The 30,000 spectators at the Op Pro Surfing Championships at Huntington Beach could not have asked for a more classic contrast in styles than Brad Gerlach of Leucadia and Tom Curren of Carpinteria provided Saturday in the second round of the main event.
Curren, the world champion and former two-time Op Pro champion, is a soft-spoken 22-year-old who says he surfs mainly for satisfaction. Curren’s style is so polished and consistent, his feet often seem glued to the board.
Gerlach, the aggressive 20-year-old challenger, has a knack for dazzling moves that play well to the crowd. When Gerlach’s risks pay off, he can be brilliant; when they fail, he sometimes is devoured by a shower of foam.
In the fourth meeting of their careers Saturday, the unanimous decision went to Curren, who has won a tour-high 80% of the heats in which he has competed in his career. He advanced to today’s quarterfinals at 8 a.m. against Australian Terry Richardson, who beat Shaun Tomson of South Africa.
Although Gerlach is in second place in the standings, it would have been a major upset had he defeated Curren, who has won the four contests he has entered, an unprecedented performance in the history of the tour’s top events.
“I could have beaten him today if I could have surfed properly,” Gerlach said. “I was pretty unhappy with my performance. I think I tried a little too hard. I surfed a little too aggressively, and I was in too much of a hurry.”
Both surfers agreed that the turning point seemed to occur about three-quarters of the way through the heat, when Gerlach selected a wave that turned mushy. Curren was almost immediately rewarded for his patience, getting up right behind Gerlach and stealing the limelight with an excellent ride on a more dramatic wave.
“Every time I’ve surfed against him, I haven’t surfed that well,” Gerlach said. “But he’d better watch out when I surf like I normally do.”
When he heard of Gerlach’s statement, Curren responded with his usual diplomacy and composure. “That just goes to show how different we are,” he said. “I would never say anything like that.
“I think (Gerlach) is a good element in pro surfing. He has introduced something that’s missing in a lot of pro sports with his enthusiasm and showmanship . . . I just don’t agree with all the things he says.”
In the women’s contest, world champion Frieda Zamba of Flagler Beach, Fla., defeated San Clemente’s Jorja Smith, by a narrow margin in a semifinal. In the other semifinal, defending champion Jodie Cooper of Australia was ousted by Pam Burridge, also of Australia, setting up today’s final between Zamba and Burridge at 11:45 a.m.
In the other men’s quarterfinals, starting at 8 a.m., defending champion Mark Occhilupo will face fellow Australian Tom Carroll. Australia’s Barton Lynch, who beat Mike Parsons of Laguna Beach, will take on Martin Potter of England, and Glen Winton will face fellow Australian Gary Elkerton.
Parsons, 21, advanced to today’s four-man finals of the international heats, where he will compete against Richardson, Ted Robinson and Mitch Thorson at 10 a.m.