Jamie O'Brien 

Hawaiian surfer Jamie O’Brien was announced today as the big winner at the first-ever Billabong Freewave Challenge, capturing both First and Second Place in the Best Performance Ride category and collecting a whopping $14,444.43 for two waves’ work. 

O’Brien, a key proponent of “free-surfing” as performed outside of regular competitive formats and judging criteria, was voted number one by his peers for his “Rodeo Flip,” a backside aerial maneuver combining an inverted flip and a 360 degree turn with both hands grabbing the rails. That single ride earned a check for $9999,99. O’Brien’s second place ride was a “Freak Out Turn” featuring a hard carve into a forward flip with a half twist.

O’Brien accepted his trophy and checks at his home overlooking the Pipeline break and said, “Free-surfing is one of the most important things about the North Shore.  The contests don’t always have good waves and in the end people remember the tube or the year or the best maneuver of the year.  It can happen any day or any second. This year the waves were not the best for a lot of the regular contests, but the winter goes on for months so there will always be epic moments in an event like the Freewave Challenge.”

O’Brien is looking forward to defending his Billabong Freewave Challenge crown.

“I think the Freewave Challenge can be the future for free surfing as more and more surfers get into it and post more and more video clips,” added O’Brien.  “I think it could be a monster, we could raise some animals. It can inspire surfers to go to the next level.  I don’t want to wiggle to the beach, I want to go off — and I think there are a lot of guys who feel the same way.”

Winning the Best Tube Ride Award was Timmy Reyes of Huntington Beach, California for what was widely regarded as the wave of the year on the North Shore of Oahu.  Reyes waited three hours on one of the best days of the winter for the perfect barrel to come to him, and it paid off in glorious fashion.  Reyes was awarded a check for $5,555.55 for his great escape.

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ASP Women 2008 

The best female surfers in the world are diligently preparing for the opening event of the 2008 ASP Women’s World Tour season, the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, running from Feb. 23 through Mar. 6, 2008.

Chelsea Georgeson (AUS), former ASP Women’s World Champion and defending Roxy Pro Champion, will be absent from competition this season as she prepares for the birth of her first child.  Georgeson’s absence ensures that the Roxy Pro will see a new champion this year and the ASP Top 17 will all be vying for a solid result to kick start their respective 2008 campaigns.

Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), reigning ASP Women’s World Champion and into her sophomore season on the Dream Tour, won the Roxy Pro Gold Coast as a wildcard in 2005, finished equal 5th place last year.  The phenomenal natural-footer will be looking to open up her ASP World Title defense this season will a solid finish in her home beaches of the Gold Coast.

“I’ve just been relaxing a lot and I suppose I am still taking it all in from last year’s win,” Gilmore said.  “I’m pretty confident heading into the Roxy Pro as it’s right here at home, and I have just been surfing a lot – surfing a lot at Snapper and a bit at D’Bah.  I’ve just got a fresh batch of boards from my shaper, Darren Handley, so I’ve been working pretty hard at getting those sorted out.”

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Pancho Sullivan 

Hawaii’s Pancho Sullivan wiped out the opposition to claim his second Monster Energy Pipeline Pro, presented by Billabong, at Backdoor Pipe today in barreling waves of six to eight feet (wave face heights). Posting a perfect 10-point tube ride as well as the highest heat score of the event - 18.75 points out of 20, in the 30-minute final, his three rivals were all left in need of a combination of scores to turn the tables.

The win earned Sullivan $7,000 and 875 World Qualifying Series ratings points. Pancho first won this event back in 2005, a result that catapulted him onto the elite ASP World Championship Tour (WCT).

While the waves were not trademark Pipeline by any standards, they allowed Sullivan to prove he’s not just a big-wave power surfer but a threat to contend with in all quality conditions. He had plenty of opportunity to build momentum and show his worth after denying a main round seed and surfing all the way through from the trials here. By the conclusion of today’s final, Sullivan had contested a total of eight heats - more than any other surfer in the event.

An all-Hawaii affair, second and third place went to fellow WCT surfers Fred Patacchia (14.25 points) and Roy Powers (9.1 points) respectively, with Dustin Barca fourth (6.5 points).

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