The Oneil World Cup and Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach 2006

Is it on, is it off, was the story at Sunset Beach this year. There were two beautiful 6 ft days that contest directors let pass in hopes of larger swell that did not materialize so in the end most of the competition was held in relatively small surf for Sunset therefore conditons for most of the men's competition were a bit of a let down for both surfers and beach goers.

On the final day of competition however, the waves finally started coming up throughout the day and there were some incredible rounds. It got bigger and better and actually started to look like the Northshore we know by the end of the contest before turning onshore right before dark. You could feel the energy level rising as the waves really started bombing reaching 12 ft by the dark.

Kelly Slater lost out in the quarterfinals and by the semis Ian Walsh and Mick Fanning were out of the race. Neco Padaratz from Brazil came in with an injury but still advanced and was able to surf in the semis after a few stitches. One of the most exciting rounds was the second semi final from which local boys Pancho Sullivan and Fred Patacchia went head to head to advance. Pancho had two solid waves with some exceptional turns and a barrel ride while Fred had one incredbile 8 ft set wave where he did two back to back straight up snaps right under the lip where most surfers wouldn't have even made it around the section. He needed a second wave to back up his first ride and in the last couple minutes of the heat took off on a smaller wave just inside of the point, but right behind him Sullivan caught a little bit larger wave from the same spot and both were riding the smaller waves simutaneously all the way in. Sullivan rode his past Vals reef all the way to the sand but just missed advancing by a hundreth of a point. Fred would then join Andy Irons as one of the two Hawaiians in the final. Also making his mark at Sunset Beach was young South African surfer Jordy Smith who was just carving up and down the volume of these waves all day as if they were some kind small point break. Smith had 10 stitches in his foot while competing that day. Joel Parkinson who won the competition had both Fred and Andy comboed throughout most the heat after scoring a perfect 10 for an incredible tube ride. This was his second victory at Sunset. All the contestants seemed pretty stoaked to have scored some killer waves at Sunset to themselves. Andy Irons and Joel Parkinson were now in close contention for the Triple Crown title going into the Rip Curl Pipe Masters and Jordy Smith was noted as the Nose Guard Rookie of the Year.

The 1st day of the Roxy Pro was beautiful and perfect 3- 6 ft for the girls who were just making the most of every set taking off deep and doing some amazing things out there. It was great to see the girls ripping it up after not having Sunset or a 3rd leg to the women's Triple Crown for several years. It was fun to watch and exciting to see the girls restablish themselves. Two trials heats determined which of the wildcards would be seeded into the event. Up and coming big wave surfer Jenny Useldinger competed in the first round, but struggled to get her waves. Young Koko Ho also put on a great display of surfing, but couldn't get out of the heat. Crowd favorite, Bethany Hamilton won the first heat taking off on some of the biggest, deepest waves and riding them all the way to the inside, but couldn't get out of the final trails round . Carissa Moore just missed making the cut to west side Wahine Melanie Bartels and Austrailian Stephanie Gilmore. Some of the less experienced girls talked about how it was hard for them, getting used to the bigger boards out there, but the level of surfing that day proved the girls certainly deserved their spot at Sunset Beach.

On the final day, smaller and windy choppy surf had us all hanging on the edge of our seats. The second semi was a standout heat as Layne Beachly and Melanie Redman-Carr who were still neck in neck for world title contention began to fight just as hard for the third and fourth place position as anyone else did for the first and second because every spot counted at that point. Though Beachly scored third place she could not touch Ballard who dominated the heat by riding the biggest waves and excuting some incredible floaters over the inside section. She even pulled into a good size pit but because of the bump and lump in the waves, could not find a way out. The Hawaiian veteran would be joined with former world champion Chelsea Gorgeson in the final to face the two trialist Stephanie Gilmore and Melanie Bartels. It seemed like a test of determination in the final where Rochelle and Chelsea struggled to even find a makeable wave as the chop got bigger and the waves further and few between. Half way through the heat, it was obvious that our trialist wanted it more and the battle was a close one between Melanie and Stephanie. They both exchanged waves showing us how the new generation of women surf, each with their own signature style. It came right down to the last few seconds when Melanie got one of the best rides of the heat and captured the victory. The west side wahine crew and family who was sitting on the beach went wild and swarmed Mel as she came in, even the Roxy tent seemed pretty stoaked for her.

It was a victory with meaning. Melanie who had just requalified the week before for next years WCT started out, not as a trialist in the exclusive event but as an alternate for the trials. How could that be, I thought, its so great to have the amateur girls coming up in the trials, but how could an already established surfer be chosen second to them? It happens; it happens a lot. WCT surfer Silvana LIma who couldn't compete due to an injury, was Melanie's ticket to get in and then win the competition. In the Roxy which is an event which is totally encompassed by a statement about image, Melanie still won just being herself and as she noted believing in herself and not giving up. It should be an inspiration to women everywhere, that we can still make it against all the odds which are so often set before us. This was Melanie's first ASP WCT win and it will definitely put her on a positive note towards next year. Gilmore who surfed well throughout all the Hawaii events walked away with second place and Rookie of the year.

As the women went off to Maui, the men prepared for Pipeline and contest directors scrambled being that they had held the World Cup on the very last day in the very last hour possible. The tension grew greater as the Hawaiian season was finally getting underway with some good looking systems stacking up on the maps for the most popular of surfing venues; the Rip Curl Pipe Masters.