The inaugural Rip Curl Search WCT competition enjoyed a magnificent opening of main event action at Reunion Island’s St Leu today, with the Foster's Men's World Tour top 16 seeds dominating the results of Round One’s three-man heats.

Only half of the 16 first round heats were completed today, due to an 11.30am start forced on the event by a mid-morning low tide and the fact that a forecast swell increase did not begin showing at St Leu until around 10am.

In excellent 1.5 to 2 metre (three to six foot) waves, America’s six-time world champion and current world ratings leader Kelly Slater set the standard in the last heat of the day. Slater posted a heat score of 17.10 (out of a possible 20 points) for his best two rides in overcoming Australian duo, 17th seed Darren O’Rafferty and wildcard Matt Wilkinson, the youngest competitor in the event at just 16 years old.

(No surfers are eliminated in Round One, with the winners advancing to Round Three and earning a day off. Round One second and third place placegetters advance to Round Two, where man-on-man knockout competition begins.)

The Rip Curl Search WCT provides 33-year-old Slater with an opportunity to achieve a unique milestone. In the pro surfing world tour's 30-year history, only five surfers have previously won three or more consecutive WCT events:

– Australia’s Tom Carroll won four consecutively in his 1984 World Title winning season;
– the United Kingdom’s Martin Potter won three in his 1989 World Title winning season;
– Australian Dave Macaulay also won three in 1989 and finished world # 3 that year;
– American Tom Curren won three in his 1990 World Title winning season;
– Slater won three in a row in his 1996 World Title winning season, the first win of the triple being at St Leu.

A win at the Search WCT will give Slater the honour of being the only man to win three consecutive events twice and will put him in a strong position atop the 2005 Foster's Men's World Title race.

Slater said after his win today: “It’s great to be back at Reunion, I have happy memories from last time I was here, because after the contest I stayed here with Rob Machado and I got some great waves and Rob met his wife. I’m really happy where I’m at (in pursuit of his seventh world title), and it will be something special if I can win a third straight.”

Australian 8th seed Mick Fanning, the winner of this year’s opening WCT event in Queensland in early March, almost matched Slater today, posting a total heat score of 16.83 for his best two rides, comfortably beating Brazilian 24th seed Paulo Moura (13.27) and Spanish wildcard Pablo Gutierrez (13.20).

Fanning said after his win: “I had a lot of fun out there. I’ve been here for a few days now, so it was great to have a good surf and win the first heat. It’s such a high performance wave, it’s so fun and right now it’s really smackable.”

Hawaiian Foster's Men's World Tour rookie Fred Patacchia, the 9th seed, was another impressive performer, posting a heat score of 15.23 on his way to victory over fellow Hawaiian Kalani Robb (who scored 13.00) and Californian three-time world champion Tom Curren, a sponsor wildcard, on 11.87 points.

Patacchia was happy after his win, saying: “It took a little bit of time to start the event today, but I think they made the right call because the waves were really good right. The most important thing for me is not getting a 33rd (ie. losing in Round Two). I’m here to win and that’s what I’m gonna try and do. I know the rest of the guys are thinking the same thing, but I feel good about my boards and feel good about my surfing right now. Saint Leu is a good left, kinda like {{{Rocky}}} Point (his home break), so I’m feeling good.”

On surfing against Curren, Patacchia added: “Curren is the ultimate legend and just being able to free surf with him has been amazing. In the heat I was paddling out just watching him surf and I had to remember I was in a heat and needed to focus. It’s definitely a cool thing. As a grom I dreamed of surfing against him, but didn’t think it would happen because of our age difference.”

Florida’s 7th seed Cory Lopez, was too strong for South African WCT rookie Travis Logie, the 23rd seed, and Brazilian wildcard Bruno Santos. Lopez scored 15.04, Logie 12.74 and Santos just 8.5 points.

Australian 5th seed Taj Burrow took a selective approach today, catching only three rides in the 35-minute heat, but it paid off for him, finishing with a heat score of 15.33, ahead of fellow West Australian Jake Paterson (13.40 points) and Puerto Rican wildcard Brian Toth (12.20).

Only two of the top 16 seeds were beaten today. Brazilian 26th seed Marcelo Nunes, whose boards are still lost in transit somewhere between his home country and Reunion Island, borrowed a board and managed to relegate 10th seeded Australian Luke Egan to Round Two. Nunes scored 15.5 on his best two rides, with Reunion Island wildcard Frederic Robin second on 13.00 and Egan third on 12.76.

Nunes said after his win: “I love being here in Reunion Island. St Leu is a great wave. I am happy to win my heat. I borrowed Victor Ribas’ board right before the heat and it was great. I am really happy.”

Australian 4th seed Trent Munro, who won the 2005 Rip Curl Pro at Phillip Island in late March, was upset by fellow Australian Troy Brooks today.

Brooks posted the single best wave score of the day (9 out of 10) with a series of spectacular manoeuvres, relegating Munro and Australian sponsor wildcard to Round Two. 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 the 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.

Reunion Island, a French territory situated in the Indian Ocean off the south-east coast of South Africa, has been selected for Year 1. For a surfer there is no better Search destination. Often called 'the intense island', Reunion is a small volcanic island with an excitingly active coastline. Through the swell months of May to October, Reunion's surf breaks hold long swells that deliver fortunate surfers with some of the highest quality waves in the world.

Rip Curl has a special relationship with Saint Leu, hosting the last WCT event there in 1996. That contest was won by Kelly Slater (Florida, USA), who this year goes into the event as favourite, courtesy of two dominating Fostert's Men's World Tour wins in Tahiti and Fiji. The current Foster's Men's Tour ratings leader is vying for his seventh World Title and hoping to break the three-year stranglehold Andy Irons (Kauai, Hawaii) has had on the trophy.

Organisers are extremely confident that they will complete Round One tomorrow, with forecasters predicting the swell and wind conditions will remain similar to today throughout the weekend.

Hawaii’s reigning three-time world champion Andy Irons will hit the water first thing Saturday, up against 18th seeded Australian Richie Lovett and another Reunion Island wildcard David Grainville.

1 – Marcelo Nunes
2 – Frederic Robin
3 – Luke Egan

Heat # 2
1 – Fred Patacchia
2 – Kalani Robb
3 – Tom Curren

Heat # 3
1 – Mick Fanning
2 – Paulo Moura
3 – Pablo Gutierrez

Heat # 4
1 – Cory Lopez
2 – Travis Logie
3 – Bruno Santos

Heat # 5
1 – Nathan Hedge
2 – Taylor Knox
3 – Ben Dunn

Heat # 6
1 – Taj Burrow
2 – Jake Paterson
3 – Brian Toth

Heat # 7
1 – Troy Brooks
2 – Trent Munro
3 – Travis Lynch

Heat # 8
1 – Kelly Slater
2 – Darren O’Rafferty
3 – Matt Wilkinson

Andy Irons, Richard Lovett, David Grainville

Heat #10
Joel Parkinson, Peterson Rosa, Abdel El Harim

Heat #11
Bruce Irons, Bede Durbidge, Jean da Silva

Heat #12
Daniel Wills, Victor Ribas, Bernardo Pigmeu

Heat #13
Tom Whitaker, Lee Winkler, Guilherme Herdy

Heat #14
Phil MacDonald, Raoni Monteiro, Renan Rocha

Heat #15
Michael Lowe, Greg Emslie, Kirk Flintoff

Heat #16
Mark Occhilupo, Luke Stedman, Tim Reyes