History of the OP Pro® Surfing Championship 1982-1995

1982: The inaugural OP Pro Surfing Championship had solid six-foot sets during the main event, a $34,000 purse and International Professional Surfing (IPS) points. Over 50,000 spectators witness the OP Pro. Australian Cheyne Horan performs tube rides and a backhand 360 to defeat South African Shaun Tomson for first place. Hawaii's Becky Benson defeats Australian Pam Burridge to win the Women's Division Title. American Tom Curren enters his rookie year. Priority buoy used for the first time in a professional competition and becomes standard marker at pro events. "At last California was treated to a fullblown professional event with good surf, sizzling sunshine and all the sophisticated trappings of a world-class event." Surfer Magazine.

1983: Crowd tops 100,000, unprecedented for a Mainland event. Tom Curren beats Australian Joey Buran with aerials, 360's and radical direction changes in the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour's first allCalifornia final. The "Huntington Hop" is born, a maneuver used to get the surfer over the mid-point sand bar. Californian Kim Mearig, of Carpenteria, takes the women's title beating Liz Benavidez of Hermosa Beach, Calif., on Mearig's way to capturing the World Title in the women's division. David Nuuhiwa takes first place in the "Legends" specialty event. First ASP event for Op. Single A-rated. Total prize package, $50,000.

1984: OP Pro becomes the United States' showcase event. $70,000 in cash and prizes makes this event the second richest surfing contest in the world. Surf reached six-foot power swells. An ASP A-rated event. Tom Curren scores a perfect 10.0 and five 9.5s to again take top honors beating Cheyne Horan in the final. Newcomer, Frieda Zamba , Flagler Beach, Florida, defeats Kim Mearig to win her first OP Pro title. More than 100,000 spectators view the competition.

1985: OP Pro becomes ASP AA-rated event with $40,000 purse. Hurricane Olaf sends 15-foot "Big Wednesday" sets during the OP Pro Trials. Australia's Mark Occhilupo comes from behind to beat Tom Curren in 3-6-foot surf during the main event. The match-up is considered one of the greatest surfing finals ever held. Curren goes on to win his first World Championship Title. Australian Jodi Cooper beats Californian Jorja Smith in the women's division.

1986: Mark Occhilupo noses out countryman Glen "Mr. X" Winton to take his second OP Pro title. Curren loses to "Occy," takes equal thirds and is on his way to a second world championship title. Hurricane Javier sends in six- to eightfoot sets with occasional 10-foot sets for the event. An AA-rated event with $55,000 in prize money. Frieda Zamba defeats Pam Burridge for her second OP Pro title.

1987: Hurricane Hillary pumps six-foot sets into the OP Pro. Purse is upped to $70,000 with AA-rated points. Hawaiian Sunny Garcia blazes through trials to meet Australian Barton Lynch in the finals. Lynch becomes the third Australian to win the title in the men's division by defeating Garcia in six-foot sets during the main event. After this win, Lynch's popularity in America soars. South African Wendy Botha beats Frieda Zamba on Botha's drive toward a world championship title. Over 130,000 fans attend the OP Pro Surfing Championship.

1988: Tom Curren beats Australian Gary Elkerton to capture his third OP Pro title. Again, more than 130,000 surfing fans watch the week-long event. Pontiac signs on as co-sponsor for the OP Pro. The Huntington Beach Pier is condemned because of weakened structure from storm damage. The pier is scheduled to be torn down and replaced by 1992. Jorja Smith makes it an all California sweep by beating Pam Burridge two straight heats in the women's main event. Total purse is $70,000.

1989: Richie Collins of Newport Beach, California, uses maneuvers like extended floaters to beat Tom Curren in the main event. Collins beats Curren by only 2.2 points. Frieda Zamba overcomes a bout of the flu to take the OP Pro title back by defeating Kim Mearig in the women's finals. OP hosts inaugural OP Junior amateur event. Florida's Kelly Slater takes top honors and turns pro later in the year. Pontiac again co-sponsors event. Surf is two- to five-feet and glassy. Pier closed to spectators; still 150,000 surfing fans line the beach. Crowds are acknowledged as a motivating force for surfers. American surfers said to be pushed to new, competitive heights by the cheering fans. Total purse $80,000.

1990: In three- to six-foot consistent surf, with occasional overhead sets, Cocoa Beach, Florida's Todd Holland, nicknamed "The Giant Killer," captures his first professional victory at the OP Pro Surfing Championship by defeating Tom Curren, Australia's Martin Potter and Brazil's Flavio Padaratz, before beating Hawaii's Marty Thomas in the main event. Tom Curren returns to competitive circuit after year-long hiatus, working his way to a third world championship title. Frieda Zamba wins an unprecedented fourth OP Pro title, defeating 1990 world champion Wendy Botha. Florida's Danny Melhado takes top honors in the OP Junior, creating an all Florida sweep of the event. OP Junior now considered the premier amateur event on the Mainland. Pontiac continues as co-sponsor for OP Pro. An estimated crowd of 150,000 attends the seven-day contest.

