third place finish.
"I just got a perfect section and went for it," Jones said. "You've got to go for broke in those heats. I couldn't hold back, I had to claim it. I'm so happy to have made the Final at home in the first contest of the year. I'm so stoked I can't event explain the feeling right now."
Jones, who finished fifth on the ASP North America Pro Junior Series last year, has just returned from competing at the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships and feels that the level of competition at the coveted event has forced him to step up his game.
"The world's was just such a high level of surfing for kids my age and younger and when you see what they're doing you realize that you've got to blow up," Jones said. "It definitely opened my eyes, and I'm just stoked with how today has gone."
Lopez, who finished fourth overall, earned the event's highest heat total of an impressive 16.00 out of 20 in his Semifinals heat and started his Final with a solid opening score, but Lopez could not find a backup score to take out Curran for the victory.
"Nathaniel is a such a great surfer, but I would have loved to see Aaron win," Lopez said. "This would have been a huge win for him and he's a Florida boy as well, so I would have liked to keep the title in the state. I got a good wave to start and I just couldn't find another one, but it's always good to be in the Final and the opportunity to win was there, but I just couldn't pull it out at the end."
Here are the results:
1) Nathaniel Curran (Oxnard, Ca.) $12,000
2) Aaron Cormican (New Smyrna Bch, Fl.) $6,000
3) Blake Jones (Melbourne Beach, Fl.) $4,000
4) Cory Lopez (Indian Rocks Beach, Fl.) $2,000
State Farm Most Radical Maneuver Award
Blake Jones / 9.67 highest wave score $500
Long Doggers Big Dog Award
Cory Lopez / 16.00 total heat score $500
Long Doggers Local Dog Award
Blake Jones Top Local Finisher $200
Stay tuned for a full photo feature.