Sunset Beach, O`ahu Hawai`i (December 2, 1999)--
The world's best surfers will face Hawaii's famous Sunset Beach at its extreme maximum size for the US$100,000 Rip Curl Cup, the year's climax to the Association of Surfing Professionals' (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) that helps determine the surfers who will contend for the year 2000 World Championship.
Reliable meteorological swell forecasts are predicting fantastic surf in the three to seven metre range to hit Hawaii's world-renowned big-surf locations consistently over the next four to five days.
A week of the Rip Curl Cup's 13-day waiting period has passed with unseasonally small waves preventing a start to competition and leaving the world's elite surfers with little more to do than hope for the surf to rise soon.
Pat Caldwell, one of Hawaii's most respected surf forecasters, answered those hopes when he said today: "Highest surf potential of the season is now unfolding in the north-west Pacific Ocean, of the calibre to make Waimea (Bay) waves, (though) the greatest (wave) heights should be below 20 feet."
Caldwell concluded his latest forecast: "The mammoth (North Pacific) storm of the last two days should have forerunners in by around 8pm Friday (Hawaiian time), rising above 10 feet by midnight and still on the rise, yet above 12 feet by Saturday dawn. The swell will peak Saturday afternoon, with a potential for a few rogue sets of 18 to 20 feet across Waimea Bay, but mostly around 15 to 17 feet, slowly dropping Sunday into Monday. Another storm coming should arrive Monday night, peak Tuesday morning (in the 12 feet range) and slowly drop into Wednesday."
The possibility of Sunset Beach breaking at its biggest and best in ten years for the Rip Curl Cup has attracted the absolute cream of the world's elite surfers, including America's six-time world champion Kelly Slater (surfing in only his third event this year) and 1999 world champion-elect, Mark Occhilupo, of Australia.
Lining up for the Rip Curl Cup alongside Slater and Occhilupo are 36 of the world's top 40-rated surfers, plus 94 aspiring and established profesionals from more than a dozen countries - all hoping to take out the $10,000 first prize on offerin the 25th anniversary Sunset event.
While its name sounds benign and romantic, Sunset Beach is truly one of the surfing world's most daunting challenges. With a takeoff area the size of a football field, Sunset's deep-water offshore reef produces waves from four to 15 foot-plus - offering unique rides that test a surfer's wave selection skills, courage, manoeuvring, tube-riding and ability to handle the heaviest imaginable wipeouts.
Mark Occhilupo, who secured the 1999 world title in Brazil a month ago but has never won at Sunset, is extremely excited about the prospect of competing in the sort of surf that has not been seen at the classic location (for a contest) for a decade.
"I'd love to get epic conditions at Sunset," Occhilupo said today. "I love surfing it when it gets over ten feet because there's really no other break in the world like it. I got second to (Hawaiian) Hans Hedemann at Sunset in 1989, and although the Rip Curl Cup has no effect on this year's world title, winning it would really help my chances of taking out the Triple Crown."
(The Vans/G-Shock Triple Crown is the world's most prestigious event series trophy and is awarded to the surfer with the best results from the three events in Hawaii in November/December - the G-Shock Hawaiian Pro, the Rip Curl Cup and the Mountain Dew Pipeline Masters. Occhilupo has not won the Triple Crown, but he said: "It carries a lot of meaning in the surfing world and it would be a great bonus this year on top of the world title.")
Interestingly, Sunset Beach is also one of very few stops on the world tour where Slater has not yet held up the winner's trophy. The most successful pro surfer of all time certainly went close in 1998, reaching the Rip Curl Cup final, but he was beaten into third place by his good friend, current world number nine Shane Dorian, of Hawaii, and Australian veteran Michael "Munga" Barry.
Sunny Garcia, Johnny Boy Gomes, Tom Carroll, Derek and Michael Ho, Gary Elkerton, Martin Potter, Mark Richards, Shaun Tomson, Dane Kealoha, Ian Cairns, Buzzy Kerbox, Hans Hedemann head the list of names already on the Rip Curl CupŠ
Mention those names to any surf fan and you'll see instant recognition. All are outstanding figures in surfing, deservedly. And the 24-year history of the Rip Curl Cup has shown that the greatest surfers invariably rise above the rest when they are given the chance to perform in an arena that allows them to demonstrate the full range of their phenomenal talents.
The only certainty about 1999 is that whoever wins is following in the footsteps of greatness!
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Last Modified: 19991202.2259 HST
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