SOMEWHERE, Puerto Rico - The world's best surfers have travelled from around the globe to a corner of the Caribbean where history will be made this week for the sixth instalment of the Rip Curl Pro Search event.
Stop No. 9 of 10 on the ASP World Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico will be the first elite tour event held in the Caribbean and may have the honor of hosting current ASP World No. 1 Kelly Slater (USA), 38, clinch an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title.
For Slater to clinch his historic 10th ASP Crown at the Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico, the following scenarios must occur:
- If Slater finishes Equal 3rd or better, he clinches the 2010 ASP World Title.
- If Slater finishes Equal 5th or Equal 9th, Smith must win the event to send the ASP World Title Race to Hawaii.
- If Slater finishes Equal 13th or Equal 25th, Smith must finish Equal 3rd or better to send the ASP World Title Race to Hawaii.
- Essentially, if Smith fails to finish higher than Equal 5th, Slater claims the 2010 ASP World Title.
Jordy Smith (ZAF), 22, current ASP World No. 2, is the only surfer standing in the Floridian’s way, but the prodigious natural-footer is guarded when discussing his aspirations in Puerto Rico.
“My goal is the same it has been all season – make heats,” Smith said. “The rest is out of my hands.”
Although Smith has little experience in the Caribbean, the South African is excited about the potential for high-performance venues and the concept of the Rip Curl Search event.
“I have never been to Puerto Rico,” Smith said. “I hear the waves are really good with tons of ramps. I think it will suit my surfing. The Search event is new and fresh and the advantage is to the versatile surfers. I’m stoked on the concept.”
Smith will battle Brett Simpson (USA), 25, and Trials Winner Dylan Graves (PRI), 24, in the opening round of competition.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 29, reigning ASP World Champion, had his 2010 title campaign cut short with an uncharacteristic early loss at the last stop in Portugal.
“Yeah, that was a tough heat (in Portugal) but that’s the way it goes against the best surfers,” Fanning said. “I am really excited for the end of the year and will be looking to win more events and put a good exclamation point on the year.”
A winner of two previous Rip Curl Pro Search events (Reunion Island in 2005 and Portugal in 2009), Fanning is one of the more versatile surfers on tour and excels at new venues.
“I just get excited to go to new places,” Fanning said. “Being observant of the conditions and the wave itself is a big thing. I’ve never been to Puerto Rico but from what I hear from the local boys like Brian Toth, it’s a really fun place.”
“The event is a good break up to the year,” Fanning continued. “Each year, the boys find out where we are going and everyone tries and get as much info on the place as possible. It really puts the excitement into the year as everywhere else is the same place each year.”
Fanning faces Patrick Gudauskas (USA), 24, and Gabe Kling (USA), 30, in Round 1 of the Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico.
Andy Irons (HAW), 32, former three-time ASP World Champion and past two-time winner of the Rip Curl Pro Search event (Mexico in 2006 and Chile in 2007), could be a relative dark horse in this season’s event, citing his ability to familiarize himself with new venues quickly as a major advantage.
“I think the Search events are really unique in that it’s in a different spot every year,” Irons said. “I’m kind of lucky that I have a knack in figuring out waves in one or two sessions. I get really excited about going to a new place and that keeps me really motivated for the comp. I’ve never been to Puerto Rico but I can’t wait to put on some trunks and get some fun barrels hopefully.”
Taking a sabbatical from full-time competition in 2009, Irons has returned to form this season, collecting an emotional win in Tahiti and currently sitting at ASP World No. 16.
“I came into this year just wanting to make the cuts,” Irons said. “It is more of a transition year for me getting back on tour and all. The win in Tahiti has really got me fired up and I feel like I’m getting the hang of it again.”
Irons will take on Owen Wright (AUS), 20, and Luke Stedman (AUS), 34, in his opening round bout.
Taj Burrow (AUS), 32, current ASP World No. 4, was another contender who saw his 2010 ASP World Title campaign end with an early exit in the last event in Portugal, but the iconic Western Australian has refocused his energies on performing well in the back portion of the year.
“That loss in Portugal was tough to swallow,” Burrow said. “The Europe leg was brutal for me and I’m out of the race 100%. It’s frustrating to not have a shot at a Title with two events left. Puerto Rico and Hawaii are the main focus for me now, the Triple Crown and defending Pipe. Hopefully locking in at least one win from the next two events and finishing the year as high up as I can.”
