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By Jesse Faen

Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawai`i (Monday, Nov 6, 2000) -- Australian Layne Beachley today clinched her third consecutive ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) title during the Billabong Girls tournament on Maui. The 28-year-old held off closest rival Megan Abubo (Haw) - who finished equal ninth - to gain an unbeatable advantage, despite losing herself the following round to place equal fifth. Neridah Falconer (Aus) then added to the historic day by posting her first win in 18-months, overcoming a strong final contested with Kate Skarratt (Aus), Heather Clark (SAfr), and Belinda Godfrey (Aus) in good 4-foot (1.3m) conditions.

Beachley began her 2000 campaign perfectly, winning the Billabong Pro (Aus) as the season commenced in March. A string of quarterfinal finishes gave her opponents a chance, and momentarily she lost the lead, but as the tour hit California and then traveled though France two months ago, her competitive nature struck back with two more victories and a second placing to secure the top spot passionately. Even though the Australian was eliminated during her semifinal match today and failed to increase her ratings lead, the crown she came to collect was already in the bag, since Abubo needed to place in the top-two here to keep the race alive.

"I didn't count on Megan losing anytime up until Sunset (next WCT event later this month)," explained Beachley after watching the title become hers. "I expected her to be at her best and she's won two events this year, so it's quit surprising to win it like this.

"It was pretty relaxing," she continued, in regard to watching the deciding heat transpire. "I was just dancing by the car with Holly (Monkman) and Kim Wooldridge (both Australian), just cruising, and then all of a sudden I hear Megan screaming because she's lost and I looked at Holly and said, 'I just won the world title, give me a hug (laughs).' That's how it went down. The most relaxing world title I've ever won.

"It's been one of the toughest years, but it's also been one of the most fun," she explained. "I must thank the girls for putting up such a great fight. I'm stoked for Megan, she's only 22-years-old and she surfed fantastically this year, as well as everyone else. It's been a really tough fight and to come out winner already, before the last event has been decided is just a whole lot of relief off my shoulders. Hopefully I can go out and win another event before the year has ended."

"The year started off really intense and emotional with the comeback of Lisa Andersen (USA)," elaborated Beachley, as she began to reflect on her achievement. "It was really tough coming up against her in the first final. After I won that heat and sort of settled all the critics, I really became complacent, I think, because I put so much pressure and importance on that heat. Then I found myself in second place all of a sudden, and I hadn't been in second place in the world for over 16-months, so it was kind of a shock to where I had to get serious again. I was stoked Megan was the one giving me the battle, as she was the one I had been partying with the most (laughs). We've pushed each other in the water and we've had fun with each other out. That's been the difference this year, we've left the competition in the lineup and been friends out of the water. That's why this year has been so much fun.

"I'm really stoked and really proud," she concluded. "It's just great to be able to keep the world title in Australia and bring it back to Australia every year."

Abubo, 22, pushed Beachley all the way for this year's crown, winning the second event on the tour and then claiming another in South Africa to briefly hold the number-one spot. Though unlucky today in a wave-starved match against eventual contest winner Falconer and fellow finalist Clark, the Hawaiian proved in 2000 that her ambition and talent have only one destination in mind.

"It's been a great year," began Abubo, once she was ready to talk with mediaafter her upsetting defeat. "I started off with a couple of really solid results and I kind of kept my consistency up, but then Layne had a couple of really good results. I came into the Hawaiian events hoping for some really good surf and we weren't really blessed with very consistent surf today. I only got one wave and it came down to a bit of jockeying out there. It was really tough, and that's what I was faced with.

"I'm very happy with what I have accomplished this year," she continued. "Layne is an excellent surfer and she's had a great year. It's been really good to be able to give her a run for her money. To even sit in first place for a little while was something great for me, and I was really happy, as it gave me a lot of experience. Layne's a good friend of mine and I respect her surfing and her personality so much. There was never anything weird outside of the water, but unfortunately we haven't even had a heat together this year. It'll be nice if we have a couple heats together in the remaining events, but it's been a pleasure surfing against her and congratulations to her for winning the world title."

Falconer, 29, dominated the day's surfing action by not only taking out the grand finale, but she also posted the highest total heat score of the entire women's tournament with 23.00 out-of-a possible 30-points. Her backhand attack in the all goofy-foot affair secured WCT even win number-10, but more importantly, her first since Japan in May of 1999, when she was last victorious.

"I'm actually relieved," said a smiling Falconer afterward. "I think it only hit me when Kate came up and put her arms around me and said congratulations. It's been a long time since I actually won an event. I've been surfing quite strong this year, and I just think surfing a right-hand point break allowed me to feel at home. I have a really good shortboard as well, so I just felt really comfortable out there all day.

"I had an earlier heat with Megan Abubo today," explained the event champion. "There wasn't any waves and she went out in that heat, which is an unfortunately part of competition. We all lose heats from time to time due to there not being many waves. I pretty much just stuck to my own game plan and just tried to get three waves every heat. In the final it obviously all came together with three really good ones. All the girls out there just tried to surf their own heat, rather than hassle each other, which was good.

"This has given me more confidence winning here, too," she added. "It was really good to come over. The waves weren't too big, but all the girls had an enjoyable stay and the locals were really kind to us. I'd just like to say thanks to all of the surfers out there who gave us their break for a whole day. I know it doesn't break here everyday, so we're really thankful for them letting us surf here."

Skarratt, 26, also surfed a strong final today and was especially happy with the result at this crunch time of the season. Currently rated 9th, she holds the last position of being able to re-qualify through the WCT. With one event remaining, those last spots are sure to come right down to the wire during the final event later this month in Hawaii.

"Neridah surfed really well, but the waves didn't allow too many people to be catching those good sets and she just happened to be right in sync with it," explained Skarratt. "I wish I could have found another set and perhaps that would have put me back up there, but I'm really happy with this. It's a good result as it's getting toward the end of the year.

"I feel really confident," she answered, when asked about the ratings situation. "I mean, you've got to stay confident. This should have helped my position and the gap it's creating, so at the moment I'm sitting OK. I just have to keep that up for Sunset, and I like that wave a lot. I've done well there, so it should be pretty good."

Some results:

1st Neridah Falconer (Aus) 23.00 (US$6,000)
2nd Kate Skarratt (Aus) 15.50 (US$3,000)
3rd Heather Clark (SAfr) 11.15 (US$2,200)
4th Belinda Godfrey (Aus) 9.65 (US$2,000)

Women's Ratings after Billabong Girls

1.Layne Beachley (Aus) 5190
2. Megan Abubo (Haw) 4150
3. Serena Brooke (Aus) 3770
4. Tita Tavares (Brz) 3740
5. Lisa Andersen (USA) 3730
6. Heather Clark (SAfr) 3340
7. Rochelle Ballard (Haw) 3325
8. Melanie Redman (Aus) 3315
9. Kate Skarratt (Aus) 3190
10. Neridah Falconer (Aus) 3070
11. Keala Kennelly (Haw) 2750
12. Pauline Menczer (Aus) 2460
13. Trudy Todd (Aus) 2250
14. Lynette MacKenzie (Aus) 2080
15. Belinda Godfrey (Aus) 1835

Full Results of the Billabong Girls - WCT #8

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