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No. 1-Ranked Occhilupo Falters

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The dream match between Tom Curren and Mark Occhilupo took a dive Thursday when Occhilupo made an early exit by losing in the second round of the Gotcha Pro in Huntington Beach.

Top-ranked Occhilupo, who was eliminated in the first heat of the day, was unable to keep up with Neco Padaratz, who edged Occhilupo by half a point with a score of 20.65.

Padaratz was the sole wild-card entry from last week’s U.S. Open, where he finished third overall.

Occhilupo was visibly upset with his performance Thursday.

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“This was a big loss for me,” said Occhilupo, who holds a slim lead in the World Championship Tour rankings. “It won’t take much for someone to pass me, depending on how they finish.”

Occhilupo, with the points he received for this contest, leads with 4,510. However, Australian Damien Hardman (3,980) and Hawaiian Shane Dorian (3,810) are close behind.

Dorian will surf today in the third round against Tom Curren and Hardman will face Kelly Slater.

A first-place finish in a WCT event is worth 1,000 points. Second place is 860 points and third is 730 points.

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Slater, who had a lukewarm heat Wednesday, was on fire as he demonstrated some of his former glory while beating Rob Machado, 23.00-15.55.

For six-time world champion Slater of Cocoa Beach, Fla., it was a case of getting in tune once again.

“I was definitely more focused today than I was yesterday,” said Slater, who scored one of the day’s top scores--8.50. “But then when you get your butt kicked like I did yesterday, that has a way of making you get focused.”

Shane Beschen of San Clemente and his opponent, Fabio Gouveia of Brazil, faced an almost waveless heat.

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Gouveia, however, was able to advance after catching the first wave of the heat and scoring a 7.75. He finished with 16.25, a point ahead of Beschen.

After missing his first heat Wednesday, Cory Lopez will join his brother, Shea, today in the third round.

Lopez wasn’t about to miss his heat Thursday; he arrived more than an hour before he was supposed to compete.

“I was stressed after yesterday, missing my heat,” Lopez said. “I wanted to make sure I made up for that. I think I did.”

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Unlike Beschen’s heat, which was 30 minutes earlier, the ocean was a bit more cooperative with Lopez, who pulled a stunning aerial late in the heat for a 8.50 score.

“I think with conditions like this, aerials and more radical moves work better than traditional surfing,” Lopez said. Lopez will surf today against Australian Todd Prestage.

In the third round of the women’s heats, Layne Beachley continued her run despite surfing with a knee injury. Beachley, the defending champion in the event, finished second to advance to the quarterfinals. Hawaiian Rochelle Ballard won the heat (20.20).

Also advancing were Australians Lynette MacKenzie and Trudy Todd, who both won their heats, Melanie Redman, Pauline Menczer and Hawaiian Megan Abubo.

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Competition in the men’s third round will run from 7 to 10:20 this morning and from noon to 3:20. The women’s quarterfinals will be from 10:20 to noon.


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