Sunset Beach, HI (November 29, 1997)-- After a five day wait, Sunset
Beach finally showed its true colors, unleashing eight- to ten-foot waves
for the opening trials of the
Rip Curl World Cup of Surfing presented by
Northern California big-wave specialist Peter Mel, from Santa Cruz, settled straight into perfect footing in his trial's heat. Mel, 29, tallied a perfect 10 points, a near-perfect 9.33 and an 8.00 with exceptional tube-rides in thundering 10 foot Sunset Beach surf to post 27.33 score, the highest of the day. Even the strong 20-30 knot off-shore winds, a plague to many competitors, weren't a problem for the towering natural-footer.
"It's always a lot of luck here at Sunset but I really love this spot so I spend a lot of time here. It paid off today," Mel said. "I love the bigger stuff. I'm bigger framed so I've got to find the large stuff to perform. I was so stoked with the tubes I had. It was touch and go but I was thinking, 'Just go for it man!'. That's how it is."
The thick tropical swells of the North Shore offered warm relief for Mel today, allowing him to shed the usual, heavy "steamer" wetsuit in favor of the freedom of board shorts.
"Not having to wear a full-suit (steamer) makes it a lot easier to surf a heat. It doesn't get you as tired, but after that heat I'm still pretty beat," said Mel, who has surfed the North Shore winter swells for the past 14 years. His best result so far at Sunset Beach was a quarter final placing. His goal for this season is to make the final.
Hawaiian Love Hodel turned a 'horror' heat 180 degrees around to his advantage late in the day. Hodel was up against seasoned campaigner Simon Law (Australia), current world number two Mark Occhilupo (Australia) and fellow Hawaiian Elijah Young. The first of Hodel's 'shockers' came when he took off and rode a long wave through to the inside only to hear the starting horn sound at the end of his ride. That resulted in his losing the first five minutes of the 25 minute heat.
Ten minutes later he paddled for another ride and successfully completed a solid tube ride before getting axed by the white-water. With a little over 11 minutes remaining Love was in last place with a total of zero points but managed with just two rides, pushed Young and Occhilupo into third and fourth respectively. Incredibly, Hodel's two waves of 8.93 and 3.93 points were enough to overcome the top three counting rides of Young (12.03) and Occhilupo (8.66).
"What a horrible heat!" Hodel said.
"I couldn't hear a thing out there with the wind and I couldn't believe it when I realized that my first wave was before the starting horn and didn't count for anything," Hodel said. "Then I looked at my watch and there were only 11 minutes left. The first scoring wave I got was a meaty barrel but then I ate it after I came out. It was a heavy wipe-out. But I got back out there and just had to work my butt off to keep 'Occy' out. I can't believe two waves were enough to get me through."
* South African Greg Emslie surfed a great opening heat and advanced alongside Peter Mel. Emslie scored the first win of his professional career one month ago in Brazil and arrived at Sunset Beach with the same powerful form today. From Port Elizabeth - a big wave region in South Africa, Emslie looked at home in today's powerful conditions.
* Australian Nick Wood, who won the Billabong Hawaiian Pro in 1990, demonstrated critical positioning on the set waves in his first heat today to post a convincing win in round one.
* Last week's OP Pro champion Tony Ray (Australia) continued on with his winning form, taking first place in his opening round heat.
* Hawaii's Brock Little was the only other surfer to post a 10 in todays competition.
* Other upsets of the day went to Larry Rios and Jun Jo, who didn't make it through.
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Last Modified: Saturday 11/29/97 1959 HST
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