Tahiti’s Michel Bourez has won the REEF Hawaiian Pro, the $40,000 prize purse, and takes an early lead of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing hydrated by vitaminwater®. Bourez, 27, built momentum through the earlier rounds of this competition and was clearly unstoppable by the final. He survived a late charge by Haleiwa local Fred Patacchia, 31, and was well clear of Jeremy Flores (France) and Dion Atkinson (Australia), who finished third and fourth respectively. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing now moves north to Sunset Beach for stop No. 2: The Vans World Cup of Surfing, which will likely commence Tuesday.
This is Bourez’s second victory at the REEF Hawaiian Pro, having first won here in 2008. His combination of stylish power surfing and impeccable wave selection made him the man to beat through the final rounds of competition today. A strong surfer in big waves and a great Tahitian tube rider, he is definitely capable of winning the Vans Triple Crown this year.
“It’ still a new feeling,” Bourez said. “The first time I won it, I was super happy for making the tour and this time, you know, I worked so hard to make the final and especially to lead the Triple Crown and it’s a good feeling. They keep saying the guy who wins the Haleiwa contest has a lot of chance to win a Triple Crown.
“I feel great, I feel good in my body and my boards are going well and, hopefully the waves will be good at Sunset. I got second two there years ago so I hope I make another final this year.
“Coming here, I felt great. I’ve been training for the past month, and just to come here solid, I feel like yeah, I deserve it.”
Fred Patacchia would have loved nothing more than to stake his claim in front of a hugely supportive home crowd, and his scores in the final were his best of the day. But Bourez kept him off the larger waves on offer and made no mistakes, leaving Patacchia knocking on the door.
“I’m a little frustrated, you know I would have loved to have won but I really put a campaign on in the last six minutes of that heat,” said Patacchia. “I had a rocky start but I feel like I threw the kitchen sink at it. Michel just opened up really well and he surfed really well throughout the whole event. I am disappointed, I would have loved to have won, but at the same time I feel I did my best. It’s a great confidence boost going into Sunset and I take it as a positive.
“I would love to win on a Triple Crown. I would love it! It would just make my life! But I know it’s a hard thing to do. I have a game plan set for this Triple Crown, I’m trying to execute it and I think if I don’t win it it, I think I’ll get fairly close to it.”
Frenchman Flores, 25, had a solid run through the REEF Hawaiian Pro, and as a former champion at Pipeline is definitely in the Triple Crown race.
“Like Sunny Garcia says, the Triple Crown is the best thing after a World Title, and I believe it,” said Flores. “Three events and really powerful waves. At the same time you can surf smaller waves like this year, so you have to adapt to everything. So the Triple Crown winner has to be good in every condition and that is what makes it so special.
“It was definitely a tough contest. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t really ready in terms of boards and stuff, so I just kept borrowing boards. So making the final, kind of scratching to find my way into the final was pretty cool. I didn’t really expect that.”
The most relieved athlete today was Dion Atkinson, 27, from South Australia. Atkinson entered the REEF Hawaiian Pro with work to be done if he is to qualify for the 2014 elite ASP World Championship Tour. With this result, he climbed into qualification position today, has taken off a little pressure going into Sunset, and will now be looking to maintain form in order to make his pro surfing dreams come true. He surfed consistently through this event, made few errors, and kept a calm, focused approach through the rounds.
“I came 5th here about four or five years ago and I’ve been sort of struggling since, so to put it together when I really needed to qualify, I’m pretty rapt right now,” said Atkinson. “I kinda surprised myself in a few heats with just holding my nerve and just felt really good and comfortable.
“I’m just going to go into Sunset with the same attitude, no pressure, and if I loose or win, it’s gonna be on my terms and I’ll give it a good go. I love coming to Hawaii. Haleiwa and Sunset are probably the two events I look forward to all year.”
Next stop: Vans World Cup of Surfing, Sunset Beach, from tomorrow through December 6.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing hydrated by vitaminwater® is the world’s premier series of professional surfing events that will culminate with a 2-man battle between Kelly Slater (USA) and Mick Fanning (AUS) for the 2013 men’s ASP World Title. From November 12 through December 20, on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, $960,000 in prize money and a number of highly coveted titles will be offered across three ASP sanctioned events, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series champion.