NIIJIMA ISLAND, JAPAN — Japanese wildcard Masatoshi Ohno today created an upset as the Niijima Quiksilver Pro got underway. The $250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced with round one being split in half – heats running simultaneously on two separate banks in front of the main contest site. Eight heats of the second elimination round were then decided further south down Habushiura Beach at Secret Point.’
Tricky 2-3-foot waves breaking close to the shore were on offer this morning, while two miles along the same stretch of beach longer 4-foot righthanders peeled cleanly down the line. Organizers set up a mobile site there to the appreciation of all contestants, with four-wheel drives taxing those involved between locations.
Quiksilver wildcard Masatoshi Ohno put aside nerves to surf confidently and defeat Neco Padaratz (Brz) and world No. 4 Taj Burrow (West Australia) in a great exchange.
Having earlier contested the Quiksilver Trials on Australia’s Gold Coast and more recently in Fiji without success, Ohno lifted his game on home turf for a significant career win.
The goofyfooter was impressive on his backhand; securing a round three berth.
“It’s great,” said Masatoshi. “To win that heat with such good surfers is a really good experience for me. I did my best, and I think these conditions really worked to my advantage, so I was lucky. If they were perfect waves, it would have been more difficult for me. The WCT guys have much more experience in good waves, and I know all of them are so good. I’m really happy to make it.”
Burrow later contested round two against another Japanese wildcard Masaki Harada – after the Niijima Quiksilver Pro relocated further south to Secret Point’ and there unleashed a devastating performance over his opponent.
The West Australian convincingly advanced with a 7.5 and then equaled the best single score of the event for a 9.0 and the days’ highest combined tally of 16.5-points. A carving reverse 360 at the end of his best ride got the crowd cheering.
Replacement surfer Ben Bourgeois (USA) – who filled Hawaiian Shane Dorian’s spot in the Niijima Quiksilver Pro – made the most of the opportunity by defeating 2001 world champion CJ Hobgood (Fl, USA) and Michael Campbell (Port Macquarie, Aus) this morning.
The former WCT surfer narrowly missed out on a full-time position in 2003, but posted the day’s first 9.0 and the second highest combined tally of 16.15-points with his smooth forehand attack.
Reigning world champion and ratings leader Andy Irons overcame an in-form Pat O’Connell (CA, USA) and Japanese wildcard Masaki Harada in round one. The Kauaian locked in a couple of high scores and then used tactics to advantage.
“They were really tough conditions with the waves only breaking about 10-feet off the sand,” explained Irons. “Every wave was really quick. Pat’s really short and can fit turns in really quick, like on his first wave where he scored an 8.5 and surfed really well. I got a 7.55 and a 6.85 for the lead, so towards the end of the heat I just sat on him, as I knew if he got another good wave he’d probably get the score he needed. There was a bit of luck and then tactics played a part at the end. It wasn’t one of my favorite wins, but I’ll take it right now since the waves were really small.”
Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) elected to contest his heat with Peterson Rosa (Brz) and Quiksilver Trials winner Norimasa Ohno (Jpn), despite the foot injury he’s been nursing.
Nonetheless, the Floridian put aside any pain and discomfort to establish a lead and advance directly into round three.
“I was actually going to catch a ferry this morning and leave,” admitted Slater.
“I didn’t think it looked that great and I figured I might let another Japanese surfer have a chance. But then I thought why not?’ as I’m all the way here and I wanted to get back on my board to feel how my foot is doing.”
When I paddled out I figured I’d just stand up on a couple and not really try, but about halfway through I had a chance and then luckily it went flat toward the end when I was in the lead (laughs).
“It felt alright,” he added, of his injury. “On my last wave I sort of fell a bad way and my board kind of pushed up against my foot. It put a little more pressure on it than I expected, but overall it’s OK. I’m just going to ice it, and I have a round off now, so I get to massage it and get in the hot springs here on Niijima to help relax the muscles.”
Official Niijima Quiksilver Pro Round One Heats (1st-Rnd3; 2nd, 3rd-Rnd2)
H1: Dean Morrison (Aus) 12.75; Luke Stedman (Aus) 8.0; Masakazu Kono (Jpn) 2.85 H2: Tim Curran (USA) 14.75; Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 7.5; Luke Egan (Aus) 6.0 H3: Ben Bourgeois (USA) 16.15; CJ Hobgood (USA) 13.25; Michael Campbell (Aus) 13.0 H4: Paulo Moura (Brz) 13.5; Cory Lopez (USA) 10.25; Naohisa Ogawa (Jpn) 9.1 H5: Kelly Slater (USA) 10.75; Peterson Rosa (Brz) 10.4; Norimasa Ohno (Jpn) 10.0 H6: Masatoshi Ohno (Jpn) 13.75; Neco Padaratz (Brz) 10.9; Taj Burrow (Aus) 9.95 H7: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 14.0; Teppei Tajima (Jpn) 8.0; Shane Powell (Aus) 7.8 H8: Andy Irons (Haw) 14.4; Pat O’Connell (USA) 12.6; Masaki Harada (Jpn) 10.5 H9: Jake Paterson (Aus) 13.0; Tetsuya Urayama (Jpn) 7.1; Joel Parkinson (Aus) 3.0 H10: Mick Fanning (Aus) 14.5; Nathan Hedge (Aus) 10.75; Kenta Hayashi (Jpn) 9.05 H11: Luke Hitchings (Aus) 13.0; Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 10.25; Tom Whitaker (Aus) 7.7 H12: Michael Lowe (Aus) 11.5; Trent Munro (Aus) 10.1; Beau Emerton (Aus) 9.6 H13: Phil MacDonald (Aus) 12.25; Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 11.9; Kalani Robb (Haw) 11.4 H14: Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 13.5; Nathan Webster (Aus) 12.6; Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.35 H15: Armando Daltro (Brz) 11.75; Daniel Wills (Aus) 9.75; Lee Winkler (Aus) 8.0 H16: Chris Davidson (Aus) 14.25; Victor Ribas (Brz) 9.75; Taylor Knox (USA) 8.85
Round Two (1st-Rnd3; 2nd-33rd, receives $3,000)
H1: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 14.9 def. Masakazu Kono (Jpn) 10.33 H2: Taj Burrow (Aus) 16.4 def. Masaki Harada (Jpn) 9.0 H3: Cory Lopez (USA) 15.0 def. Tetsuya Urayama (Jpn) 12.0 H4: CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.17 def. Kenta Hayashi (Jpn) 7.07 H5: Luke Egan (Aus) 15.16 def. Teppei Tajima (Jpn) 11.0 H6: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 14.1 def. Norimasa Ohno (Jpn) 11.33 H7: Kalani Robb (Aus) 14.5 def. Naohisa Ogawa (Jpn) 11.3 H8: Damien Hobgood (USA) 15.43 def. Luke Stedman (Aus) 11.23