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10 Reasons This Could be the Best Year Ever on the ASP World Tour

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Right around the time the final horn sounded at last years Pipeline Masters putting an end to a year of unexpected outcomes and less than stellar waves on the 2007 ASP World Tour, all eyes turned to 2008 and anticipation has been steadily building as the opening event gets set to kick off at Coolangata, Australia in less than two weeks.

As we move closer and closer to the lead-off contest, the story lines that this year’s tour will be the setting of continue to look more and more intriguing by the day and promise to make this years tour one of the all-time greats. Every year the tour produces dramatic finishes, surprise winners, adrenaline fueled confrontations, the arrival of up-and-comers, and of course, mind-blowing surfing by some of the most creative and talented athletes world-wide. However 2008 promises to be special for a lot of different reasons and here are ten that we think will amp your stoke level just few more notches and make this years tour one for the ages.

1. Will he stay or will he go? – “I’m sure Mick is going to be hungry to back up his title, the new guys will be hungry to make a statement, Andy is going to be hungry to find his place again, and as for me… I don’t think I’ll do a full year on the tour so I’m just going to have some fun.” With this comment, Kelly Slater once again hinted at retirement and has done so for some time. However, he is the first to admit that he has a hard time walking away from world-class conditions should the swell chart for an upcoming event call for them. He has confirmed his spot at the season-opener, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and following that event he has pretty much left it wide open. One thing is for sure, Slater would like to go out on top. If he shows good results early on in the tour and conditions at future contests are forecast to produce, I would find it almost impossible to see any scenario in which Kelly decides not to continue on. His competitive nature is part of what makes him who he is, and if he can feel one more championship in his grasp, you can be sure that he will put it all out there in order to go out on top. Then again, with Kelly, you just never know.

2. Aussie connection – With Mick Fanning taking the ‘07 title, Bede Durbidge winning the Triple Crown, and Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow keeping pace with top 5 finishes, the Australians have a very legitimate shot at dominating and holding the top spots on tour for many years to come. They finished last years tour holding 4 of the top 5 positions with only Slater keeping them from a top 4 sweep. If you throw in Dean Morrison’s 9th place finish that makes half of the top 10 residing in the land of Koalas and Kangaroos. They each take the pressure off holding Australia’s title hopes in their hands and if Slater does indeed retire and others don’t step up, there is a solid possibility of these guys having a repeat of last years domination and once again bringing the title back to the land down under.

3. Andy Irons, Andy Irons, and Andy Irons – For many surfers, a sixth place finish on the tour would leave them content and pleased with the way that they rode throughout the year. Andy Irons is not most surfers. Irons thrives on being the alpha-male on tour, the center of attention, and the face of surfing. Finishing behind Slater and the Aussie contingent has undoubtedly not sat well with him in the off-season and you can be sure he will be as determined as ever to seize his crown and bring surfing glory back to Hawaii. Look for Andy to come out charged up and ready to rock.

4. The Chris Ward Saga – While this story-line is obviously of the more somber type, Ward’s legal issues and proceedings will definitely make it’s own waves throughout the tour this year. Already sitting it out for the first event, Ward is facing some fairly heavy charges and there is a real possibility of him sitting the whole year out. We wish him the best in resolving his legal issues and hope he is able to make it back. This will definitely be one to follow up on.

5. Jordy Smith – Smith, who holds down the 34th place seed after finishing 1st on the 2007 ASP WQS, has lofty aspirations for his debut season. Having already made a Final in an ASP World Tour event as a wildcard (JBay in 2006), he is certainly one to watch. Having recently signed an astronomical deal with O’neill, there will be the proverbial 800-pound gorilla sitting squarely atop his shoulders in the form of lofty expectations for the young South African. Think Jordy is worried? “I would say that I am looking forward to gaining experience and doing my best,” Smith said. “I am just going to put my best foot forward and hope that I can link together some good results. That might see me in the Top 5.” Doesn’t sound like it… does it?

6. Nations collide – The 2008 ASP World Tour is comprised of 17 Australians, 14 Americans (five of which are Hawaiians) 6 Brazilians, 4 South Africans and 4 Europeans – the greatest number of elite tour surfers Europe has ever boasted. The ASP tour obviously holds competitors from all over the world year after year, however with the immensely skilled and talented riders that each nation has produced, this year as much as any gives us the real chance of seeing the title going back to any of the aforementioned countries.

