MARGARET RIVER, WA/Australia (Friday, March 23, 2012) - Sunny skies and picture perfect waves treated competitors and surf fans to an epic day of competition at the ASP Prime rated Telstra Drug Aware Pro today. The call was made to run a full day of the Men's event to take advantage of the clean 5 - 6 foot (2 meter) surf on offer and reduce the field to just eight Quarterfinalists.
Tom Whitaker (AUS) caused the upset of the 2012 Telstra Drug Aware Pro by eliminating the 11 x ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) in the first round of man-on-man competition, the same Round Slater was eliminated in last year. Whitaker surfed a strong and smart heat, he caught the best waves and surfed them to his maximum potential.
"There's only one strategy to have against Kelly," Whitaker said. "You've got to wait for the best waves and surf to your strengths, because he can catch tiny waves and turn them into 9-point-rides. When you surf against Kelly there's almost less pressure, because he's meant to flog you. You just go out there and surf hard."
Slater was quick to pass praise onto Whitaker and acknowledge that falling early in the heat proved costly.
"90 percent of the time you can expect Tom (Whitaker) to be on the best waves of the heat," Slater said. "I had my chances. On my opening ride I fell on my last manoeuvre and if I didn't I would have gotten a 9. I had a feeling that falling off would come into play later in the heat, because I knew Tom was going to get a good set and put himself in a good position."
John John Florence (HAW) rocketed into the Quarterfinals with a monster air-reverses that netted him the event's first perfect 10-point-ride, and backed that up with a 9.70! Amassing the highest heat total of the event, 19.70 out of a possible 20, Florence will now face Nic Muscroft (AUS) in the Qurterfinals when competition resumes.
"The wind was coming into the waves at the start of the heat and my board kept flying away," Florence said. "But towards the end I landed a couple of fun ones. I was paddling out pretty nervous because he (Andino) stomps airs like nothing, he's such a good surfer. I just decided to free-surf the heat and it worked."
Mark Occhilupo (AUS), 1999 ASP World Champion and two times Margaret River event champion advanced to the Quarterfinals today after taking out an extremely tight heat against Fredrick Patacchia (HAW). The two powerhouse goofy-footers went to battle in the afternoon wind affected conditions with Occhilupo advancing by just 0.17 of a point.
"I got out of jail in that one," Occhilupo said. "I was pretty comfortable at the start because Freddy (Patacchia) was having a bit of a shocker. Then he got an 8-point-ride under my priority. That's probably happened about 200 times in my career and I went on to lose the heat about 180 of those times. The ocean went flat and he just couldn't find another score. I got lucky."
Olamana Eleogram (HAW) advanced to the Quarterfinals after a big win over Owen Wright (AUS). Eleogram got busy early in the heat and locked in a couple of decent scores, and left Wright chasing a score that would never come.
"It was looking really good right before my heat then it switched," Eleogram said. "But everyone surfs the same conditions so I can't complain. It was really nerve racking because I know Owen (Wright) can post big scores on waves that aren't good. I got the lucky in that heat that I got a really good left. I'm stoked. I'd love to do the whole ASP World Tour, but I don't have a lot of sponsorship backing, so right now I'm looking to get enough point to qualify for the Hawaiian events."
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UPCOMING TELSTRA DRUG AWARE PRO MEN'S QUARTERFINALS:
QF 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Olamana Eleogram (HAW)
QF 2: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) vs. Tom Whitaker (AUS)
QF 3: Nic Muscroft (AUS) vs. John John Florence (HAW)
QF 4: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. CJ Hobgood (USA)
TELSTRA DRUG AWARE PRO MEN'S ROUND OF 12 RESULTS:
HEAT 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) 17.00 def. Dion Atkinson (AUS) 12.60
HEAT 2: Olamana Eleogram (HAW) 13.16 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 9.23
HEAT 3: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 13.17 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 13.00
HEAT 4: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 16.10 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.76
HEAT 5: Nic Muscroft 13.60 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 12.60
HEAT 6: John John Florence (HAW) 19.70 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.17
HEAT 7: Kai Otton (AUS) 15.14 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.77
HEAT 8: CJ Hobgood (USA) 13.84 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 8.73
TELSTRA DRUG AWARE PRO MEN'S ROUND OF 24 RESULTS:
HEAT 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) 18.66 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.90
HEAT 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.13 def. Gabe Kling (USA) 9.47
HEAT 3: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 16.60 def. Blake Thornton (AUS) 12.50
HEAT 4: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 16.67 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 16.56
HEAT 5: Adam Melling (AUS) 16.20 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 7.74
HEAT 6: John John Florence (HAW) 16.80 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 13.33
HEAT 7: Kai Otton (AUS) 14.13 def. Brian Toth (PRI) 10.63
HEAT 8: CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.60 def. Lincoln Taylor (AUS) 12.84