Dean Morrison

The Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui, Stop No. 3 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, got underway this morning, with the world’s best surfers contesting the first 14 heats of the elimination, man-on-man Round 1 in pulsing four-to-six foot (2 metre) barrels on offer at Teahupoo.

Dean Morrison (AUS), 28, current ASP World No. 19, took today’s top honors as he displayed sensational form for his Round 1 win over 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie Nathaniel Curran (USA), 24. The Australian exhibited a preternatural rapport with the ledging Teahupoo lefthanders, netting an excellent 9.00 out of a possible 10 single-wave score en route to the highest heat total of the day (a 17.00 out of a possible 20.)

“I just try to position myself well and try to get the set waves or rather the best one in the set,” Morrison said. “Just try to read it right and get deep in the tube. The secret is actually not taking off at the peak, but a little behind the peak so that you can edge into it. Just take off and hold on – that’s all you can do.”

In addition to putting up the biggest scores of the day, Morrison also entertained the throngs of spectators in the channel with the most spectacular wipeout of the round, a late to cart-wheeling inside the tube before being blasted towards the shallow reef.

“That wave was probably pretty funny from the channel,” Morrison said. “It was a bit of a late and I should have came more over my front foot, but I was on my backfoot and did a few summersaults in there. Fortunately, I was pretty deep and didn’t hit the bottom.”

Recovering from a devastating hip injury that saw Morrison sit out the last several events of the 2008 ASP World Tour season, the progressive natural-footer is on the mend and looking to claw himself back to the top of the ASP Top 45 ratings. Despite a disappointing equal 33rd place finish at the opening event of the season, Morrison has since rebounded, collecting an equal 9th at the second event before putting in today’s sterling performance.

“My recovery has been pretty good,” Morrison said. “The last few months, that’s been my main focus, rehabbing. It’s been hard work, but it’s been worth it. I still don’t feel like I’m surfing at 100%, but I am getting there and I feel like I’m getting stronger every day.”

Andy Irons (HAW), 30, former three-time ASP World Champion, is on sabbatical from full-time competition this season, but accepted a wildcard into the Billabong Pro Tahiti, where the powerful Hawaiian dispatched of Brazilian Jihad Khodr, 25, convincingly, netting an impressive 8.67 out of a possible 10 for a sizzling backhand pit

“The win feels good,” Irons said. “It’s been four months since I put a jersey on and it still fits. Surfing fun-sized Teahupoo with one other guy out, there’re no complaints. I’m stoked to get through and looking forward to the next one.”

Irons, a past winner at the Billabong Pro Tahiti (2002), will face last year’s ASP World Tour Runner-Up Bede Durbidge (AUS), 26, in Round 2 when competition recommences.

“It’s going to be really hard against Bede (Durbidge),” Irons said. “He is a really focused competitor. I’m not worried though. I’m not here competing for points or anything like that. I’m just here having fun and I’ll be stoked to surf against him.”

Heiarii Williams (PYF), 22, Von Zipper Trials winner and wildcard in the Billabong Pro Tahiti, continued his devastating roll today, ousting 2009 ASP World Tour rookie and current ASP World No. 9, Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), 23, in Round 1 of competition.

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Joel Parkinson enjoys Tahiti 

The 2009 Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui is days away from commencing with the world’s best surfers descending upon the tiny town of Teahupoo at ‘the end of the road’ for Stop No. 3 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, running from May 9 – 20, 2009.

This year’s event will run the new format, seeding all competitors directly into man-on-man elimination heats, with the Top 16 seeded directly into Round 2 while the remaining surfers battle it out in Round 1.

Joel Parkinson (AUS), 27, current ASP World No. 1, has been in devastating form this season, collecting two wins in two events with an eye on an inaugural ASP World Title. The phenomenal natural-footer has demonstrated incredible focus thus far and is the frontrunner heading into Tahiti.

“The difference this year has been my understanding of what it takes to get the best out of myself and then my desire to do what it takes,” Parkinson said. “Making sure that every day, I am better prepared than what I was the day before and that preparation is specific to each contest that I compete in.”

Parkinson’s recent results at the Billabong Pro Tahiti have been impressive, netting equal 3rd place finishes in 2007 and 2008, establishing himself as a legitimate contender at Teahupoo.

“I do feel like over the years I have become more familiar with the wave and whilst Teahupoo is never predictable, it is reassuring to know that I have done the work here before.” Parkinson said. “I am excited to go back there this year and build on my results from the last two years.”

Despite his excellent results this season and his solid track record at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, Parkinson is wary of the many challenges he’ll face as the world’s best surfers angle for a result in Teahupoo’s ledging lefthanders.

“I think everyone will be in the mix for a win,” Parkinson said. “Remember, it is only the third event so everyone is still keen to do well – myself included. But on an individual side of things, the wildcards will be sure to shake things up like they have the first two events. Andy Irons will be challenging for the title. And of course Mick (Fanning) will be a threat because he is the best surfer right now and probably the hungriest.”

Parkinson is seeded directly into Round 2, where he’ll meet one of the advancing surfers from Round 1.

Fred Patacchia (HAW), 27, current ASP World No. 3, has been in sizzling form this season, racking up a 9th and a 3rd in his first two events on the ASP World Tour before collecting an impressive win at the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) 6-Star Prime 6.0 Lowers Pro in Southern California over the weekend.

“I’ve been really focusing on my backhand surfing,” Patacchia said. “My first couple years on tour, I felt like my backhand attack wasn’t good enough. I’d go into a heat feeling negative and defeated. This year, I’m feeling confident and more prepared. I’ve made some slight changes with my boards and that’s made a big difference. No big plans for Tahiti, just pull in deep and come out. Not much to it.”

