Morrison Defeats Occhilupo To Win Quiksilver Pro
March 9, 2003 (Snapper Rocks, QLD, Australia) Rising star Dean Morrison today overcame 1999 world champion and fellow local Mark Occhilupo to win the Quiksilver Pro. The US$250,000 World Championship (WCT) commenced with round four this morning, running right through to the climax and with countless highlights in between. Two Mitchell Surfing Foundation (MSF) expression sessions also took place, one prior to and another following the grand finale.
Great 3-4ft (1.3m) waves were on offer at Snapper Rocks, with another capacity crowd turning out to support their hometown heroes.
Morrison, who was granted a full-time wildcard position on this year’s WCT following a severe head injury at the end of last season in Hawaii, easily justified the spot today. Commencing his assault this morning against six-time world champ Kelly Slater (USA), the 22-year-old gained momentum as he disposed of Jake Paterson (Aus) in the quarterfinals and then good mate Mick Fanning in the semis.
Against Occhilupo in the 30-minute decider, ‘Dingo’ set a blistering pace. Having opened with a 9.0, he then lifted the extremely high level with a near-perfect 9.73, followed by another 9.23. With only ‘best two’ counting, he created a daunting total for his more experience opponent to try and catch. As the huge and vocally supportive crowd cheered him on, the quietly spoken Morrison claimed his maiden WCT title, US$30,000, and leads the 2003 world title race.
“I don’t want to go to sleep ’cause I think when I wake up this would be a dream,” began Morrison, after being carried by mates through the thousands of cheering fans. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what to say.
“I was just stoked about my first heat this morning,” he continued. “I was up against Kelly and to make the quarters was the best result I’d ever had. Then I got through and was up against Mick in the semifinals. He’s my good mate, so I was thinking at least one of us was going to make the final. Then I went out there then and it was just like a dream. I got three waves off the bat. I didn’t think they were so high, but when I heard, it was just a dream.
“I was just glad to be in this year,” he added, of the World Professional Surfers (WPS) granting him a wildcard spot. “There was no pressure on me this event. I felt like… I don’t know what I feel. I’m overwhelmed (laughs). I’m just going to take this year one heat at a time. The boys are all just getting warmed up and everyone is going to be on fire.”
Occhilupo, who seemed invincible en-route to the final, later acknowledged surfing four heats at Snapper had taken its toll. While he still executed some amazing backhand re-entries, Occy fell a number of times and the title slipped from reach. In the end, the 36-year-old required a combination of scores worth 12.84-points.
“I feel sore, actually,” said Occhilupo afterward. “I said to Deano halfway through, ‘aren’t your legs sore?’ He said, ‘yeah, they’re cramping.’ I couldn’t even feel mine. It’s really strenuous surfing four times, especially with the length of ride here. It’s not really a good excuse ’cause Deano had plenty and ripped so hard. It’s such a deserving win and I’m really happy for him. He’s got such a big future.
“It’s the best start I’ve had,” he continued. “I’m feeling really good and can’t wait for Bells (next WCT, April 15-26).”
Equal third in the Quiksilver Pro were 2002 Rookie of the Year Mick Fanning (Aus) and Pat O’Connell (USA). Both received US$10,000 and a great start to their 2003 WCT ratings campaign.
Fanning (Aus), who posted the only perfect 10-point ride of the Quiksilver Pro, as well as the highest combined total of 19.6 — out of a possible 20-points during his quarterfinal — couldn’t repeat the unbelievable performance against good mate Morrison. The world #5 appeared destined for another finals berth, but inferior wave selection proved his ultimate downfall, needing a combination of rides worth 10.24-points.