MARGARET RIVER, WA/Australia (Saturday, March 16, 2013) - The main break at Margaret River, WA provided excellent conditions for the opening day of the 2013 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. Solid 6 to 8 foot (2.5 meter) sets rolled in for the duration of the day offering up big clean walls for the surfers to lay down powerful turns and carves.
This year's event sees the women's division upgrade from an ASP 6-Star event to be the second elite ASP Women's World Championship Tour event of the 2013 season, while the men's division is the first ASP PRIME rated event for 2013. Both divisions offer massive points and prize money for the surfers chasing ASP Women's World Titles and men's ASP WCT qualification.
Felicity Palmateer (AUS), who won the trials in solid surf yesterday, today caused a massive upset when she topped reigning 5-time ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) in Round 1. Palmateer lives in Perth and put her intimate local knowledge of the waves here in South West WA to good use, picking off some of epic left-handers to post some solid scores to progress to Round 3 and send Gilmore into Round 2.
"I've been a huge fan of Steph's surfing for a long time," Palmateer said. "I had a bit of a shaky start and I didn't have a lot of confidence and then I got that great left, and then I was ready to go. Yesterday the surf was about three times bigger than today and I got a couple of floggings, so I felt really confident out there today. It's pretty much my home break and I really feel the support from everyone around here."
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) came exploding out of the gates in Round 1 of the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro today, posting two excellent 9-point-rides. Fitzgibbons unleashed multiple powerful turns, right in the pocket of some solid waves and looked right at home in the pumping surf today.
"The last few events have been in smaller waves so I think it's important to come here early to get used to the line-up and waves," Fitzgibbons said. "I've been free surfing out there for a few days so I feel like I've got the positioning figured out. Towards the end of the heat there was a couple of big sets and it felt great to score a couple of 9s and do some big turns. It felt good, I'm stoked to be back here in Margaret River."
Tyler Wright (AUS) who took out last week's season opening ASP Women's WCT event on the Gold Coast advanced through her opening heat at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro today, despite suffering from a head cold and hurting her neck when she wiped-out early in the heat.
"I'm not doing too good at the moment," Wright said. "I got absolutely smoked on my first wave and I hurt my neck. Luckily I won the heat so I can skip Round 2 and rest for a day or two because I've got a head cold too. It really sucks, but yeah I'm happy to be at this event."
Jacob Willcox (AUS), the 15-year-old event wildcard is today one of the happiest people in Western Australia after defeating last year's ASP World No. 4 Adriano De Souza (BRA) who advanced in second position. The Australian Under 16 champion and Margaret River local did the home crowd proud, catching the best waves of the heat, surfing them with style, eliminating seasoned competitors Romain Cloitre (FRA) and Tomas Hermes (BRA) who finished second and third respectively.
"I was really stoked to have a heat with Adriano (De Souza) let alone win it," Wilcox said. "I got a couple of quick waves at the start, I wanted to get a couple of scores on the board because there can be some long lulls. Then at the end of the heat I got a really nice wave and that was enough to win. I could hear people cheering and shouting for me, it was awesome. I'm really glad that Surfing WA gave me the wildcard, I just hope I can keep it going."
Dusty Payne (HAW) scored the highest two-wave heat-total of the day - 18.60 out of a possible 20, after unloading a barrage of critical and powerful carves and snaps on Margaret River's lefts and rights.
"I got really lucky and I was in a good rhythm out there," Payne said. "I don't think I've ever had a good left out there, so I'm stoked I got a good one in a heat. I love West Oz- I've done a bunch of trips over here and it's one of my favourite places to come to."
Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) scored a near-perfect 9.57 (out of a possible 10), the day's highest single wave score for an intense tube ride, followed by a massive hacking turn. Gabe Kling (USA) advanced out of the heat in second position with CJ Hobgood (USA) and Gavin Gillette (HAW) eliminated in third and fourth place respectively.
"I was really lucky to get that wave," Gonzalez said. "It was a very tough heat. I saw the the wave was barreling and I pulled in and I thought I would make it out, but it was fast. Then I came out and did a turn and I'm so happy to get a big score."
Billy Stairmand (NZL) was one of the day's top performers, using his lethal backhand attack to post a massive two-wave heat-total - 18.23. Stairmand grew up at New Zealand's famous left-hander Raglan and it showed as he picked off the best two lefts of the heat and absolutely destroyed them.
"I really like this event," Stairmand said. "There's really big left-handers and I love lefts because I'm from Raglan. It's fun to come over here and enjoy this coastline. The Oakley crew are all staying together, surfing and enjoying WA, it's great."
Reigning ASP World Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) was eliminated in the last heat of the day after scoring an interference on Dion Atkinson (AUS), but he wasn't alone as both Damien and CJ Hobgood (USA) were also eliminated after scoring interferences on the peak at Margaret River today.
The event will be webcast LIVE via - www.margaretriverpro.com