1991: Barton Lynch of Manly, Australia, the 1987 OP Pro title holder, edged out Richie Collins of Newport Beach to capture the 1991 OP Pro title. In surf ranging from solid six-foot sets to occasional eight-foot sets, Lynch bettered Collins by a score of 76.5 to 74. Lynch advanced to the final heat by defeating Todd Holland, in the semi finals. Collins defeated Brad Gerlach, of Encinitas, Calif., by a score of 83 to 67 to meet Lynch in the finals. In beating Gerlach, Collins scored a 27, the highest single wave score of the day. In the women's division, Frieda Zamba won an unprecedented fifth OP Pro Surfing Championship women's title beating Wendy Botha by a score of 74. 45.5. Rob Machado, Cardiff, Calif., defeated Jeff Deffenbaugh of Huntington Beach by a score of 90.5 to 60 to capture the OP Junior title. Total purse: $100,000.

1992: OP Pro introduces Team Surfing to America with an ASP Specialty rated event. In a closely contested tag-team final, Team USA defeated Team Australia to win the 11th annual OP Pro Surfing Championship at the Huntington Beach Pier. Sparked by Kelly Slater's spectacular maneuvers throughout the day and Todd Holland's savvy wave selection in the anchor leg of the Tag Team heat, Team USA outpointed long time Aussie rivals 18-6 to earn $20,000 prize money. The five member Australian team divided $10,000 for second place. Team USA held an overall 8-6 point edge leading into the 10-point winner-take-all Tag Team heat. Surfing the Tag Team's third leg, Slater had the three highest scoring rides of the heat. Other team USA members included Richie Collins of Newport Beach, Mike Parsons of San Clemente, Calif., and Alisa Schwarzstein of Laguna Beach, Calif. In the individual OP Junior competition, Tim Buechler of Titusville, Florida, narrowly defeated Dave Pina of Anaheim, Calif., to win the nation's most prestigious amateur surfing event. Buechler was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. Over 150,000 people view the six-day event. Total purse: $85,000.

1993: Hawaiian Sunny Garcia won the men's main event, an ASP- sanctioned, 4-star World Qualifying Series contest, and $8,000. Garcia, who finished third in the world in 1992, defeated former World and OP Pro Champion Barton Lynch, Brazilian trialist Jojo Olivenca and San Clemente's Shane Beschen. Thirty-nine of the top 44 surfers in the world were among the almost 200 competitors seeking the highest prize purse and greatest points of any North American surfing contest. Kim Mearig won the OP Women's title (and $3,000) over Frieda Zamba. Team Hawaii defeated Australia to take first place and $10,000 in the Tag Team competition. San Diego's Joel Tudor won $1,000 in the first-ever OP Longboard Invitational. Chris Strother, Carlsbad, Calif., won a closely contested OP Junior contest, creating a US sweep of the event. Surf was consistently four- to six-foot feet with occasional overhead waves. Attendance for the final day reached 35,000. Overall attendance was 190,000. Total purse: $87,000.

1994: Coca-Cola/ASP World Tour surfers dominated the men's shortboard competition as 1993 US Champion Rob Machado outsurfed World Champion Kelly Slater to capture the 13th annual event. Machado was untouchable in the final as he consistently found the best waves and used his amazing speed to complete several vertical and re-entry maneuvers and got $6,000. Frieda Zamba continued her mastery of Huntington Beach, capturing her sixth OP pro Women's title. Zamba beat out eventual women's world champion Lisa Andersen, Florida, to pocket the $1,500 prize. Hawaii's Kalani Robb won the OP Junior, while San Diego's Joel Tudor won the longboard event and $1,500. The four-star OP Pro was the highest rated WQS event in North America. The 13th annual OP Pro Surfing Championship had more surfers (406 overall) competing than any contest ever held in the world. It offered the highest prize purse -- $70,000 overall -- and most points of any World Qualifying Series contest in North America.

1995: OP Pro #14 took place in late July, 1995 -- its last time at California's Huntington Beach. Rated a WQS 4-star event and serving as a leadin and trials for the WCT-ranked U.S. Open held one week later, the 1995 OP Pro served up the best waves of the two-contest period. Dominating the men's event was Sunny Garcia, returning to the OP Pro victory stand after a breathtaking final with Taylor Knox. Winning her first Huntington Beach event title was world champion Lisa Andersen, who was relaxed and in control throughout the women's competition. As for the 1995 OP Junior, the odds were on Oxnard California's Tim Curran and he delivered, winning in front of a crowd of 40,000 on the final event day. Some 200,000 spectators viewed the OP Pro in person last year, complimenting an international tv viewing audience which now reaches into the tens of millions over the long history of the event.

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Last Modified: Monday 11/18/96 0619 HST
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