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A Snapshot of ASP and National Surfing at Margaret River

They say that as the years go by tales grow taller, good becomes great, great becomes legendary and legends, well, they become legends. However, with the passing of time, memories fade, facts are forgotten and before you know it, rich history is gone forever.

There's a rich history of surfing in the Margaret River region. The following is a very brief, but in no way complete, look at surfing at Margaret River.

In the summer of 1961 and 1962 Cliff Hills, Rob Birch and a few mates discovered the surfing potential of Margaret River. By 1969, the word was out. Quality waves -powerful waves - reef and beach breaks - lefts, rights and peaks were almost everywhere to be found. The Australian National Titles were held, with World Champion Nat Young from NSW winning the Open title and Victorian Wayne Lynch the Junior crown. Both surfers were to go on and become icons of Australian surfing.

In the early 1970's, "goofy-footer" Tony Hardy and "natural-footer", Ian Cairns established themselves as the benchmark surfers of the time. Cairns became one of the most influential figures in the history of world surfing at both the professional competition and administration levels. His contribution to professional surfing and surfing in the United States is immeasurable. Hardy spent many, many years as the unofficial master of Margaret River.

The Nationals returned in 1973 with Richard Harvey taking out the Open and Mark Richards the junior title. Richards was the first surfer from Newcastle to walk away as a winner. He would not be the last.

In 1976 the Margaret River CLASSIC started. Run in November, this "locals" event has been driven by the people of Margaret River and in recent years run by the Margaret River Boardriders, the local business community and Neil Thompson. The CLASSIC is the feature event on the WA calendar because it involves all ages and recognises the efforts of local surfing identities that have passed away between then and now. Hamish MacKenzie (who passed away in 1974), Creed Barnes (1989), Lindsay Thompson (1996) and Steve Robinson (2000) each have a division dedicated to them. Over the years, the event has attracted surfers from all over the country but remains an event that has deep roots for the locals.

Newcastle's Col Smith brushes past the pack for the1978 National Open Title. Newport's Tom Carroll won the Junior title and signalled the start of a 15-year surfing love affair with Margaret River. WA's Barry Young won the senior's title.

In 1980, Mitch Thorson, an aggressive young natural footer who spent his formative years surfing the powerful waves around Rottnest Island, won the National under 17 title. By 2001 Mitch was to go on and win another three Australian titles in various divisions - a West Australian record.

International surfing, through the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), arrives with the staging of the Emu Bitter Thriller in November of 1985. The WCT-B level event was organised by Tim Duff and Jock Campbell and sponsored by the Swan Brewery. There was an original field of 31 surfers chasing a piece of the $15 000 prize money being offered. Cronulla's raw young tear away, Mark Occhilupo defeated four-time world champion Mark Richards in one of his three wins on the tour for the year. Newcastle's Simon Law and American Mike Parsons were third and 4th respectively. Despite Richards going down, the year wasn't too bad for Newcastle surfers at Margaret River with another goofy- footer, Luke Egan, winning the National under 17 division.

The 1986 Swan Premium Thriller (WCT-A, $35 000) became Tom Carroll's second major Margaret River win. He defeated the reigning World Champion, Tom Curren, in the first, two surfer Final. Curren won five WCT events that year and secured his second world crown.

Victorian big wave specialist Tony Ray and a future world champion in North Narrabeen's Damien Hardman were equal third.

Tom Carroll again highlighted his class, attitude and skills the following year with a back-to-back performance in the Drug Offensive Thriller (WCT-A). One of four wins for Tom during the year, this one was in perfect two-meter waves over Rob Bain. Hardman made it to the semi finals, as did West Australian surfer Dave Macaulay. It was also to be in the final "Thriller" run by Duff and Campbell.

The 1988 Nationals are back with West Australian Mike McAuliffe winning WA's first Open Title. By 1997, he was to go and win two more National Age Titles in 1990 and 1997. Steve Williams (W.A.) took out the senior's and R. Brimms the junior. No ASP Masters contest was held at Margaret River.

