"It's not like winning in the 10-foot pipeline at Sunset Beach in Hawaii, but it's a win," declared Tom Carroll of Sydney, Australia, the world's top- rated surfer, aftercollecting the $4,500 first prize yesterday in the World Professional Inland Surfing Championships at Dorney Park's Wildwater Kingdom wave pool.
The championships certainly helped Dorney Park attract the public to its two-week-old water park. Approximately 5,000 people bought tickets at the gate, officials reported, and most passed by to watch the surfing competition at some point.
The event, one of 19 in the world-wide Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) circuit, is the first to be held inland in a man- made pool. Technicians had hoped to produce five- to seven-foot waves for the finals, but admitted that the football-field sized pool is not designed to handle such big waves. Yesterday's waves reached about 3-feet, 8-inches, about 8-inches bigger than they were for the first three days of the contest.
All week long, officials talked about the possibility of organizing a competitive circuit in more wave pools in the future.
"These pools have great potential, but they can be improved with the surfers' input," Carroll said. "If they could make the pool about three times as long and two times as wide and surfers could actually get inside the tube (created by the curl in the wave), we could create a whole new set of maneuvers. The advantage here ("hair" the way the Aussie pronounced it), is the consistency. Sure, the ocean is unpredictable, but you get more power ("Pear") from the ocean waves."
In the best-of-three set finals, Carroll beat Derek Ho of Oahu, Hawaii, in two straight sets. Ho finished 21st in the world at the end of the 1984-85 season but came to Allentown, the second event of '85-86, in second place. The 5-5 Hawaiian, who started surfing when he was 2-years-old, picked up $2,200 for second place.
In three days, Carroll actually spent three hours competing - that's $1,500 an hour and not a bad way to make a living. Carroll will, however, pass up good money and valuable ratings points by not competing in South Africa in two weeks on the next stage of the tour. He and two other surfers, fourth- rated Tom Curren of California and sixth-rated Martin Potter of Great Britain, are boycotting the three events to protest apartheid, the South African government's policy of racial segregation.
Carroll will miss more than the points and money in South Africa, he'll miss the two-mile long tube rides along the Cape Town shoreline. He'll compete next month in France.
"I saw some waves on a TV video last night and they looked really strange," Carroll related. "It's only taken me a week to become disoriented."
Curren of Santa Barbara, Calif., is discouraged. Because he's boycotting South Africa, it was important for him to do well in Allentown. But he was eliminated in yesterday's quarterfinals by Paul Barr of Carlsbad, Calif., who lost to Carroll in the semifinals. Also upset in the quarterfinals was Mark Occhilupo of Sydney, Australia, the third-rated surfer in the world.
"These younger guys have done well here, I think, because they've just come up through the amateur ranks," said Ian Cairns, Executive Director of the ASP, trying to explain the upsets. "In a lot of their contests, they've had to surf in waves this size. Plus, having to surf all week in the trials might've helped them. They had more time in the pool than the seeded surfers."
Barr is 33rd in the world after this year's first event in Japan, but he has never surfed a complete season's tour. He had a strong week in Allentown and his quarterfinal finish was his best ever in an A-rated ASP event. He won $1,250.
"I wasn't even going to come to Allentown because I didn't think I could afford it," Barr reported. "But two weeks ago, some of my sponsors suggested I come here and paid my way. I rode my brother's (David Barr, No. 25) board, which is a little wider and thicker, which I think suited me well. I thought if I could beat Tom Carroll, I could win the whole thing. He does some of the most amazing things on the waves. Losing to him makes me no slouch. I'm real happy with my performance."
Even the runnerup was satisfied with his performance. In his best surfer jargon, Ho offered, "I'm really stoked (happy) with myself."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times