Damien Hobgood Wins Telstra Drug Aware Pro!

Damo Takes Out Yadin Nicol in Final and Heads to Bells With Momentum.

Damien Hobgood throws up a huge fan of spray with this backside snap during the final. Photo courtesy ASP Images.

After a week long battle with the wild waves and weather of West Oz, Damien Hobgood outlasted all other competitors to take the trophy and the $40,000usd check at the Telstra Drug Aware Pro last Friday. Being a six-star Prime WQS event, the contest drew some heavy competitors from the WCT field of players including superstars and standouts like ten-time World Champion Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson, Owen Wright, Julian Wilson, Bede Durbidge, Pat Gudauskas, Brett Simpson, Adriano De Souza, and last year’s Telstra champ Josh Kerr. Hobgood gained a valuable 6,500 points on the One World Ranking System and moved up into 10th place overall.

The week saw conditions vary from three foot and clean, to 12 – 15 foot and stormy. Many of the younger pros not familiar with Margaret River‘s open ocean power were under-gunned as the swell began to rise last Wednesday. Bigger boards were borrowed and broken, and the Indian Ocean served up some serious beatings with plenty of jet-ski assistance/rescues going down on Thursday.

Kelly Slater made his first appearance at Margaret River since 1993 and brought an incredible amount of media exposure to the event. Slater chose to compete in the contest to fulfill the new requirement that all WCT competitors must compete in at least two WQS six-star Prime events throughout the 2011 season.  Slater looked to be in fine form through his first few heats, and then stunned crowds and competitors by surfing his 5’9″ quad-fin on the 12 – 15 foot day! Although the tiny board may not have worked in those conditions for anyone else in the universe, Slater dominated the surf with gigantic power carves and snaps.

As dawn rose on Friday, competitors saw the surf drop to a more manageable 8 – 10 feet with clean, offshore winds. There were many standout performers throughout the day including local boy and part-time Santa Barbara resident Yadin Nicol, who advanced through to the final day. The only other local competitor left in the field was Taj Burrow, and he did not disappoint the crowd as he posted the contests only perfect ten wave score. Perhaps the biggest news of the entire event was that Slater went down to a blazing Billy Stairmand on Friday. The young New Zealander out-surfed Slater by one point in the 30 minute heat by catching huge lefts and pulling off massive vertical backside snaps. Stairmand was elated with the victory and claimed it to be the best day of his 21 year old life. “I felt like I won the contest”, Billy told ASP reporters and the world’s surf media in his post-heat interview. Unfortunately, Stairmand’s run came to an end in his next heat versus Brazilian aerialist Jadson Andre.

Kiwi rookie Billy Stairmand defeated Slater in the round of 24 with powerful backside surfing. The 21 year old will head to Scotland next for the O'Neill Coldwater Classic. Photo courtesy ASP Images.

On the final day, conditions improved as the surf started to fade away to nearly flat by the afternoon. The quarterfinals saw Taj fall to Brazilian William Cardoso in a wave starved heat. Yadin Nicol defeated an in-form Julian Wilson in their quarterfinal heat, and Hobgood barely nudged a win against a feisty Jadson Andre. Hawaii’s Granger Larson posted his best ever ASP result with his quarterfinal win versus French standout Marc Lacomare.

The semifinals saw the last four men standing in the event go head-to-head in inconsistent three foot waves. Damien Hobgood started off strong and left Granger Larson playing catch-up through the rest of the heat and the Hawaiian was unable to find a better back-up score after his first wave. Yadin easily disposed of Cordoso after the Brazilian was cited with an interference in their semifinal heat.

As Yadin and Hobgood rested before the final heat approached, an expression session went down to the delight of the thousands of surf-stoked spectators. Unfortunately, n0t much swell was left by the time the final heat began. Damien stuck to his gameplan of starting out early and stayed a bit inside of Yadin, catching two good rides in the first five minutes of the 40 minute heat. It would be 20 minutes before Yadin would catch his first wave in the final as the ocean went flat as a lake. With only one good score, Yadin needed anything to give him a chance. As the last few minutes ticked away, Yadin found a head high left that got the crowd on its feet, but only allowed for one backside closeout bash. Although Yadin was back outside waiting for another wave with 45 seconds remaining, the ocean did not cooperate.

Damien posted his 5th ASP event victory and heads over to the second WCT event at Bells Beach with confidence and momentum. Being that the southern state of Victoria can have similar conditions to the open ocean maelstrom we saw at Margaret’s last week, you can bet that Damien will be ready for whatever the ocean throws at him.

The next event on the ASP World Tour is the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach that begins on April 19th. It is a WCT event for the Elite 32 (and two wildcards entries), and is the second WCT event out of eleven for the year. Check back for more contest news and results.

-Ryan Richardson

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