FANNING CLAIMS VICTORY IN REUNION ISLAND
Saving his best form till last, 8th seeded Australian Mick Fanning blitzed fellow finalist, 14th seeded Australian Phil Macdonald to take victory in the Rip Curl Search WCT event in St Leu, Reunion Island.
After finishing the action packed final – held in 1.5 metre (4 foot) waves – with an 8.0 and a 9.10 out of 10 for a total of 17.10, Fanning's form indicates that he is in a fantastic position to give the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour title one hefty shake.
His victory now places him in 3rd position on the rankings – 56 points behind fellow Aussie Trent Munro, who's ranked 2nd, and 322 points behind current tour ratings leader and former six time world champ, Kelly Slater (USA).
Fanning's form had wavered throughout the event and by his own admission he was lucky to scrape through some of the heats in the early rounds. But peaking at exactly the right time in the final, Fanning completely trounced Macdonald who fell on some key waves that could have given him the winning edge.
Getting off to a slow start but really driving it home with his patented ultra fast top to bottom carving, Fanning was over the moon with his win especially after having most of 2004 off after having a nasty hamstring injury.
"I'm stoked," said Fanning, frothing with excitement. "Before I came here I said I wanted to have a good time and now… I've had an awesome time! I'm ecstatic! I was a bit nervous on my first couple of waves but after that I just restarted the heat in my head and scored an 8.0 and I knew if I could get another really good one it would be hard for Phil to come back. I haven't been worried about the ratings but I wanted to get another solid result before the next event in South Africa, and well this is as good as you can get! I'm having such a great time being back on tour after seriously injuring myself last year. To have two wins under my belt at this time of the year is unreal."
Macdonald, showing true sportsmanship paddled up to Fanning, with one minute remaining in the final, to shake hands and congratulate him on his win.
"It's always great surfing with a friend in the final," said Macdonald. "Even though I didn't win I'm glad it was a mate who did. He's going well in the run down to the world title so good luck to him."
Macdonald was confident going into the final after surfing strongly on his backhand all week. He stated earlier in the day with unrelenting confidence that he was in Reunion Island to do a job – and that job was to win. This was reflected in his surfing from day one of the event right up until the final. Unfortunately "Macca", as he is affectionately known, couldn't replicate his earlier performances in the final.
"I just didn't have the rhythm when I got out there," Macdonald continued. "I was sitting a bit far out. I caught a couple of waves and fell and then I pretty much had to sit there to get a good wave but none came my way. I was really confident going into the final and I knew I was surfing good enough to win but I just didn't get the waves to pull it off."
Fanning and Macdonald were then treated to traditional dancing by some of the stunning local ladies upon the presentation stage.
Finishing in equal third was Australian Jake Paterson and Brazilian Peterson Rosa.
Despite his loss in the semi-final, Jake Paterson was gracious in defeat, giving full credit to the in-form Fanning, but he was also disappointed that an early mistake, where he let Fanning take a wave from him, cost him the semi.
"It was my mistake and Mick grabbed a good wave," said Paterson. "I had priority and was sitting too deep and I thought it was Nathan Hedge [from the previous quarter final] on the shoulder trying to get a wave to return to the beach. I took off and couldn't make it around the section and then I pulled off not realising Mick was in a good position for it. It was my mistake and sometimes mistakes like that cost you heats."
Paterson was still able to put a positive spin on his loss.
"At the end of the day this result is my best of the year and it'll give me a better seed for the next event at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa . This result has given me a bit of confidence to take it on."
Paterson has won at Jefferys Bay twice in 2000 and 2001.
Rosa was equally looking forward to heading off to South Africa to take on one of the world's great waves in Jeffreys Bay. The "pocket rocket" Brazilian had a dream run beating reigning world champ Andy Irons along the way.
"This has been a really great contest for me," said Rosa with his thick Portuguese accent. "Everyone in the event is a great surfer. I made a few mistakes in the semi-final. I'm a little disappointed, but I'm happy because it will be good for my ranking and it gives me confidence going into South Africa. I love going there although it is cold. There are some nice waves and I look forward to it."
The Rip Curl Search WCT event holds a first-of-its kind "ASP Floating License", allowing Rip Curl to run the event in a different location every year if it sees fit. A company built on search philosophy Rip Curl has developed this event so it can travel the planet, delivering the world's best waves to the world's best surfers.
This means the event is now on the hunt for another prime location to host next year's event. Rip Curl's International Marketing Director, Neil Ridgway was extremely happy with the proceedings of the day and the event as a whole.
"It was a great contest held in one of the world's premium locations," said Ridgway. "I'd like to thank the surfers for putting on a such a great show and would also like to thank the locals for lending us this quality wave for the duration. Now we will again scour the globe for an ideal location for next year's event."
The Foster's Expression Session, a most popular component of each WCT event, was taken out by the one of the globe's most entertaining surfers in Taj Burrow with the best aerial manoeuvre being won by Jean da Silva.
Burrow received $US2,000 for his performance in the "no rules" session while de Silva scored $US1,000 for his crowd pleasing attack.
The surfers now head to Jeffreys Bay in South Africa for the sixth Foster's ASP Men's World Tour event.
1. Jake Paterson (AUS) 11.00 def Danny Wills (AUS) 9.83
2. Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.16 def Darren O'Rafferty (AUS) 8.23
3. Peterson Rosa (BRA) 13.67 def Corey Lopez (USA) 9.17
4. Phil Macdonald (AUS) 16.33 def Nathan Hedge (AUS) 12.84
1. Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.00 def Jake Paterson (AUS) 12.27
2. Phil Macdonald (AUS) 14.16 def Peterson Rosa (BRA) 13.67
1. Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.10 def Phil Macdonald (AUS) 5.30