South African Wildcard Creates Upset

  • Billabong Pro (July 16-26) &
  • Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
  • World Championship Tour (WCT), Event #5 of 12

Jeffreys Bay, South Africa (Thursday, July 18) Local South African wildcardentrant Sean Holmes today caused a major upset by eliminating currentratings #2 Cory Lopez (USA) from the Billabong Pro. The US$250,000 WorldChampionship Tournament (WCT) recommenced this morning with most top seededsurfers advancing through round two.

Surf remained in the 4-5 ft (1.5m) range, though shifting sections made fortricky competition conditions. Sunny skies were a welcome relief toonlookers after the past couple of days rain.

In the day’s opening match, Holmes displayed a confident forehand attacksimilar to when he eliminated Mark Occhilupo (Aus) at J-Bay in his worldtitle-clinching year of 1999. Today, however, it was Lopez who felt thepinch. The South African never found a strong third score, but nonethelessadvanced to now challenge current ratings leader Andy Irons (Haw) in roundthree.

“I was a little bit nervous before the heat, but I felt pretty good outthere,” said Holmes. “I just went out there and gave it my all and came outon top. Bad luck to Cory. He could have got me if he found the wave at theend.

“It’s always good for a South African to do well here,” he continued.”There’s a lot of competition between the different nations and we’re alwaystrying to prove to each other that we’re better in every sport. For us tolose out here is almost like an insult, so we’re fighting to win.”

Lopez, who has carried an ankle injury all year and almost didn’t compete inthe Billabong Pro consequently, credited poor wave selection with his demisetoday.

“I didn’t get the waves I needed and I had one good but missed anopportunity on it,” said Lopez. “I just needed one more wave and went a badone near the end, and there was a better one behind it that would have beenenough. I’ll just have to look forward to next event.”

Current #3 and older brother Shea Lopez kept their family name alivehowever, by eliminating VZ wildcard opponent Shaun Cansdell (Aus). Ridingthe same board he used last year to score his first perfect 10 incompetition, Shea held off his challenger to advance with a satisfying win.

“That was hard, Shaun’s really good,” said Lopez. “He’s going to be one ofthe best surfers to come out of Australia in the coming years. I just wantedto start off strong and then hold priority, and I came out on top. It was abummer Cory lost, but someone’s got to keep going. Hopefully this board hasmore left in its little bag of tricks.”

Reigning world champ CJ Hobgood (USA) dominated his match against another VZwildcard, Bede Durbidge (Aus). The Floridian began on great wave, scoring8.75, and ultimately left his opponent hunting a combination of scoresfollowing another 8.0 ride toward the end.

“Bede’s a really good surfer and he’s from the Gold Coast (in Australia)where there are a lot of good rights, so I’m sure he felt at home outthere,” reasoned Hobgood. “That round is so nerve-racking. You don’t getmany points if you finish 33rd.

“It’s still early in the year, but Andy (Irons) and all these other guys aremaking heats, so if you want to be in the running you’ve got go make theseheats here and now,” he added. “I was definitely giving it everything I hadout there.”

1999 world champ Mark Occhilupo (Aus) overcame initial nerves to oust localwildcard entrant Brad Bricknell. ‘Occy’, who won a tournament here back in1984, today kept his 2002 campaign alive over the J-Bay standout.