7. Dane Reynolds – The two most talked about surfers outside the Big 5 of Slater, Fanning, Irons, Parko, and Burrow over the past year are the previously mentioned Smith and Dane Reynolds. Both are powerful young surfers with a ferocious repertoire and as expected cut through the WQS with a fair amount of ease. By virtue of their 1-2 finish they have secured mid range seedings and will not meet any of the usual suspects on top until at least the round of 16. Although you wouldn’t be able to tell by his surfing, Dane has admitted to being torn between wanting to surf competitively and simply wanting to free-surf without being limited by the rules, limits, and politics that go along with competitive surfing. The humble Ventura prodigy had this to say when asked about Jordy Smith and the tour, “I just know that he’s going onto be world champion, and that’s not where I’m headed.” This is part of the intrigue with Reynolds, and coupled with his limitless potential he will be very interesting to watch as his career progresses.

8. More of 2007 or will conditions excite? – It’s no secret that the conditions throughout last years tour were sub-par at best. Slater summed it up best with this – “I do think it will be a tougher year competitively this year and the surf can’t be any worse than it was last season, so 2008 will definitely be a better year all around for the tour.” There are 11 events scheduled on the 2008 ‘Dream Tour’ and after a rather lackluster season wave-wise in 2007, the world’s best are eager to start from scratch and return to idyllic locations like Australia, Tahiti and Fiji with another opportunity to ride the best waves on the planet.

9. Expect the unexpected – One of the great things about the sport of surfing is it’s limitless scenarios and possibilities. Put down your cup of java and raise your hands if you foresaw the relatively unknown and unsponsored Bede Durbidge taking last years Pipeline Masters and Vans Triple Crown titles? Me either. There is so much talent on tour that it is impossible to foresee what will transpire. We can talk about Andy, but what about Bruce? We can rave about Dane and Jordy, but cannot forget to throw in last years rookie of the year Jeremy Flores. With surfing growing to be as big as it is worldwide and showing no signs of slowing down, the tour will continue to see the uprising of previously unknown surfers opening eyes year after year. Who will be 2008’s Durbidge? Who will be the tour-regular that puts it all together this year to make a run at the title? You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.

10. 2008 Pipeline Masters – Thousands of surf contests are held worldwide year after year. When it boils right down to it, the Billabong Pipeline Masters is the crown jewel of them all and everything else is a distant second. Taking place at the epicenter of the surfing world, year after year all eyes become squarely focused on this historic event. It’s the Super Bowl of surfing and the quickest way for a professional surfer to put his name on the map and go down in the history books. With last years lack of title-drama, big names, and classic bone-breaking, picturesque Pipeline barrels coupled with a tension fueled confrontation out of the water, more than ever all eyes will be on this years event in hopes that lightning doesn’t strike the same-place twice. As for myself? I personally don’t think the surfing gods will allow a repeat of last years event and therefore look forward to the Pipeline Masters returning to its heralded form, captivating the minds of surfers and its fans everywhere. Look for Pipe to be the legendary break that we have come to to know and decide who it is that will be crowned the 2008 ASP World Champion.

ASP world tourandy ironskelly slaterjordy smithdane reynolds

Posted in Surfing | 1 Comment »

Surfing Photography: Meet The Legends Behind The Lenses

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Jeff Divine, Tom Servais, and Art Brewer. Few others have captured such epic and beautiful surf shots over such a long period of time. As much, if not more, than any other sport, surfing’s photographers are constantly putting themselves in precarious positions in order to continually provide us with the lasting images of surfers and the waves they seek out world wide. Behind every shot that ends up in a magazine or on our walls, there are photographers who in many ways truly hold the story of how it came to be. From the various cultures of far off lands, the dynamics and dangers of breaks all over the world, to the characteristics and personalities of the legends that our sport perpetually produces, these guys experience it all.