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Rob Machado

The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) will honor surfing icon Rob Machado as Waterman of the Year, surfer and enviro-warrior Dave Rastovich as Environmentalist of the Year, and the incomparable late industry leader Dick Baker with the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award, as part of the association’s annual Waterman’s Weekend environmental fundraiser. 

The 2009 Waterman’s Weekend will be held August 6-7 and will raise funds for 18 ocean conservation organizations. The weekend begins Thursday, August 6, with the Waterman’s Classic Golf Tournament at the Monarch Beach Golf Links, and culminates on Friday, August 7, with the 20th Annual Waterman’s Ball and Auction. SIMA is excited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Waterman’s Ball by returning the event to The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, Calif.

“The SIMA Board of Directors and Environmental Fund have selected a very deserving lineup of honorees, and we believe the surf industry will agree that each of these honorees has undoubtedly earned our respect and appreciation,” said Paul Naude, chairman of the Waterman’s Weekend event committee and president of the SIMA Environmental Fund Board of Directors. “On behalf of the surf industry, SIMA is proud to honor Rob, Rasta and Dick at this year’s Waterman’s Ball for their unique and powerful influence on the sport, culture and business of surfing.”

Waterman of the Year, Rob Machado, is one of the world’s greatest and most iconic surf stars. Over the course of his career – from contest victories to giving back to his communities and the industry – Rob has helped define the modern era of the sport and embodies the true spirit of surfing.

The goofyfooter exploded onto the WCT circuit in 1993, ranking among the top 10 surfers in the world for 11 consecutive years and raking up 12 WCT victories along the way. In addition to his competitive success, Rob’s recognizable and impeccable style in the water has earned him an international fanbase. Rob’s ‘style’ when he is not surfing is another admirable quality, as seen in his commitment to supporting various charitable causes.

Rob has established The Rob Machado Foundation, which through his annual golf tournament supports various charities dedicated to environmental programs within Southern California. His foundation also works closely with the Cardiff Education Foundation on efforts to green Machado’s hometown’s elementary school district. He has also created the Rob Machado Surf Experience, a highly anticipated surf contest for girls and boys 16 and under in Rob’s hometown of Cardiff-by-the Sea, Calif. 

Rob’s goodwill does not stop on the local-level, as this surf legend has also donated his time for an Indonesian well digging project with the Sumba Foundation, and for the Water Innovation Now (WIN) contest, which gave 500,000 kids the opportunity to come up with innovative ways to conserve our water as a result of Southern California’s water crisis.

“From U.S. National Champion, to Pipemaster, to winning three U.S. Opens and 12 WCT victories, Rob’s trophy case is quite full and demonstrates the mark he has made on professional surfing,” stated Naude.  “The truly special thing about Rob, however, is the fact he is loved even more out of the water. His graciousness and genuinely altruistic spirit make him an invaluable ambassador and icon for the surf industry. It is our honor to recognize Rob as Waterman of the Year.”

Popular freesurfer and 2009 SIMA Environmentalist of the Year, Dave Rastovich, is a passionate activist and defender of the oceans and waves he surfs. >From fighting to protect dolphins and whales from illegal slaughter, to co-founding the grassroots advocacy group Surfers for Cetaceans, to being the face of some of the surf industry’s prominent environmentally friendly product campaigns, protecting our oceans on multiple levels is a natural part of Rasta’s personal and professional lives. As a surfer, Rasta knows first-hand the effects of a polluted ocean and understands he can serve as a role model for other surfers to do more to protect our environment.

“If 1% of surfers got as involved as Rasta, our jobs would be a lot easier and the problems we’re trying to solve with events like Waterman’s would be a lot less,” commented Naude. “Rasta is a model surfer for those who are concerned with protecting our ocean playground. We need to get young surfers engaged in these issues close to our hearts and that is part of why Rasta is such an effective environmentalist ­– he shows goodwill for surfers around the world to aspire to, and shows that as surfers, protecting our environment is the natural thing to do.”

SIMA is proud to honor its late president and guiding light, Dick Baker, with the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award. Baker became involved with SIMA in 2000 after coming to work for the iconic surf brand Ocean Pacific (Op), and served as president of SIMA for nine years. His presidency was instrumental in creating the vibrant trade association of Orange County based surf lifestyle brands, and he provided unfailing leadership and guidance throughout a time that has marked the association’s largest growth and expansion.

Baker claimed to be an ‘outsider,’ but he quickly became the ultimate insider, mentoring most every CEO in the industry and championing the surf industry from Wall Street to Main Street. Not only did he lead and help grow the surf industry during his involvement, but he has left a lasting legacy that will continue to guide us for many years to come.

“Words really cannot describe how deserving Dick Baker is of this Lifetime Achievement Award, nor how sorely he is missed by us all,” said Naude. “Dick was a leader, a mentor, an inspiration, a teacher, a friend, and the ultimate representative of surf industry business. He taught our industry so much, and he helped the outside world to better understand and respect our very core industry. Someone like Dick only comes once in a lifetime, and our lives and industry are so much better for it.  He was, and will continue to be, our guiding light.”

The two-day fundraising event benefits the SIMA Environmental Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation that awards grants to various environmental groups based on their dedication to preserving and protecting the world’s oceans, beaches and waves. Last year’s event attracted more than 850 people and raised a record $500,000 for 18 ocean conservation groups. The 2009 Waterman’s Weekend environmental beneficiaries and this year’s fundraising goal will be announced in the coming weeks.