Just as with any sport, whether it be boxing or tennis, football or basketball, America loves an underdog. Last week, it was with the world of surfing. There were plenty of upsets, and one underdog in particular was striking gold once again.
The 2008 Rip Curl Pro Search (the sixth stop on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals world tour) was held at an undisclosed beach in Indonesia — and what an event it turned out to be.
First came the shocking defeat of Kelly Slater in round three, at the hands — or perhaps better said the feet — of Portugal’s Tiago Pires, whose best finish up to this point of the season was an equal 17th. This compared to that of the eight-time world champion Slater, who had won four out of five events on this year’s world tour and had been in devastating form up to this point. Then Pires captured his ride of an 8.40 in the dying seconds of the heat to send Slater him home packing.
For Pires, his glory run at the 2008 Rip Curl Search continued all the way into the semi-finals. Underdog? Upset? Let’s just go with Pires being the Cinderella story of the event.
What a terrific venue it was for this event, as the surf pumped from start to finish and competitors showcased their talent in reeling, hollow lefts that in the end saw Hawaii’s Bruce Irons steal his first major victory since winning the Eddie Aikau in the winter of 2004. What a victory it was for Irons, who has said he will retire at the end of this year to concentrate on his free-surfing prowess.
In almost perfect 4-foot-plus surf Irons defeated good friend and fellow Hawaiian Fred Patacchia, who had a subpar season up until this point — missing the first event of the year because of an injury — and in one fell swoop both surfers have turned their seasons around.
As of now, Irons and Patacchia find themselves ranked 10th and 14th respectively on this year’s world tour with the next event coming next month at Lower Trestles.
One thing remains, however, and that is the king (Slater) still remains in first — but it is the underdog in sports that always keeps it exciting.
JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior Surf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha SchoolofSurfing.com