The Rip Curl Pro Search got underway today in clean two-to-three foot (1metre) wedging righthanders at Molhe Leste, where the world’s best surfers carved, snapped and aired their way through the opening eight heats of Round 1.
Event No. 9 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Search operated at its third backup site today – the primary venue of Supertubes being destroyed by large surf and surging tides two nights ago and the backup sites of Lagido and Belgas buffeted by onshorewinds today. Opting to run the new competition format, featuring man-on-man elimination heats from the outset, today’s Round 1 action saw no shortage of upsets, with five of the eighthigher-seeded surfers eliminated from competition. Marlon Lipke (DEU), 25, 2009 ASP World Tour rookie and current ASP World No. 44,
scored a major victory today, defeating fellow rookie Michel Bourez (PYF), 23, tilizing an aggressive backhand approach to post the day’s highest heat total of a 14.66 out of a possible 20, and advance through to Round 2.
“I saw Michel (Bourez) free-surfing this morning and he surfed amazing,” Lipke said. “Ithought to myself, ‘I just have to get the better waves’. Lucky, I did manage to get them. It feels so good, I forgot how good it feels to get through a heat as I haven’t got through one all year!”
Lipke, who was born in Germany but raised in Portugal, enjoyed throngs of local support today after the elimination of Tiago Pires (PRT), 29, in the third heat of the morning.
“My parents are German, I was born in Lisbon and a lot of my friends are Portuguese, they are all here supporting me,” Lipke said. “The local crowd is so supportive so it is great to get through here at home."
Owen Wright (AUS), 19, wildcard into the Rip Curl Pro Search and current No. 3 on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS), is no stranger to the elite level of competition, having attended the past two years’ worth of Rip Curl Pro Search events. One of the up-and-coming stars of the sport, Wright displayed his world-class talent today in liminating former ASP World Junior Champion (2005) and current ASP World No. 17, Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), 24,in Round 1 of competition.
“I have been to the Rip Curl Search event in Chile and Bali and that was great,” Wright said.“The Search concept allows the guys to go somewhere different every time and they are the best surfers in the world so they can deal with anything. I am really stoked to be put alongside of these guys and be able to compete here in Portugal.”
Undefeated on the 2009 ASP Australasia Pro Junior Series, Wright has carried his preternatural momentum onto the grueling ASP WQS this season where he has already
secured a spot on next year’s prestigious ASP World Tour.
“The game plan at the start of the year was to dabble in the ASP WQS but after the first contests, things started to change and take off,” Wright said. “I am pretty stoked to have made it to the Dream Tour, it is every competitive surfer’s dream.” Joining Lipke and Wright in today’s upsets were Jihad Khodr (BRA), 25, Nathaniel Curran (USA), 25, and Patrick Gudauskas (USA), 23.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 8am for a possible 8:30am start. When competition resumes, up first will be Dean Morrison (AUS), 28, up against Justin Mujica (PRT), 32, in Heat 9 of Round 1.
Surfline, official forecasters for the 2009 Rip Curl Pro Search, are calling the current Northwest swell to maintain throughout the next couple of days before a WNW swell fills in for the weekend.