OP PRO SURFING CHAMPIONSHIPS : Tudor Earns Praise, Respect With Tube Ride
The highest-scoring wave of the Op Pro Surfing Championships didn’t go to men’s champion Rob Machado or runner-up Kelly Slater.
It didn’t go to women’s champion Frieda Zamba, who’s making a habit of winning at the Huntington Beach Pier. Nor was it scored by Op Junior champion Kalani Robb, the defending world junior amateur champion.
No, the best wave on a day of lifeless two- and three-foot conditions went to San Diego’s Joel Tudor, who pulled into a small tube ride and scored a 9.0 out of 10 on his way to winning his first Op Pro longboard championship.
So what was it like in the tube ride, Joel?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I had my eyes closed (because of water in them) and I couldn’t see a thing. Then I popped out and the crowd was going crazy.”
So were the judges, who gave him the near-perfect score on his fifth wave of the final, putting him in the lead for good.
The wave set the pace for a four-wave total of 26.3 as Tudor easily held off a charging Israel Paskowitz of San Clemente, who was called for interference in the final seconds and dropped from second to fourth.
Tudor earned $1,500 for the victory and Huntington Beach’s Joey Hawkins, the 1992 world champion, earned $900 for second. Hawaii’s Bonga Perkins received $600 for third and Paskowitz went home with $400 and memories of the costly interference call.
Tudor had a comfortable lead going into the final minute, with Paskowitz in second at 23.85. But Paskowitz dropped in front of Tudor on a wave, and the judges penalized him for the interference. As a result, judges scored Paskowitz on three waves instead of four and it dropped him behind Hawkins and Perkins.
It’s a risk surfers often take during paddle battles for waves in the finals seconds of contests. Sometimes aggressiveness pays off, but it in this case, it didn’t.
“I told him (Paskowitz), ‘Don’t go, don’t go,’ ” Tudor said, “but he went anyway. You have to cover your butt. If it’s a good wave and you’re in second place, you can’t let somebody take off. I thought I would stop him from going, but he took off anyway.
“It’s always a bummer when somebody screws up on their last wave. He went from making a lot of money to no money, all because of one stupid mistake.”
Tudor knows. He has done it himself.
“Many, many times,” he said.
Tudor, 18, is already an experienced veteran of longboard surfing, which has become more popular with his generation over the past few years. Tudor rides the nine-foot longboard better than most people ride shortboards, using the traditional noseride and sweeping turns but also incorporating shortboard moves such as floaters and 360s.
Sunday’s small waves brought out his creativity. He fell attempting a noseride on one of his early waves. But he came back later in the heat with the tube ride and a 360-degree tail slide in which he was caught sideways on the board for a few seconds, but eventually spun it around with some fancy footwork.
“When you get a big wave like that (the 9.0) you can sit back and wait for good ones,” he said. “I thought I was doing terrible in the beginning, but getting a big score like that gives you the confidence you need later in the heat.”
Sunday’s victory was Tudor’s second in Huntington Beach this year. He won the Bud Pro tour event at state beach in May, then took two months off doing promotional work and touring Europe.
“It’s a nice break,” he said. “I had nothing to do with surfing. It was insane. I’ve been doing it every summer. I just got home a couple days ago.”
Tudor gets today off before returning to the pier Tuesday morning for longboarding heats at the U.S. Open of Surfing, a world championship tour event.
“That’s the big one,” Tudor said. “This one (the Op) is just a little sample.”
Tudor, Paskowitz, Perkins and Hawkins will all be back for the U.S. Open. Among the first of Tudor’s well-wishers after Sunday’s final was Hawkins, the Huntington Beach local who will no doubt be looking for revenge this week.
“Congratulations, ding-dong,” Hawkins said, shaking Tudor’s hand and laughing.