With just one, glistening, sun-sparkled wave Sunday, Tom Curren showed why he has been the Assn. of Surfing Professionals world champion the last two years.
Curren showed he is a master strategist, capable of putting himself in position to score the points necessary to win heats.
But on this one near-perfect, left-breaking wave, Curren showed the skill that makes him the awe of surfings pros and fans.
Curren used this ride to defeat Mark Occhilupo of Australia and win his second straight Stubbies Pro surfing tournament Sunday at Oceanside Pier. Curren won $5,000. But it was the last wave that the nearly 10,000 fans will remember.
Here's what happened:
With 4 1/2 minutes left in the 45-minute final heat, Curren had taken what appeared to be six scoring waves while Occhilupo had fallen three times on good waves and taken only four scoring waves. The waves had been sporadic: sometimes there were 4- or 5-foot waves, other times, it was flat.
So Curren took a chance that a big wave would not come in and rounded the priority buoy, giving him his choice of waves and forcing Occhilupo to settle for his leftovers.
Curren waited for a 5-foot set to come along. He took off left. He performed two huge cutback turns before the wave turned to white water. The crowd hooted.
Occhilupo could only turn, watch, and hope for a similar wave. It never came.
Curren was awarded 28.5 out of a possible 30 points from the three judges on that wave.
He received 124.7 out of 150 possible points for his five waves. Occhilupo had 113.3.
"Tom Curren is the best," said Tom Carroll, who was No. 2 on the ASP tour last season and who lost to Curren on Saturday.
"I was trying to ignore my falls," said Occhilupo, who was No. 3 in the ASP standings and had beaten Curren seven of 13 times. "But when I saw Tommy have that excellent ride, I couldn't back it up. And that was about it."
Curren and Occhilupo could take a maximum of 15 waves and were judged on their best five. Judges give more points for a large wave with good shape. But some surfers get anxious and take many waves, hoping that five of them will be worth a lot of points.
Not Curren. He waited for 12 minutes before taking his first wave in Sunday's semifinal against former-world champion Shaun Tomson. He said it is more important to choose five good waves than to ride lots of average ones.
"In every heat there is always some sort of lull," Curren said. "But the waves always do come. You just have to make sure that when they do, that you're surfing and not sitting."
Curren, who was ranked 17th after skipping two tournaments in South Africa, is now fifth in this year's points standings. He has finished first twice and fifth in his three tournaments this season.
The women's final, between Wendy Botha and Tricia Gill, also came down to a single wave.
Gill, of Newport Beach, had been surfing well, but tried a difficult, high-scoring maneuver on her seventh wave and fell.
Botha, of South Africa, ended up winning the Michelob Cup, 111.3-109.7. Botha won $2,000 and took the lead in the women's standings. Gill won $1,250 for second place.
"If I would have made that wave, I might have won," Gill said.
"Definitely," Botha added.