OP PRO SURFING CHAMPIONSHIPS : Machado Wins Duel With Slater
After five dawn-to-dusk days of competition, the 13th Annual Op Pro Surfing Championships came down to a familiar rivalry--Rob Machado versus Kelly Slater.
As the final four surfers paddled out, Machado took a lonely route into the two- and three-foot waves on the south end of the beach. Slater took main stage, just south of the pier, in front of Sunday’s estimated crowd of 20,000. And in the end, Machado’s strategy proved more effective.
Posting seven- and eight-point waves, Machado won the final round with a score of 29.11, the event’s highest.
Slater showed his quickness and power with vertical moves and precision turns, but was not able to catch as many large waves or long rides as Machado. Australians Jake Spooner and Matt Hoy finished third and fourth. Both started slowly but Spooner made a late run to finish .36 points behind Slater.
Frieda Zamba of Flagler Beach, Fla., won the women’s competition to take home her sixth Op Pro title. Joel Tudor of San Diego won the longboard division and Kalani Robb of Sunset Beach, Hawaii, won the Op Junior amateur division.
“I was always trying to paddle out down the beach away from the other guys and it paid off,” Machado said.
As amateurs, Machado and Slater boosted their careers with victories in the Op Junior--Slater in 1989 and Machado two years later. As professionals, they compete against each other in 11 world championship tour events and many qualifying series contests, such as the Op Pro.
In two previous meetings this year in Huntington Beach, Machado, who lives in Cardiff, lost twice to Slater of Cocoa Beach, Fla.
“He got me at the Bud event and he got me at Katin,” Machado said. “Pay-backs are sweet.”
In the men’s quarterfinals, Machado caught a last-minute wave and scored an eight to go ahead of Shane Beschen, a San Clemente surfer who had been pressing Machado since the two began competition Friday. Machado and defending Op Pro champion Sunny Garcia advanced from that heat with Beschen finishing third.
“That was a tight heat this morning. I lucked into that tube ride at the end and the judges gave me the score,” Machado said. “It’s like ice skating, they don’t have to give it to you.”
In the final, the crowd on the beach cheered for Slater, but the loudest support went to Machado.
“It feels really good to hear that,” Machado said. “I mean that’s why I’m where I am in surfing. It’s because people like to watch me surf.”
Machado took home the winner’s share of $6,000. Slater won $3,000.
While accepting her trophy and the check for $1,500, Zamba announced this would be her last Op Pro.
“Every year it’s a little harder to get that fire going and I have to train more,” Zamba said. “For the Op, I used to train for two months and for this one I trained four.”
Zamba won the world title four times before leaving the tour four years ago. She opened a surf shop in Florida and continued to compete selectively. In January, she closed the shop to leave more time for traveling and competing in East Coast contests.
But even in semi-retirement, Zamba cut deep into every turn, slicing off the top of the wave, and completed a 360 before the final heat was over. Lisa Andersen of Ormond Beach, Fla., was right behind her. The lead changed five times in the 30-minute heat.
“I bit it a couple times in the beginning so I was trying to regain composure before taking riskier moves,” Zamba said. “When the heat’s close, you take chances.”
Zamba had 22.63 points to Andersen’s 22.27. Neridah Falconer of Australia finished third and Rochelle Ballard from Kuaui, Hawaii, finished fourth.
“This is my fifth second this year,” Andersen said, “so it’s kind of frustrating. But I set myself up well for next week.”
Zamba and Andersen will compete in the U.S. Open of Surfing, which begins Tuesday.
In the Op Junior, Robb combined floaters and cutbacks to score an 8.17, the third-highest wave of the day.
“This is the end of a perfect year for me,” Robb said, referring to his earlier victory at the Amateur World Championships. The Op Junior was his last contest as an amateur.
Tim Curran of Oxnard gave Robb a fight but settled for second place and said he is determined to win next year when Robb is a professional.
1. Rob Machado, Cardiff; 2. Kelly Slater, Cocoa Beach, Fla.; 3. Jake Spooner, Australia; 4. Matt Hoy, Australia.
1. Frieda Zamba, Flagler Beach, Fla.; 2. Lisa Andersen, Ormond Beach, Fla.; 2. Neridah Falconer, Australia; 4. Rochelle Ballard, Kuaui, Hawaii.
Op Junior final
1. Kalani Robb, Sunset Beach, Hawaii; 2. Tim Curran, Oxnard; 3. Chad Delgado, Ewa Beach, Hawaii; 4. Chris Ward, San Clemente.
1. Joel Tudor, San Diego; 2. Joey Hawkins, Huntington Beach; 3. Bonga Perkins, Hawaii; 4. Israel Paskowitz, San Clemente.
Men’s semifinals (top two advanced)
Heat 1--1. Slater; 2. Hoy; 3. Renan Rocha, Brazil; 4. Kaipo Jaquias, Hanamalulu, Hawaii.
Heat 2--1. Machado; 2. Spooner; 3. Sunny Garcia, Waianea, Hawaii; 4. Shane Powell, Australia.
Women’s semifinals (top two advanced)
Heat 1--1. Andersen; 2. Ballard; 3. Megan Abubo, Hawaii; 4. Nea Post, Huntington Beach.
Heat 2--1. Zamba; 2. Falconer; 3. Kylie Webb, Australia; 4. Kathy Newman, Australia.
Op Junior semifinals (top two advanced)
Heat 1--1. Robb; 2. Ward; 3. Jason Harcharic, Huntington Beach; 4. Scott Finn, Dana Point.
Heat 2--1. Curran; 2. Delgado; 3. Cory Lopez, Fla.; 4. Omar Etcheverry, Santa Cruz.
Longboarding semifinals (top two advanced)
Heat 1--1. Tudor; 2. Hawkins; 3. Jeff Kramer, San Clemente; 4. Joey Valentine, Aiea, Hawaii.
Heat 2--1. Perkins; 2. Paskowitz; 3. Colin McPhillips, Capistrano Beach; 4. Josh Baxter, San Clemente.
Men’s quarterfinals (top two advanced)
Heat 1--1. Hoy; 2. Rocha; 3. Joey Jenkins, North Hollywood; 4. Victor Ribas, Brazil.
Heat 2--1. Jaquias; 2. Slater; 3. Todd Holland, Cocoa Beach, Fla.; 4. Derek Ho, Sunset Beach, Hawaii.
Heat 3--1. Garcia; 2. Machado; 3. Shane Beschen, San Clemente; 4. Jeff Deffenbaugh, Huntington Beach.
Heat 4--1. Powell; 2. Spooner; 3. Richie Collins, Newport Beach; 4. Jojo De Olivencia, Brazil.