Body Glove took over the Masters naming rights in 1989. It was a WCT-AA rated event with $Aus75 000 up for grabs. Lindsay Thompson and Steve White were the new event organisers. Dave Macaulay met Tom Carroll in the Final (Carroll's 3rd in a row) and if ever there was a classic show down of two goofy footers in magnificent waves, this was it! Macaulay won and became the first West Australian to win the title. Australians Richard Marsh and Nick Wood were the other Semi Finalists. The 1987 and 1989, Women's World Champion, Wendy Botha, won the inaugural women's event at Margaret River - the West Coast Wine Coolers. She defeated Bondi's Pauline Menczer (1993 world champion) in the Final with WA's Jodie Cooper and young Florida surfer, Lisa Andersen (who went on to win the world title from 1994 to 1997), making it to the Semi Finals. This was the first time that the two events were held simultaneously and was a huge success for W.A. sport.

The West Australian Government, via Healthway, saw an opportunity to promote a healthy lifestyle through the sponsorship of elite surfing events during the 90's. The Masters became the WCT-2A Drug Offensive Surfmasters (WCT) in 1990 for both the men's and women's event. Barton Lynch defeated Jeff Booth in the Final. The surf, in the six-metre range, was arguably the biggest contest surf in Australian surfing history to that point in time. Simon Law and Newcastle's Nick Wood made it to another Semi Final. South African Wendy Botha defeated Jodie Cooper in the Final of the women's Masters. Botha finished the year as the world number 2 and Cooper the number 3 - a position that the West Australian would occupy for another two years. Pam Burridge, who made the Quarter Finals at Margaret River, finally won the world crown that year after being runner up on numerous occasions. In fact Burridge was runner up six times and third, three times.

No Masters or Classic events were held in 1991. They returned in 1992 as a four Star WQS event for the men and a WCT for the women. Alan Melchert took over the administrative reigns of the events for EventsCorp. In a year that witnessed Kelly Slater start his dominance of world surfing, Tom Carroll popped up for win number three from his fourth final. Flavio Padaratz was the unlucky finalist but his performance signalled the arrival of the Brazilian influence on world surfing. His Semi Final win over Damien Hardman (26.84 to 26.83) was obviously a thriller. Carroll defeated Slater in the second semi final - a classic match up between a dual world champion and the man who would go on to be arguably the greatest surfer of all time. WA legend Jodie Cooper collected the women's title when she got past Vanessa Osborne in the last of the One-on-One Finals. Cooper's status in surfing would be officially acknowledged forever two years later when she was made a Life Member of the ASP.

1993 witnessed Manly's Pam Burridge, the "Ms Consistent" of women's surfing, collect her first WCT Drug Offensive Masters Title. Pam was the first "goofy-footer" female champion. The Final featured Pauline Menczer (runner up 1989), Vanessa Osborne and 17-year-old Melanie Redman - a local girl, who would, in the years ahead, come to dominate the break. With a solid swell raging and in wild onshores, three-time runner up to the world title (1993 was to be his 3rd), Gary Elkerton, became the first male natural footer to take out the men's four Star WQS Surfmasters title. The powerful Queenslander won all five of his heats from the Round of 64. NSW's Mike Rommelse was second with American Shane Beschen third and Tom Carroll, in his fifth Final, was fourth in the four surfer Final.

The most recent National Title to be held at Margaret River was in 1994. It saw NSW's Tony Seddon win the Open division. Seddon's name sits next to Midget Farrelly and Nat Young as a back-to-back Open Champion. Another NSW surfer and future WCT Top 10 performer, Michael Lowe, won the juniors. No ASP event was held in 1994.

Coca-Cola got behind surfing in 1995 and, along with Quiksilver, provided the support to restart the Masters. Tim Thirsk, the West Australian Surfriders Association General Manager, took over the reigns as Event Director. Barton Lynch again showed his liking of Margaret River and joined Tom Carroll and Wendy Botha as a multiple winner by taking out the three Star WQS event. Hawaiian David Gonsalves and Australians Michael Barry and Luke Egan were the defeated finalists. Tom Carroll was very unlucky not to make yet another Final. He just missed out after being caught inside at a crucial time during his Semi Final. No women's event was held in 1995.

