Association of Surfing
2004 World Championship Tour (WCT)
Surfing World Champions
Honored at Night of Nights
Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
(Sunday, February 29, 2004) The Association
of Surfing Professionals (ASP) officially crowned
its 2003 World Champions last night and honored
a host of other illustrious contributors to
the sport at its annual "Champions of The
World Awards Banquet". A red-carpet gala
affair, the evening was attended by the top
45 rated men, top 17 rated women, and hundreds
of distinguished international guests at the
Marriott Hotel in Surfer's Paradise.
A media throng and fans
greeted the sports elite as they arrived by
limousine and walked the red carpet. Multi-talented
musician and Bells Beach-based surfer Xavier
Rudd performed at a pre-awards cocktail reception
before guests took their places in the ballroom
and ASP President Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew
opened proceedings with a welcoming speech.
"This really harks
back to the early days," explained Bartholomew,
the 1978 world champion. "Crowning the
World Champions just days before the commencement
of the new season, before anyone has had a chance
to surf a heat or get any runs on the board.
We should be in for a great night," he
joked. "Because no one here has any reason
to hate the person sitting next to them."
Local Mayor Gary Baildon
praised the surfers and ASP, welcoming the banquet
(formerly held in Hawaii) to Australia.
"The surfing culture
underpins the Gold Coast Community. Nowhere
is the love of surfing and the respect and admiration
of surfing's stars any greater than here,"
Following what many regard
as the tightest, most exciting title race in
the sports' 28 year history, Andy Irons (Haw)
was then crowned Men's World Championship Tour
(WCT) winner for the second consecutive year.
The Kauaian was gracious in the acceptance of
his award, singling out six-time World Champion
Kelly Slater as an intense rival that drove
him to his own personal limits during the deciding
final event at Pipeline last season.
"There were times
when I thought I couldn't do it and just wanted
to forget about it and go home," said Irons
before receiving a standing ovation. "But
I'm glad I didn't. Right now, this is the stuff
I dreamed of as a kid."
Layne Beachley (Aus)
then received her record-breaking sixth consecutive
ASP world title, and put any unfounded predictions
that she may retire to rest by announcing a
fully committed return to competition in 2004.
In the process, praised female champions who
came before her for their pioneering efforts.
"Pam Burridge (Australia's
first 'Queen of the Waves' in the 80s and 90s)
used to earn $500 a month and next week we're
competing for US$62,000," said Beachley.
"It's clear women's surfing has come a
long way. And for all the other girls here tonight,
just letting you know I'm not retiring. You're
going to have to win the title off me fair and
2003 men's runner-up
Kelly Slater made the night's longest acceptance
speech, bringing the room to a hush as he sincerely
thanked two close friends, Quiksilver's Bruce
Raymond and former Australian Iron Man champion
Trevor Hendy, for helping him shake a personal
nadir following his overwhelming competitive
run in the late 90s.
"In 1998 when I'd
only just won the World Title from Mick Campbell
and Dan Wills (Aus) at Pipeline, I told myself
I'd experienced the best time in my life and
things probably wouldn't get any better, and
so they didn't," explained Slater. "But
I finally achieved a turn-around last year when
my friends caught me at an opportune time and
sat me down. They helped me to become honest
with my life and where I was going. I'd like
to congratulate Andy for pushing me to new levels
last year, the best year of my life. Now I've
got a total new motivation."
Other winners included
Adriano De Souza (Brz) - World Junior Champion,
Beau Young (Aus) - World Longboard Champion,
Gary 'Kong' Elkerton (Aus) - World Masters Champion
(aged 35-44) and Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew
(Aus) - crowned World Grand Masters Champion
Young clinched his second
world title by defeating American prodigy Joel
Tudor in the final of the Oxbow World Longboard
Championships at Raglan, New Zealand last November.
Beau's win is the sixth world surfing crown
for the Young family, with his father and legend
Nat, previously claiming four.
"The surfing tribe
is very large and fills all walks of life. We're
open minded and tolerant of religion, race,
income and board choice," joked
Young. "We are all one. We need to ensure
that the oceans we enjoy today are here for
our children, and our children's children, years
Other awards were presented
to 2003 women's WCT runner-up Keala Kennelly
(Haw), men's Most Improved Dean Morrison (Aus),
women's Most Improved Samantha Cornish (Aus),
'Rookies of the Year' Luke Stedman (Aus) and
Sophia Mulanovich (Peru), as well as the 2003
World Qualifying Series (WQS) winners - Neco
Padaratz (Brz) and Melanie Bartels (Haw).
Retiring surfers Shane
Dorian (Haw), Shane Powell (Aus), and Brazilian
heroes Fabio Gouveia (Brz) and Flavio Padaratz
(Brz) were also mentioned, with Padaratz receiving
special recognition for his tireless competitive
energy following 15 years on tour, and serving
countless terms as a representative on the ASP
"When I started
there was nobody from South America competing
on the world tour," explained Padaratz
to hoots from his fellow countrymen. "So
this award is dedicated to you guys (pointing
to two tables full of fellow competitors) and
Brazil!" Padaratz's younger brother, Neco,
was similarly patriotic after claiming his title
for the WQS.
"I do this for me
and my country," explained Neco. "Years
ago my mother told me her dream was to provide
a life which enabled me to grow and make my
own choices, and one of those dreams I had was
to be a pro surfer."
The ASP Cultural Award
was presented to Jokin Arroyo, on behalf of
the Basque people of Spain who have contributed
to the growth of international surfing since
the late 80s, each year continuing to stage
major events while making significant cultural
impacts on the sport. Previous Cultural Awards
have been presented to the Tahitian Surfing
Federation and Chief Druku of Tavarua Island,
Hawaiian-based Mike Strata
accepted the Special Acknowledgement award.
Mike kindly allowed organizers of the Xbox Pipeline
Masters event to have full use of his four story
beachside mansion at Pipeline, when permit restrictions
stopped the usual beach structures being setup.
Judges, media and promoters made use of Mike's
house for days as the 2003 season came to its
A video montage and speech
by Rabbit honored the unique lifestyle, skills
and character of Californian legend Miki Dora
- who passed away aged 67, on January 3rd, 2002
following a six-month battle with cancer. Dora
was famous for being one of surfing's "most
tirelessly committed surfers" and for "living
outside the system" most of his adult life.
There was also an emotional
and lengthy standing ovation for the tireless
efforts of ASP CEO Peter Whittaker, who has
been battling severe illness the past year,
yet still managed to attend the function.
The night also launched
the Fosters Men's Tour and ASP Women's Tour
into the 2004 season, with the first World Championship
events commencing in two days - March 2nd, at
nearby Snapper Rocks for the Quiksilver &
Roxy Pro presented by Boost Mobile.