Michel Bourez won the 2014 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro today--the first victory of his career--defeating Josh Kerr in the final. We look back at the event and the lessons we learned from Event 2 of the 2014 Samsung ASP World Championship Tour.
Power meets power
Michel Bourez, the Tahitian known as "Spartan" due to his impressive physique and warrior attitude, is known as one of the most powerful surfers on Tour. As such, the raw energy and strong swells that are commonplace in Western Australia were always going to suit the 25-year-old father of one. Nothing illustrated this better than a single wave in the quarterfinal against Kelly Slater. Needing a score in the dying minutes, Bourez unleashed his trademark power turns, throwing huge fans of spray and netting a day-high 9.37 to advance. After his quarterfinal win, Bourez stated that he would have to "go big" to defeat Slater. He was true to his word, and no other surfer could have manhandled that wave as Bourez did. It was his first event win in six years on Tour, and no one deserves it more. "It's a dream come true. I'm speechless. This is for my little family," a teary-eyed Bourez said afterward.
The race is wide open
Since 2002, the ASP world title has been shared between just four surfers: Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Mick Fanning, and Joel Parkinson. After today's final at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, contested between Michel Bourez and Josh Kerr, both going for their first ASP World Tour event win, the top five looks more different than at any other time in a decade. Gabriel Medina is still on top, and Kerr and Bourez move into the top five, while Slater and Parko are, inevitably, in the mix. Could this be the year when the established order finally breaks down?
Whilst Josh Kerr failed to win his first-ever world-title victory, adding another final-round loss to the one he secured at the Pipe Masters in 2012, the California-based affable Australian is proving himself as one of the world's most versatile surfers. Some of his best results have come in some of the heaviest waves on Tour, including Pipeline and Teahupoo, and yet his aerial turns make him one of the most progressive surfers in small waves. "Kerrzy can go mad and you never know what to expect from him," his opponent, Bourez, said afterward. This all-around package, with its fair dose of unpredictable madness, has seen Kerr rise to third in the world. He's got a real chance for a world title.
The natural-footers have it
Margaret River is primarily known as a left-breaking wave, although the 2014 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro failed to feature many scoring left-handers. This was a function of the relatively small swell. As the swells get bigger, the rights tend to close out while the lefts improve. Also, locals pointed to a recent rainstorm, which meant the river was flowing, dumping sand in the channel and reducing the quality of the lefts. The predominance of right-handers seemed to favor the natural-footers. Only two goofy-footers, Nat Young and Gabriel Medina, made the quarters, both of whom failed to proceed.
Expect more of the same at Bells
There is hardly time to breathe before the next stop of the Samsung Galaxy ASP World Tour kicks off at Bells Beach, Victoria. However, there is perhaps no better form guide for Bells than Margaret River. Both are very similar waves: long walls that pack plenty of power, yet aren't very steep or critical. Expect the surfers who did well at Margaret River--as well as the likes of previous Bells winners and finalists, like Bede Durbidge, Nat Young, and Kelly Slater--to do well; Bourez and Kerr will also be high on confidence. As Shane Dorian once said, "No kook has ever won Bells." That ain't about to change this Easter.
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