The women returned after a two-year break with the WCT (Level 2) QUIT Women's Classic in 1996. Pam Burridge brought up her second win by defeating Cooper, Menczer and Hawaiian Rochelle Ballard in the Final. For Cooper it was the fourth time in five Margaret River campaigns held that she had finished in the Top 3. The Coca-Cola Quiksilver Masters title (4 Star WQS) left Australian shores for the first time when American Chris Gallagher knocked over Vetea David, Nick Wood and Brazilian Eric Miyakawa in the Final. Gallagher progressed through to the Final on a razor's edge having finished second, in each of his previous four heats.

1997 saw Lynette McKenzie (twice the National Open Champion) step up in the QUIT Women's Classic (WQS). Nineteen-year old Hawaiian Megan Abubo was runner up with NSW's Prue Jeffries third and young West Australian Holly Monkman fourth. Yallingup's Taj Burrow stole the show by defeating a stylish Todd Prestage, a rejuvenated Simon Law (featuring in his third, Top 3 finish at Margaret River) and an all time Margaret River favourite, Tahitian Vetea David, in the Final of the Coca-Cola Rusty Masters. When 18 year old Burrow took the $US8 000 first prize in the 4 Star WQS, he became the youngest winner, the second West Australian to win the event and the fourth Western Australian to win a major title at Margaret River.

It's April of 1998 and Bondi's World Number 11, Prue Jeffries, shoots to the top of the WQS Ratings after narrowly winning the QUIT Women's Classic (WQS) having pipped local star Melanie Redman and NSW pair Sandie Ryan and Kate Skarratt. Coca-Cola underlined their commitment to West Australian surfing, this time as sole naming rights sponsor of the men's $US60 000, 4 Star WQS event. In a Final that had a mix of raw power, style and speed, Yallingup's Jake Paterson won the title from Michael Barry, Sasha Stocker (Qld) and Phillip McDonald (NSW). Later in the year Paterson went on to win the prestigious Hawaiian Pipeline Masters. Another feature, from a WA perspective, was Dave Macaulay's effort in surfing seven times to finish equal ninth.

1999 was a classic year. Huge waves, the best surfers in the world, sharks, near drownings and close finishes. Kate Skarratt's last wave took the New South Wales surfer past local star Melanie Redman in the dying moments of the Final. Skarratt was a popular winner in what would be the last of the Quit Women's three Star events. South African Heather Clark was third and Brazilian Maria Tita Tavares fourth. Redman's year finished well though. She ended the year as the worlds number four and won the WQS. The men's five Star WQS Coca-Cola Masters Final was the most dramatic ever seen at Margaret River. Only 1.85 points separated first from fourth with Luke Egan defeating Taj Burrow by 0.5 of a point. The Final also featured a pack of reef sharks swimming underneath Burrow as he rode a wave and a jet ski coming unstuck in the line-up. American Cory Lopez was just a fraction behind in third with Mark Occhilupo fourth. Occhilupo went onto claim the world title, who at 33 years of age, is the oldest surfer to have won the title, while Taj finished the year as Runner Up.

Wet Dreams became the new naming rights for the men's five Star WQS event and SunSmart took over the women's two Star event in 2000. Manly's Dayyan Neve created history by surfing an incredible ten times to make the Final. Unfortunately, the luck did not continue and he finished 3rd. NSW's Mark Bannister created his own piece of history on his way to the title. He surfed from the Round of 96 - six surfs - to win a nail biter from Taj Burrow. Burrow was scored on his best two waves after incurring a paddling interference while the other three finalists were scored on their best three waves. To finish a very close second was a remarkable effort. Hawaiian Myles Padaca also made the Final from the Round of 96. 2000 was a year of "just reward" for Melanie Redman when she finally collected that elusive Classic title. In 1992, she narrowly lost in her opening heat as a sixteen-year old to the then reigning world champion, Wendy Botha. She was a Finalist in 1993, a Semi Finalist in 1996 and 1997 before her second placings in 1998 and 1999. Lynette MacKenzie, the 1997 champion, was Runner Up in 2000 with NSW's youngster Laurina McGrath and Tita Tavares 3rd and 4th respectively.