Divine, Servais, and Brewer are three of surfings top photographers and Surfing Heritage Foundation in association with The Surfers Journal have set up intimate evenings with these legends over the next couple of months that will give surfers the chance to meet, greet, and hear the tales behind every shot. Details for each event can be found at surfingheritage.org.

The unique perspective that each of these remarkable individuals brings to surfing and its history is almost unmatched. One of my all-time favorite stories is Tom Servais describing what took place when he captured the shot of Cory Lopez being blown-up in the teeth of a monster Teahupoo barrel. Being frustrated by not being able to get on any of the boats, Servais paddled out to the channel on his boogie-board. As a monser set approached and the boats sped away fearing they would be caught. Servais stayed and positioned himself perfectly, while being ever so close to being in harms way, and captured the raw power of massive Teahupoo right as it ate up a charging Lopez. Servais description of the setting and lead-up to that image is priceless. While this is only a drop in the bucket of the wealth of experiences and information that these men hold, it’s stories like this and so many others that will make these events unforgettable and absolutely worth attending.

Posted in Surfing | 1 Comment »

You Know Surfing is Mainstream When…

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Justin Timberlake starts designing surfboards…

Ummmm… I think I’m going to have to pass on this one. For Summer 2008 Evolution Surf is introducing a unique series of celebrities art designed surfboards to it’s line. For the ’small’ price of $2800.00 to $4500.00, you can get one of their Unique Exclusive Edition surfboards that range in sizes from 5′8″ to 9′2″ shaped by the likes of ‘famed’ surfboard designers that include Cameron Diaz, Shannon Elizabeth, Tyra Banks, Geisele Bundchen, Leonardo Di Carpio, and of course, Justin Timberlake.

While I think it’s pretty clear Evolution is probably not targeting the average surfer with these boards, I still find it pretty comical to have them listed as designers. If you take a look at the boards on their site, it’s fairly evident that these Hollywood A-listers weren’t staying up late every night for weeks on end pouring deep thought into their designs. On the other hand, if they went another route and actually had the particular ‘designer’ hand deliver their boards right to your front door and join you on the initial session this may be something I’m sure many more of us would consider, then again, maybe not.

Here’s a slideshow with the designs.

evolution surf

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Mike Stewart Takes Pipe Bodysurfing Classic for 11th Time

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

As far as water-men go, Mike Stewart continues to cement his status as one of the all-time greats. Whether bodysurfing or bodyboarding, Stewart has continually mastered his competition, and even at 44 yrs. of age is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. This time it was without a board at the Banzai Pipeline as Stewart won the Honolua Surf Co. Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic for a record 11th time.

Stewart won his first Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic in 1991. The event is held in high regard in the sport because it offers a rare chance for bodysurfers to ride the famous Pipeline waves. “It was pretty dismal as far as conditions go,” said Stewart, who was raised in Kailua, Kona, but now resides on O’ahu’s North Shore. “My mindset was just to find waves. It was pretty tough to find some good ones.”

Regardless of what board he may be on, if any at all, Mike Stewart has continued to captivate minds year after year by constantly charging some of the biggest and heaviest surf anywhere and doing so with an effortless style. He is the only non stand-up surfer to win the ‘Mister Pipeline’, an award given to those who most completely show mastery of the waves at Pipeline. Congratulations, once again, Mike Stewart.

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Pancho Wins, Patacchia Goes Pink at Monster

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Pancho Sullivan would not be denied. Dominating the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro from beginning to end, Sullivan sealed the win in what was, although sub-par by Pipeline standards, finally somewhat decent surf following a windy and rainy weekend of tiny waves.

Posting a perfect 10-point tube ride as well as the highest heat score of the event – 18.75 points out of 20, in the 30-minute final, his three rivals were all left in need of a combination of scores to turn the tables. The win earned Sullivan $7,000 and 875 World Qualifying Series ratings points. Pancho, the much heralded North Shore local, first won this event back in 2005, a result that catapulted him onto the elite ASP World Championship Tour.

An all-Hawaii affair, second and third place went to fellow WCT surfers Fred Patacchia and Roy Powers respectively, with Dustin Barca fourth. With the conditions being what they were, it was very evident that familiarity and knowledge of Pipe had local surfers in the right places at the right times, enabling them to dominate the competition.

