Dane Bird: 'sorry, Occy''

Australian surfer Dane Bird celebrated his 23rd birthday today by eliminating former world champion Mark Occhilupo on day three of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) 4-Star rated Burton Toyota Pro.

But there remains some doubt as to whether he will continue surfing in the event or attend the funeral of his grandmother who passed away last Saturday.

The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow in Brisbane and Bird is torn between competing and being with his family.

"I've got to talk with my family. I've got a 9am plane booked tomorrow to go to Brisbane," he said.

"I'm not sure what to do," he said.

The Sunshine Coast surfer said edging out Occy in the last heat of the round of 64 was a "great birthday present for sure."

"You have to think you can win if you are in it or what's the point?" he said.

The quietly spoken goofy-footer said he was really nervous knowing he had drawn a world-renowned surfer who has won this event twice and racked up "tons of titles."

"I had jelly-legs the whole heat and when he got that wave straight-up I didn't want to let him to get too far in front."

"When we were paddling out we said 'this looks like fun' and then there was a 10 minute lull," Bird said.

"'I was just thinking about being patient and taking a chance if it came my way."

The waves didn't come Occhilupo's way, but he'll surf again at Sunday's expression session at the same beach.

Not being required to don the rash-vest tomorrow has allowed Occy to schedule a morning trip to the John Hunter Children's Hospital to visit young fans in the Starlight Room.

A howling south-easterly forced officials to delay today's remaining eight heats in the round of 64 until 10.30am.

While the morning was wild and wooly, Australian pair Noah Lane and Chris Salisbury were still able to find the waves that allowed them to be awarded impressive scores.

Burleigh Heads local Lane racked up a score of 17 in his heat.

Lane, 21, won a Pro Junior event in South Australia last year and finished 2009 in sixth place in the Australasian Junior rankings.

"I've come to Newcastle to surf in this event twice before and my cousin lives at Bar Beach. I have family in Maitland so I get to surf and catch up," he said.

Lane has received the ASP wild card into both this event and next week's Margaret River contest.

Chris Salisbury from Newport in New South Wales was just behind Lane on the tally-sheet for the day's and round's highest heat score (16.50).

Salisbury, 20, who has won under-14, under-16 and two under-18 NSW state surfing titles, said he enjoyed the bigger swell, "even though it is a bit ugly out there."

The natural-footer said it was good to be surfing waves with a bit of grunt.

"This is my last year on the Pro Junior and it suits me to have some waves over two feet," he said.

Action in the Burton Toyota Pro is scheduled to continue tomorrow with the round of 48 set to get underway at 7.30am.


SOURCE: Surfing Australia