World’s top-rated surfers return to Japan

The world’s top rated professional surfers will be making their only 2003 World Championship Tour (WCT) appearance in Asia – and the first of three years – when the Niijima Quiksilver Pro commences in Japan on Wednesday.

This fifth event on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) elite 2003 WCT schedule will take place on Niijima Island, off the coast of Tokyo. A 12-day waiting period from June 18-29 will guarantee the best surfing conditions possible as the top 45 surfers in the world, plus three Japanese wildcards, battle it out for $250,000 prize money.

ASP President Wayne Rabbit’ Bartholomew welcomed the news, acknowledging the history Niijima Island already has with professional surfing.

“ASP International is delighted to take the WCT back to Japan after a 3-year absence,” said Bartholomew. “Niijima has hosted several major ASP events dating back to 1979, so there is quite a bit of history. This is a great development for Japan, the WCT surfers, ASP and the surf industry.”

Niijima Quiksilver Pro contest director Rod Brooks added the following insight:

“As a contest director I think Niijima Island will provide an outstanding location for the event window,” explained Brooks. “The location is famous for it’s clear water and pure sands. I worked at the amateur World Surfing Games at Niijima in 1990, and on one bigger day the waves were very powerful and 27 boards were broken in two by the top-to-bottom peaky beach break barrels.

Normally in June we can expect small south swells with left and right and peak breaks. This is the first time the new 12-day event window will be used in Japan, so it should make a big difference to the wave quality the surfers get to use.”

Niijima boasts great beach break conditions and picks up the majority of swell in Japan’s region.

Formerly the site of major tournaments, Mark Richards (Aus) won the first WCT at Habushiura Beach in 1979, while Martin Potter (UK) clinched the last title presented there in 1989.

Japan’s best young surfer – Masatoshi Ohno from Shizuoka – has been granted an event wildcard, while two more Japanese surfers will be selected from the Quiksilver Trials, to be staged in Chiba, June 5-7th, 2003.

Tim Curran (USA), who won the last WCT event Japan hosted in 1999, is anxious to return and secure another solid result. Having re-qualified for the WCT last year after his own absence from the elite ranks, the Californian will be among the favorites.

“I really love competing in Japan,” said Curran.

“The waves are fun, the scenery is beautiful and the people in Japan always seem to make surfers feel like rock stars when you are there. I am very excited to go back to Japan to compete in this years WCT and I would love to do well over there.”

2002 World Qualifying Series (WQS) winner Jake Paterson (Aus) highlighted the strong industry support in Japan, as well as his enthusiasm in competing there.

“Japan is such a big market for surfing and most of the top 45 have a Japanese sponsor of some sort,” explained Paterson. “I personally think it’s very important to have an event in Japan to round off a complete world tour. I love the food and the people there and no place looks after us better than Japan than when the contests are on.”

Aim Create – an advertising company in Japan – own the WCT License for Japan, while Quiksilver have come on board as naming rights sponsor. Aim Create has long been involved with Japanese surfing and ran the last WCT held there – the Matsumoto Kiyoshi presents Japan Pro in 1999.

They also played a significant part in the longstanding Marui Pro in Japan, as well as the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii for a number of years.

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