“We used to think surfers were…disobedient.” The Maldives Minister of Tourism was sweating and diplomatically trying to explain that the early surf visitors to these beautiful islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean weren’t exactly on Team Gold Card. “They would go on the ‘wrong’ side of the islands, it was a devilish addiction, we thought.” He paused for effect. “But now…” — he smiled broadly — “Now things have changed.” Well, yeah. None of the 180 WQS surfers on the island of Lohifushi for the O’Neill Deep Blue Open scammed their way over on a dodgy sailboat; very few have long scraggily hair (Gavin Beschen and the Aussie hipster brigade excepted); hardly any have ever tried to smuggle drugs across international borders; and none of ’em minded the impeccable four star service. They’re not rebels, dude — they’re professionals. And professionals, as Gary Elkerton so wisely pointed out years ago, deserve “good racetracks.” Suffice to say the lefts reeling off the southeast corner of Lohifushi for the duration of the contest were as sweet a racetrack as the ‘QS could hope for. Just ask event winner Trent Munro, who surfed all week — both in the contest and out — with the grace and power of a mini Elko. “These are the second best performance waves for a contest I’ve ever surfed,” he beamed after his final heat. (The first being last year’s bombs at Trestles.) Trent’s victory is the stuff of classic Aussie legend: he tore his ACL almost a year ago and was out of the water for five months. “I had to let surfing go after the operation,” Trent admits. “If I had’ve thought of it all the time it would’ve eaten me up. I think the injury helped me not take surfing for granted; it chilled me out a bit.” Indeed, as he cruised around the plush little island resort with travel mate Mick Campbell, it seemed they were both damn relaxed. “Hey, this is a holiday for me,” Mick laughed during a free surf out at Lohi’s. “I never get to do this stuff.” (By the way: Mick wins unsponsored surfer of the year award — his speed turns actually made the audience laugh they were so damn explosive and downright full of emotion. Will someone give this man some stickers?)Good thing, too, ’cause if Trent wasn’t so relaxed on the final day, he could’ve easily cracked under the pressure. By semifinal number one, the audience was sharply polarized into solid Brazil vs. Australia camps (well, there were a few confused Italian tourists who’d cheer at anything, but it was pretty divided.) Portuguese yells dominated, as Paulo Mauro’s light-footed frontside schwacks suited the slightly softer walls, while his countryman Rodrigo Dornelles just kept catching waves till he got the scores he needed. Brazil: 2; Australia: 0. By semifinal number two, the Brazilian flag was flying high, and apart from a few glares, like “won’t they shut the hell up!”, directed at the South Americans, the Aussies were uncharacteristically quiet. Somehow, Mick Campbell, who’d been a wave magnet all week, and the last American standing, Ben Bourgeois, who’d also been doing the US proud, were taken down by Raoni Monteiro. (the only guy to score a ten in the history of the contest) Trent Munro took the heat, but just barely. Going into the final, then, we have Brazil: 3; Australia: 1. How’s that for pressure?
The four paddled out; Trent sat furthest out, where he’d been catching the sets all week. Less than three minutes after the first horn, Trent caught what he’d been waiting for, and each beyond vertical snap was punctuated by a noticeably relieved Aussie brigade: “yeaaaaaahh, mate!” they yelled; and almost as an afterthought, Trent finished it off with a little air, right in front of the judges. And five minutes later, when Trent did the same exact thing (both 8-point-somethings), it was like the air got put back into everyone on the beach. As soon as the final horn sounded, two boatloads of Australians tackled Trent in the lineup and gave him a beer, which he promptly half-sculled, and — like any true blue Aussie — caught a wave in while pounding the rest of it. “That’s the best off-the-top-with-beer I’ve ever seen,” remarked one of the judges coolly, just before a pandemonium celebration erupted on the sand as Trent made his way up the rocks while being showered in more beer and applause. “Yeah, mate!” he yelled between beer blasts.Perhaps surfers aren’t so obedient after all. —Marcus Sanders(Note: After the contest, Trent quietly dedicated his win to Jay Moriarity, who passed away here almost exactly two years ago.)RESULTS
5.Michael Campbell, Toby Martin
7. Phillip MacDonald, Ben Bourgeois