With the pressures of the ASP World Title came now a nonissue, Burrow is excited about the ability to cut loose in exceptional waves.
“I’ve never been to Puerto Rico but it sounds loony,” Burrow said. “I’m getting whispers of a slabby right reef which sounds too good to be true. I’m looking forward to peeling off the rubber and getting back in trunks as well, the water is suppose to be pretty warm down there. The Search event is an unbelievable concept, going to new places and surfing perfect waves is what makes this tour so damn good. They have pretty much nailed it with locations over the past five years. It’s always exciting when we find out the next destination.”
Burrow will take on Tiago Pires (PRT), 30, and Luke Munro (AUS), 27, in Round 1 of competition.
The ASP Top 17 have joined the men on the island for Event No. 7 of 8 on the 2010 ASP Women’s World Tour, the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search Puerto Rico.
In addition to the men’s title possibilities, current ASP World No. 1 Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 22, also has the potential to clinch her fourth consecutive ASP Women’s World Title.
For Gilmore to clinch her fourth ASP Women’s World Title at the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search Puerto Rico, the following scenarios must occur:
- If Gilmore finishes Equal 3rd or better, she clinches the 2010 ASP Women’s World Title.
- If Gilmore finishes Equal 5th, Fitzgibbons needs to win the event to send the 2010 ASP Women’s World Title Race to Hawaii.
- If Gilmore finishes Equal 9th or Equal 17th, Fitzgibbons needs to finish Runner-Up or better and/or Moore needs to win to send the 2010 ASP Women’s World Title Race to Hawaii.
- Essentially, if Fitzgibbons fails to finish higher than Equal 3rd and/or Moore fails to win the event, Gilmore will clinch the 2010 ASP Women’s World Title.
Coco Ho (HAW), 19, current ASP Women’s World No. 7 and defending Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search winner, has yet to repeat the form exhibited in her rookie season last year, but the young natural-footer is ready to apply her comprehensive approach to the power and variety of the Puerto Rico lineups.
“Your ability to adapt is the whole concept of the Search event,” Ho said. “I guess coming from Hawaii, we have a lot of perfect reef waves but then traveling the past years doing the Star events, I really learned to adapt to any trying conditions.”
Like the majority of the world’s best surfers, Ho has never been to Puerto Rico, but looks forward to getting down to business in the tropical climate.
“I have never been there,” Ho said. “But I just arrived last night and it’s warm and tropical. It’s so pretty and a lot of aspects remind me of home. I think the Search event is amazing! It’s one of the most fun events every year for sure. The excitement of going somewhere new, learning about the place, pushing yourself in new seas/conditions, and the thrill of not knowing what exactly to expect. It’s so fun! Thanks to Rip Curl for involving the Girls in this.”
Ho will face Carissa Moore (HAW), 18, and Lee Ann Curren (FRA), 21, in the opening round of the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search Puerto Rico.
Surfline, official forecaster for the Rip Curl Pro Puerto Rico, are calling for plenty of NE/ENE trade swell is expected for Puerto Rico on Saturday. The surf is projected to come down a notch or two into Sunday but fun size surf is expected to continue then. NW/NNW becoming N swell mixes in with the lingering trade swell Monday into Tuesday of next week.
RIP CURL PRO SEARCH PUERTO RICO ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 2: Dane Reynolds (USA), Taylor Knox (USA), Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT), Luke Munro (AUS)
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS), Patrick Gudauskas (USA), Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Brett Simpson (USA), Dylan Graves (PRI)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA), Daniel Ross (AUS), Dillon Perillo (USA)
Heat 7: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 8: Owen Wright (AUS), Andy Irons (HAW), Luke Stedman (AUS)
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Bobby Martinez (USA), Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 10: Damien Hobgood (USA), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 11: C.J. Hobgood (USA), Jadson Andre (BRA), Tom Whitaker (AUS)
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF), Chris Davidson (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS)
RIP CURL WOMEN’S PRO SEARCH PUERTO RICO ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Chelsea Hedges (AUS), Melanie Bartels (HAW), Bruna Schmitz (BRA)
Heat 2: Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Paige Hareb (NZL), Nikita Robb (ZAF)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Rosanne Hodge (ZAF), Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Claire Bevilacqua (AUS), Bethany Hamilton (HAW)
Heat 5: Silvana Lima (BRA), Rebecca Woods (AUS), Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 6: Carissa Moore (HAW), Coco Ho (HAW), Lee Ann Curren (FRA)