Margaret River Pro presented by O'Neill

27 Mar 2006 0 Share

Perfect waves to 1.5m (4 -6ft) greeted the 200-strong field of international surfers gathered at Surfers Point in the south west of Western Australia for day one the annual Margaret River Pro presented by O'Neill.

Under sunny cloudless skies and with a brisk offshore wind creating high performance conditions, former event champion Neco Padaratz opened the event with an ominous heat win defeating Portugal's Tiago Pires.

Padaratz scored an excellent 8.17 out of a possible 10 for a long barrel ride and backed that score up with a strong 6.5 to easily win the heat.

Padaratz is surfing in the event following a lengthy ban placed on him by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) last season. He is now forced to compete from round one at all the World Qualifying Series (WQS) events this year in an attempt to requalify for the elite World Championship Tour (WCT).

With the ban behind him, Padaratz seems determined to simply get on with the job and following his win today said: "I love surfing here at Margaret River. We seem to always get great powerful waves here and I have had many good results here including a win in 2004. It's very important to me this event, obviously more important now than maybe ever before, so I look forward to doing my very best and hopefully achieving a great result. I know it's hard from Round One but I believe I can do it."

The other big and successful comeback today was from another former event champion in Michael Campbell. Like Padaratz, Campbell has been a longstanding and highly-rated WCT surfer who at one stage was rated number two in the world (1998). Eighteen months ago he needed a break from the grind of the world tour and retired, but is using this event to make his comeback.

In his four-man heat today, Campbell finished second behind local Yallingup surfer Jay Davies, with first and second positioned surfers both progressing to Round Two. Campbell looked nervous early in the heat falling on some potentially high-scoring waves, but settled in and managed to complete two good rides to narrowly progress ahead of experienced local surfer Brett Hardy.

Relieved to progress, Campbell said: "This is the start of my comeback and it's good to get that heat out of the way and progress. It's no easier than when I left the tour 18 months ago and every heat is loaded with talented surfers so I need to really apply myself and get back into the competitive groove. My plan is to do all major events in the WQS this year and try to requalify for the WCT. It's a hard road but a great challenge!"

Other standout surfers on day one of the event included Gold Coast surfers Shaun Harrington and Clint Kimmins, along with New Zealand's Bobby Hansen.

The event runs all week with highest-seeded surfers expected to enter the water at Round Four on Thursday. Among them will be local West Australian champion and number one seed Jake Paterson, 2005 defending champion Queenslander Troy Brooks, plus the legendary Mark Occhilupo in his first time back to Margaret River since 2001 and most likely his last given his pending retirement.

The outlook on the surf conditions is fantastic, with solid three-metre-plus swells forecast for mid-week and a continuation of excellent weather and wind conditions.

Quarter Finals through to Finals of the event will run over the weekend, with large crowds assured at one of surfing’s historic and great events.

As well as spectacular competition between the world’s top surfers, the event showcases the unique virtues of the State’s beautiful South West, including Margaret River’s stunning beaches, breathtaking natural settings and premium Western Australian food and wine.

Major sponsors include Tourism Western Australia and new presenting sponsor O’Neill Australia, the world’s leading wetsuit supplier and a committed supporter of Australian surfing and ASP events worldwide. Other sponsors include Nova 93.7, Department of Sport & Recreation,

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