Even though Sullivan’s perfect ten was up there, ride of the day honors has to go to Patacchia. In a classic move with 20 minutes left in the final heat, and realizing that Pancho was just too far out in front to catch, Fred decided to paddle in and trade in his surfboard for a pink bodyboard, apparently not concerned by the threat of losing money by dropping his position in the heat. When he wiped out heavily on that, he took to bodysurfing the barrel. “The thought of injury and money didn’t even enter my mind,” said Patacchia. “I was all about the win, so once I saw Pancho had it, I was done.”

monster energypancho sullivanfred pattachia

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Victory for Trestles

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

trestlesThey came, they rallied, and they won!! In what appears to be a major victory for Trestles, San Onofre State Park, and all those who oppose the development of the proposed toll road, the California Coastal Commission voted 8-2 against the project. After hearing from both sides, the commission found it was inconsistent with the state law regulating development along the coastline.

The vote dealt a serious blow to the project’s chances of obtaining a coastal development permit, a necessity before construction can begin. The 16-mile extension of the state Route 241 toll road would link Rancho Santa Margarita and San Onofre. It would cut into the eastern portion of the popular San Onofre State Beach and end near Trestles. Anyone familiar with the area knows what a truly classic and special place this is and construction of the proposed $875 million four-lane road would do serious and irreparable damage to the areas natural habitats, wetlands, and last but not least the world-renowned break at Trestles.

This had been an ongoing battle that has brought many to be highly charged and emotionally involved, and for good reason. With good ol’ Gov. Schwarzenegger seeking to put a band-aid on the states current economic issues by closing state parks up and down the coast, this was a chance for ocean-goers and beach loving citizens everywhere to go and let their voices be heard.

The meeting had been originally scheduled to be held at the town-hall building in Oceanside, but organizers knew that a space this small simply would not accommodate the anticipated gathering. With a standing room only crowd largely organized by the Surfrider Foundation that peaked out at over three thousand heading to the Wyland Hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds dominating over any semblance of an opposition, those who came let it be known that they simply would not go down without a fight. They came, they rallied, and they won. And for now, Trestles as we know it has been saved.

trestlessurfrider foundation

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SurfboardBuilders.com: Stepping it Up and Doing it Right

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Surfboardbuilder.comIt’s always fascinating to watch the direction a company will move as they expand and pass through the growth process. Facing the countless variables and unknowns that go along with executing an idea, it’s very evident (especially in this industry) that the core values on which a company bases itself will slowly but surely surface and many times end up being the deciding factor between success and failure. Surfboardbuilders.com is no different and appears to be taking custom-built surfboards to the next level and doing so in the right way.

We first wrote about SurfboardBuilders when they launched back in July and have been watching them closely ever since. Here are a few of the reasons why we felt that SurfboardBuilders is moving in the right direction:

Accessibility – Anyone looking for a new board would be hard-pressed to find a retail shop that gives you the same access to as many well respected and highly skilled shapers that you get at SurfboardBuilders. With 18 and counting of the industries’ best (Gary Linden, John Kies, Bill Shrosbree, and Doc Lausch to name a few) as well as a bit of personal history on each, you are now given top of the line options as well as a bit of interesting insight into who it is that’s creating your board.

Value – Thinking about the countless boards that have made their way through my own quiver, there have always been a special few that become impossible to part with. Once I know the boards performance ability is where it needs to be there are a wide variety of reasons that go into making a board ’special’ therefore keeping me going back to that particular shaper. With the process used by SurfboardBuilders.com, the boards value is being built well before it even touches the water. As soon as the customer begins to put thought into what he wants from his board and visualizes himself ripping session after session with it while moving through the creation process, the unmade board is already building value in the surfers mind. If the quality and performance levels are where they should be that value will only continue to increase as waves are had and the tendency will be to return to the boards creator time after time when it’s time to make additions to the ‘family’.

Simplicity – Being a person that can easily become lost and confused when moving around certain sites, finding the most ‘user-friendly’ site for whatever it is I’m looking to do becomes key. SurfboardBuilders custom board building process is easily started on their home page and the user is taken step-by-step through the process in a simple manner until finished. Even purposely attempting to complicate the ordering process (which for me is pretty easy to do) used on their site went to no avail.

