Margaret River Madness

Conditions: 2 to 4 to 6 to 8 foot open ocean peaks.
Nature's Call: Watch me sort the men from the boys…
Predictions: Kelly's "go shorter" tactics won't catch on 'round these parts.

Yeah, I know – it's a bit of a twist to have a State government anti-drug campaign sponsoring a surfing contest. As a colleague from an Aussie surf mag noted, having Drug Aware as the naming sponsor of a major surfing event is almost akin to Morey Boogie becoming an umbrella sponsor of the WCT. But in this day and age, with every Tom, Mick and Kelly realizing the benefits of a balanced diet of fitness balls, cross-training and salads (well, maybe not Kelly), Drug Aware actually provides a fitting representation of just how 'professional' pro surfing and pro surfers have become. Just as well too, because you wouldn't have wanted to be hungover or nursing smoker's lungs given the range of conditions on offer throughout the competition. In short, the waves for the 2009 Margaret River Drug Aware Pro cranked. The level of crank increased through the week and peaked on Friday when solid eight-foot lines were steam rolling through the lineup. Rides up to {{{200}}} yards long were on offer for those prepared to take off deep and burn their thighs all the way to the inside where more than one competitor was unluckily caught inside by a rogue ten foot set.

As a by-product of the heavy water conditions and associated broken boards (Huey's final tally was 8 shooters) on Friday, this year's Drug Aware Pro featured the first documented case of piracy on the open seas during a surf contest. Two-time World Junior Champion Pablo Paulino snapped his board in the opening minutes of his heat against Kirk Flintoff and found himself without a backup board. Not to be outdone by ill-preparation, Pablo paddled to the buoy where other competitor's boards were anchored and commandeered Flintoff's craft before going to work with the foreign vessel and winning the heat. At heat's end, a cacophony of confusion and official competitor protests ensued (strangely, the ASP rulebook ignores standard international maritime law and has no cut and dried disciplinary measures for piracy). The sanction eventually handed down to Pablo was a standard interference penalty. This meant the score for his second best wave was halved, which had no effect on the final standings of the heat – after the interference call, Paulino still managed to place first in the heat with Flintoff progressing in second. However, had Flintoff got knocked, there would have been more than one disgruntled competitor voicing their outrage. Methinks there will be a rule change or two by the next event.


The 3G's (slash slash Dannerick slash the Gudauskas brothers): I've got a feeling these guys will all qualify for the big leagues this year, if only for the PR frenzy the three SoCal posterboys will bring to the WCT. After coming within a collective bee's dick of getting on in '08, these guys are all business this year and are in possession of the extra confidence that comes with travelling as a family and knowing that Kanga Cairns and your two big bastard brothers have got your back. This camaraderie was on display when the boys questioned the judges following Tanner's elimination at the hands of a triangle-packing Nate Yeomans in Round 3. At least Tanner can rest easy knowing he out-surfed demigod Mark Occhilupo in the previous round.

The Aussie 'QS Warriors
Luke Munro, Jay 'Bottle' Thompson, local hero Jay Davies and Dion Atkinson charged and moved gallons of water in the larger conditions and got loose and hi-fi when the swell eased. Munners even managed a couple of big ol' tubes on sizey Friday. Adam Melling was easily the fastest and most Fanning-esque surfer of the event – his speed and swooping top turns and speed hits were unrivalled during the entire week of competition.

The Next-Gen Ladies
The fastest, most exciting and critical surfing of the women's event was being done by the deservedly hyped under 20 brigade, consisting of Carissa Moore, eventual runner-up Coco Ho and Lee Ann Curren. Paige Hareb from UnZud (New Zealand) throwing some heat too.


On the feminine side of the contest, ex-seasoned-competitor-now-school-teacher-in-training Mel Redman-Carr (apologies for the hyphen overload) surfed with a gritty determination all week and showed the younger girls that raising a child and retiring from professional surfing doesn't extinguish the competitive fire that ignites every time you pull that coloured jersey on. The local wildcard bounced a number of the aforementioned Generation Next en route to the final; Alana Blanchard, Carissa Moore, Coco Ho and former World Champ Sofia Mulanovich all fell to Redman-Carr's blade. How important is experience in competitive surfing? Well, Mel has been competing in the Margaret River Pro for 18 years. The age of the runner-up? 17. Just some food for thought…

Dan Ross has turned in semi-final performances the last two years at the Drug Aware Pro. This year he stepped it up a notch and dominated Margies Mainbreak all week in Forrest Gump style conditions (you never know what you're gonna get). When it was big, he rode a 7'0" so he could sit further out than his competitors and pick off the bombs. In the head high conditions during the final, he rode his shortboard (a 6'5") and matched the speed and agility of Melling with a heavy back foot that unleashed unadulterated power at every opportunity. Rossy scored a 9.43 for three monster hacks on one wave. Ross's dominance was recognized by professional commentator (and occasional surfer) Mark Occhilupo at the conclusion of the final "Don't ya love it when the best surfer of the event wins?"

2009 Margaret River Drug Aware Pro

1.Dan Ross (3500 pts, $20,000)
2.Adam Melling (3063 pts, $10,000)
=3. Dion Atkinson, Luke Munro (2625 pts, ${{{5000}}})

1.Melanie Redman-Carr (2500 pts, ${{{4000}}})
2.Coco Ho (2100 pts, $2000)
=3. Paige Hareb, Sofia Mulanovich (1800 pts, $1700)