Mark Occhilupo 

One of surfings great champions, Mark Occhilupo, put the ASP competitive rash vest back on today and took his place as a wildcard in the Drug Aware Pro in good 1.5m (4feet) surf at Margaret River.

The 43 year old former ASP world champion (1999) has an affinity with Margaret River having won this event twice, the first time very early in his esteemed career at 19 way back in 1985 and the second time in the twighlight years as a 40 year old in 2006.

Occhilupo scored a reasonable 6:00 ride mid heat and only required a 4.9 to progress but in the end he placed 3rd  on a two wave heat tally of 10.65 behind rising stars Tanner Gudauskas (USA) on 14.25 and Dion Atkinson  (10.95/AUS).

“I love it here and the organizers always invite me back and it’s just a great place” said Occhilupo.

“The disappointment at losing is still in my system, I really thought I had a chance of progressing through that heat and I was in full competitive mode out there today – I doubt that competitive mode will ever leave the system but now I am knocked out I’ll enjoy my time at the event and relax with my family here – the disappointment will ease away!”

Fellow ASP World Dream Tour veteran and local surfing idol Jake Paterson (Yallingup /WA) joined Occhilupo as an eliminated wildcard today. Paterson had a shocker of a heat scoring just 4 points while Leonardo Neves (Brazil) posted the mornings top scoring heat with an excellent 16 point tally and  Aritz Aranburu (Spain) in 2nd on 15.45.

Other impressive heat winners today included local West Australian surfers Jay Davies (Yallingup) and Luke Campbell (Trigg Point/Perth). Davies is looking particularly ominous and scored the day’s top scoring ride with an outstanding 9.33.

With much larger waves forecast for tomorrow’s round three Davies is looking forward to the challenges ahead.

“Bring on the bigger waves for me” said Davies.

“It’s definitely my best chance to do well here, I know the wave well, especially when it starts to max out size wise and tomorrow should be fun.”

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 Billabong XXL Wipeout Awards

With the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards just 16 days away, organizers have announced additional nominees in the remaining categories, including the Verizon Wireless Wipeout Award, the Surfline Best Overall Performance Award and the Billabong Girls Performance Award.

For the first time in the nine-year history of the Billabong XXL Awards, the public at large will be able to vote and decide the winner of an event division, the Verizon Wireless Wipeout Award. Viewers are invited to review the five dramatically unsuccessful rides and then TEXT in their vote for the one they deem the best (or worst, depending on your viewpoint).  The text-in program works on all wireless service providers in the USA, and standard text messaging rates apply.

The nominees for the Verizon Wireless Wipeout Award include: Australia's Dean Bowen for a head-over heels step-jump at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania; Ross Clarke-Jones' mission to oblivion at Pedra Branca, Tasmania: Greg Long's eardrum-bursting depth charge at Maverick's; Ramon Navarro's twisting somersault into the barrel at Santos del Mar, Chile; and Grant Washburn's cockroach-influenced backslide down the face at Maverick's, Northern California.  The "winner" of Best Wipeout honors will receive a Water Resistant G'zOne Casio Boulder Phone with one year of free service from Verizon Wireless.

The Wipeout Award will be a lighthearted moment during the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presentation gala on the evening of Friday, April 17 at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California.  The invitation-only affair will be attended by scores of big wave surfing's elite along with some 2,250 surf industry VIPs.  The entire show will be carried on a live webcast at BillabongXXL.com and will be the subject of a one-hour TV special on ESPN2 on the evening of May 29, 2009.

Announced last week were the nominees in the Billabong XXL's most revered categories, including the $50,000 Ride of the Year, XXL Biggest Wave, Monster Paddle and Monster Tube.  Video and still photos of the finalists in those divisions can be viewed by clicking on the BillabongXXL.com website. In all, over $130,000 in prize money will be awarded when the winners are revealed at the XXL-night festivities, a festive red carpet evening which has grown to be known as the Oscars of surfing.

While the wipeout voting is a public affair, the objective XXL and Monster Paddle wave-height awards are determined through careful measurements of the photographic evidence by a panel of top surfers, photographers and surf magazine editors.  The subjective awards, including the Ride of the Year, Monster Tube and Performance divisions are decided by the votes of the "surfing academy," made up of all the top surfers and photographers who annually participate in the XXL, along with respected surf journalists worldwide.

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Montauk Point 

The closing of the Montauk Point surf season is upon us and with it comes the end of two blissful months of legal surfing.

After years of conflict between surfers and local anglers, the Long Island region of state parks issued a regulation change in January of 2009, which gave surfers legal access to surf Montauk Point (the fishing season for striped bass runs from April 15th- Dec 15th).

Surfrider Foundation's Long Island and New York chapters have been heavily involved in the "Free The Montauk Eight" campaign, which supported eight surfers that were ticketed in 2007 for surfing this area.

Although the tickets were dismissed and a "surfing window" has now been established, keeping surfers out of the water when this place turns on may continue to be an issue.

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