SurfboardBuilders has recently added a blog that features insightful interviews and thoughts given by their featured shapers that can end up being pretty useful, if not just interesting to read, when looking for a customized board. As they expand their pool of shapers the accessibility and additions of well-crafted boards similar to those your favorite pro rides will only continue to increase and the possibilities of what your next ride will be on become endless.

surfboardbuilders.com

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Heavy Weather, Weak Surf Putting Monster Energy Pipeline Pro On Hold

Monday, February 4th, 2008

With heavy amounts of rain pouring all over Hawai’i and the absence of any type of significant swell in sight, things aren’t looking so hot for the final rounds of competition in the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro right now. Over the past 72 hours more than two feet of rain have fallen in some parts of the State and Oahu is about to receive another ‘wave’ of rain as a heavy band of showers crossing the channel between Maui and Oahu advances northward. In order to determine a winner the contest still has over a full days worth of action to run. Being that there are only two days left in the holding-period with more rain and small surf in the forecast, things could get pretty interesting and not in a good way. It’s looking pretty likely that this years contest has seen its best days.

monster energypipeline

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Cold Water Stoke Challenge

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Around this time each year it gets harder and harder to convince myself to paddle out. With water temps bottoming out and air temps looking mighty similar to that of the ocean, it becomes increasingly easier finding a reason to pass on a session and wait for the next swell.

Like clockwork though, surf mags and sites start throwing up random shots and articles of die-hards charging snow covered beaches and coming up out of the water with ear to ear grins and icicles creeping down from their hoods, quickly putting a damper on my self-inflicted pity party I throw myself each time I ‘brave’ the icy 57 degree waters of Southern California.

A nothern-euro surf company, Nord Surf, is setting out to harness the energy shared by winter condition chargers with their Cold Water Stoke contest. With rewards of boards and clothing from their recent line, they are encouraging surfers world wide who brave the chilly temps to send in their photos that best illustrate their passion to surf in even the most blustery conditions. In turn they are seeking to end up with a wealth of marketable material illustrating the passion of cold-water warriors everywhere.

Cold: Describes the condition of low temperature or a type of upper respiratory infection.

Water: A common chemical substance that is essential to all known forms of life.

Stoke: A state of mind and necessity to survive in harsh climate.

Even though my shots of dawn-patrol sessions at San Diego breaks are highly unlikely to pull in any swag, I find what Nord Surf is setting out to do pretty interesting. The photos of waves being ridden in these types of conditions typically draw a lot of interest by those flipping through mags, watching videos, or cruising sites. It doesn’t appear that they have gotten the response they are seeking quite yet, however judging by the quality of the shots they have up so far and with the right approach to reaching the masses of ‘lovers of ice cream headaches’ worldwide, Nord Surf may just be able to capitalize on the fact that if waves are rideable, regardless of freezing temps and icy water, surfers will be riding and stoked to tell about it.

nord surf

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Pancho Dominating Pipeline

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Pancho Sullivan of Sunset Beach has become the monster trialist no one wants to face in the Billabong Monster Energy Pro men’s surfing contest. For the second consecutive day, Sullivan was one of the standouts as the second day of competition was completed yesterday. The third round and half of the fourth round were run in 4 to 8 foot surf at the Banzai Pipeline. Sullivan finished 2007 ranked No. 7 in the world, but he willingly accepted a spot in the first round, also known as the trials, and was stoked on just having another opportunity to tackle Pipe without having to deal with the insane crowds that gather there to surf on any given day.

With Andy Irons being eliminated early following an abnormal lack-luster performance, Sullivan remains in the competition as the highest ranked surfer left. Sullivan advanced through three heats on the opening day of the contest, then dominated his fourth-round heat yesterday. His fourth-round win becomes even more impressive when figuring in that the other three surfers in the heat were Rob Machado, Roy Powers, and Myles Padaca. Having surfed Pipeline since he was 12, the now 34 yr. old gave credit of his success to his knowledge and comfort of surfing a break he knows so well. The top Hawai’i finishers will earn invitations to the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters contest in December.

pancho sullivanpipeline

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