The Wet Dreams Masters 2001 was the world's first six star WQS event to receive a "Prime" rating. The rating attracts a 10% bonus on tour points. Conditions for the eight day event were excellent with surf ranging between 1.5m to 4m.

The SunSmart Women's Final was held in the biggest surf of the event that experienced WCT surfers were calling " Hawaiian ten foot". It wasn't necessarily classic Margaret River but it was big and powerful. Melanie Redman showed her world class ability with a performance rarely seen in women's surfing. Her relaxed, confident approach in such conditions not only gave her back to back titles but stamped her as one of the best female big wave riders of all time. Holly Monkman was a valiant second with Amy Johnson third and Jodie Cooper fourth in an all West Australian Final.

Cooper's performance was one of total courage. Returning from a back injury that effectively ended her professional career, she was pounded by ten, 3.5m waves in succession shortly after completing the energy sapping 15 minute paddle to the lineup. The fact that she continued to chase waves only to suffer a big wipe-out in the dieing minutes of the Final, was legendary stuff.

Held in 2.5 to 3m surf, the Men's final was yet another terrific showdown. While the prestigious Davis Cup (tennis) was being fought out in Florianopolis between Australia and Brazil, the Wet Dreams Masters version was in full swing. In a see-sawing battle between Brazilian brothers Neco and Flavio Padaratz (1992 Runner Up), and Australians Mick Fanning and Luke Egan (3rd appearance in the Final), the title looked destined for Neco's mantle piece. But his jubilation soon turned sour when Fanning caught a 2m right-hander with 30 seconds remaining. The resultant 7.67 score relegated the Brazilian to the runner's up position by just 0.2 of a point. It is the closest winning margin ever! Flavio left Margaret River in third while Luke racked up another 4th placing (1995 - 4th and Champ 1999). For Fanning, the win was part of a highly successful Aussie leg of the ASP tour. The Tweed Heads surfer went on to win Bells the following week - only the second Wildcard surfer to win a WCT event.

Queenslander Joel Parkinson added his name to the long list of champions with an impressive performance in atrocious conditions when he won the 2002 6 Star WQS Salomon Masters. The ever-smiling natural footer made the onshore conditions look almost rideable with his relaxed, powerful style clearly the most dominant in the all Australian Final. Emerging star Trent Munro finished second with Michael Campbell third and Jake Paterson fourth.

Melanie Redman-Carr and world champion Layne Beachley staged sensational Final of the SunSmart Women's Classic in excellent conditions with both surfers scoring exceptionally well on both the rights and lefts on offer. Redman-Carr won this battle and maintained her incredible record at Margaret River. South African Heather Clark surfed well for her third placing while Holly Monkman went home with the fourth place prize-money after contesting her 3rd Final at Margaret River.

Heather Clark made it back-to-back Final appearances but clearly went one step further when she defeated good friend Melanie Redman-Carr in a tough Final to take out the 2003 SunSmart Women's Classic. Local Claire Bevilacqua showed glimpses of brilliance on her way to third place while the powerful Laurina McGrath from New South Wales put in yet another quality effort at the Point to register fourth.

In the men's even, the "Pelt" Michael Campbell demonstrated yet again why he's one of Australia's finest with a mix of power, timing, grace and aggression. Campbell had struggled in recent times and the win was a fabulous reminder not only of his talent, but also that Margaret River provides a platform for excellence for those with the ability. American Shane Beschen was runner up and his performance was also a reminder of the talent on the world tour. The former world number two was at times awesome as was Byron Bay's Kieren Perrow and former world Champion CJ Hobgood who placed third and fourth respectively.

By Brad Cecins








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