HAWAII'S JOHNNY BOY GOMES WINS
CHIEMSEE GERRY LOPEZ PIPE MASTERS

Results from ASPLIVE

Banzai Pipeline, HI (December 19, 1997)--Johnny Boy Gomes surfed the Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipe Masters like a man possessed -- and that's what he was -- possessed with the idea of making his childhood dream of winning the world's most prestigious contest come true.

The $120,000 Pipe Masters is the final jewel in the G-Shock Triple Crown of Surfing and the final competition of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour.

Gomes, 32, charged through six- to-eight-foot Backdoor and Pipe tubes starting with the trials six days ago, through the early rounds of the main event and into the winners circle he has so long dreamed of. Along the way he twice eliminated five-time Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) world champion Kelly Slater, many of the world's Top 44 ASP tour professionals, got 10s on tubes at Back Door and Pipeline, and took out the 1982 Pipe Masters winner Michael Ho in the final heat.

It was the first time in Pipeline history that two trialists have made it all the way to the final of an ASP World Championship Tour event.

For Gomes it was the culmination of a year in which he won the Rusty Pro at Honolua Bay on Maui and the HIC Pipeline Pro and was named 1997 Hawaiian Pro/Am Champion. Gomes scored a total of 22.75 points out of a possible 30 and won $15,000 while Ho's 16.90 points earned $8,000.

The win was so emotional for Gomes, who grew up in Makaha on O`ahu's West Side, he was close to tears as he accepted his first place trophy. Part of the win he attributed to the contest's namesake Gerry Lopez.

"Basically, Gerry told me to take it easy and keep my cool cause the ocean has a lot of energy out there," Said Gomes. "He said, 'you know where the spot is in the line up. Just sit in that right spot and let the energy come towards you and don't go scrambling around.'

"You know, Gerry's a legend," Gomes said. "He knows the ocean really well, he lives here, he's surfed here all his life and what we're learning now he's trying to forget. So basically whatever he said, I took in and it sunk in, just like a computer. I didn't forget it. I tell you what, if it wasn't for that I probably would have gone out and beat myself out there. I would have just been over amped, too excited."

Gomes did keep his cool; it was the beach crowd that got excited and leaped to their feet more than once as he and Ho traded one perfect Pipe tube after the other in an "anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better" routine. It was especially exciting for aficionados who remembered that in 1982 Ho, 40, won the Pipe Masters with a broken arm and just five months ago was in the final of the inaugural World Masters Championship at Tavarua, Fiji.

"I wasn't thinking about the age difference, I was trying to get a few good waves," said Ho. "I really tried my best to win. I'm definitely not going to be doing any more of the contests now. I'll do the Masters events and any specialty events such as the Eddie Aikau, but I'm not going to enter the trials next year. It's not hard, it just doesn't make sense. I already made my mind up before this that I wasn't going to do it next year.

"The whole thing I've been hearing about every day is just age, age, age, and I'm like, just watch the waves and we'll see what happens," said Ho. "Knowing where to sit out there is a big, big factor 'cause either you can sit too far back to go left and it will pitch, and if you sit in the wrong spot for the rights you could have a ten point ride but you weren't there. It was so nice to come out of the tube and hear the crowd going off. Crowd support is probably the biggest benefit, just like at a ball game or something. I felt it and I'm really happy that I got that much support."

Placing equal third were O`ahu's Sunny Garcia and Shane Dorian from Kailua-Kona. Each won $4,000.

"I'm excited to get third again, especially because it was all-Hawaiian semi-finals so it was a real honor to be up on stage with those other three guys," Dorian said. "Those guys are the best surfers in Hawai`i. To be up there with Michael Ho is insane. He's inspiring. I think everybody knows that the Hawaiian guys are the best guys at Pipe so I don't think it surprised anybody when they came all the way through. I didn't really set a goal for myself. I just tried to do the best I could. In that heat I did the best I could with what I was given on each wave. I'm proud of myself but I wish I could have won."

The highest placed Australians were Mark Occhilupo (Gold Coast), Matt Hoy (Newcastle) and Beau Emerton (Forster) who all finished in equal fifth place after quarter final losses to Hawaiians. Occhilupo lost to Ho; Hoy to Shane Dorian; and Emerton lost to Sunny Garcia.

Australian Michael Rommelse (Avalon) had the best day of the Australians winning the prestigious G-Shock Triple Crown of Surfing award for being the most consistent performer over all three Hawaiian events. Rommelse, 28, is the first Australian since 1991 to win the Triple Crown. Tom Carroll was the last Australian winner.

"It was a bummer to lose in the third round but the blow was softened by winning the Triple Crown," Rommelse said. "It's a real honor to have my name up there with a lot of great champions. This is by far the best Hawaiian season I've ever had."

Occhilupo's performance today, although not personally satisfying, was enough to see him finish his 1997 comeback season at second on the ASP world ratings.

"I had hoped to go further," Occhilupo said. "It was a bit of a disappointment but I can't complain. It's been a great year in all and to finish second in the world to Kelly Slater (USA) was better than I could have hoped for.

"There were a couple of tubes that didn't really work out for me," Occhilupo said. "I only needed a 6.81 ride to turn the heat which is totally achievable out at Pipe but I ended up running out of waves. I caught my maximum 10 rides but didn't get the score I needed. It's nice to finish the year at second in the world though. I was hoping for top five so this is great."

ASP World Championship Tour rookie Beau Emerton was the highest scorer of the Australians in the quarter finals with a total of 18.25 points out of 30. It came down to the wire for Emerton, the 23-year-old looking like he had a berth in the semi-finals before Garcia turned the tables in the last six seconds of the heat.

"I can't believe it!" Emerton called out in frustration as he returned his contest singlet. "I had it right to the end. It's so frustrating to have it slip away right in the last seconds. All I could do was watch on."

Australians also won the consolation prizes with Richie Lovett and Todd Prestage earning the Mitchell Surfing Foundation awards of US$1000 and US$700 respectively for being the highest scoring losers in the second and third rounds.

Tour rookie Michael Campbell (10). Campbell wins the ASP Rookie of the Year award.

The ASP World Tour will now take a two and a half month break before resuming for a new season in Australia in March. The first event will be the Billabong Pro on the Gold Coast, March 12-22.

Results from ASPLIVE

Television news footage is available through Reuters, AP and WTN

For more information:
Carol Hogan or Jodi Holmes in Hawai`i
808-638-5533 / Fax: 808-638-5008
Australia: Stacey George at IRPR
(02)93601166 Fax: (02) 93609836

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