Hawaiian surfers dominated the men's final of the Telstar Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River, Western Australia Saturday. John John Florence, using the momentum from winning the 2011 Hawaiian Triple Crown defeated close friend Olamana Eleogram in the 40 minute final while fellow Hawaiian, Malia Manuel was not so lucky, finishing second to the USA mainland's Courtney Conlogue.
Margaret River threw every surfing condition known to man at this year's competitors, from onshore eight-foot mush to clean pristine barrels, to air sections on both the lefts and the rights.
Florence mastered all the conditions, going to the air when needed, pulling into the tubes on the rights and laying down power hacks on the open faces to win 18.76-15.4 over Elogram in the final.
"I was just using all the confidence I got from winning the Triple Crown to keep me going here. This is the second Prime I've won and I'm just so happy right now to have won this event. The conditions here are a lot like Hawaii, the power of the ocean. Everything about the conditions reminds me of home and then to be in the final with one of my good friends, Ola (Eleogram.) He surfs so well and I was pretty nervous going into the final, so I'm just stoked to have won."
Florence had been nervous yesterday going up against his close friend Kolohe Andino and used that nervous energy to good advantage.
"Kolohe's like a machine so to actually beat him in a heat, I was so stoked," he said, and when it was suggested that he too was like a 'machine' today with the way he pulled air reverses at will, he just laughed and said, "Yeah those sections on the lefts were just perfect and it was just a matter of timing. It all worked out for me where I was able to get the wind to hold the tail for me."
Getting his timing just right was probably an understatement. In the final, Florence seemed to dial in his air game at will. Surfing on the left into the light side-shore northerly wind, he was boosting forehand air reverses for massive scores. Both of his highest scoring waves were in the mid nines, leaving Eleogram chasing a near perfect score for a good part of the final.
Over the whole event, Florence's heat averaged in the 18-point range, showing his versatility and dominance of the conditions. Eleogram had mastered the tricky conditions all week too. Twice defeating former event champion and in form surfer, Josh Kerr, and ending Mark Occhilupo's dream run in the semi finals today.
"I'm just stoked on my result, two Hawaiians in the final, it was just fun to be out there and I'm stoked for John John," said Eleogram from the doctor's stretcher. He'd tweaked his right knee trying to emulate Florence's air moves and was receiving treatment from the event's medical staff.
"I've got an event in Huntington Beach, California next week and I need to be fit," he said while wincing from the pain, "This is the best result I've had at a Prime event. I was happy with a 9th last week in Newcastle and now with a second behind John John, I just can't believe it."
Surfing legend, Mark Occhilupo, was also happy with his performance, beating Tom Whitaker to get to the semis. He'd won the event in 1985 -- the event's first year and he never thought he'd do so well this week.
"This week has been all time," he said with that infamous grin that has warmed the surf world now for three decades, "I really surprised myself. I came here thinking I could do okay, but never imagined that I'd be finishing with an equal third place. It's a cool result but it would have been the ultimate finish for me to finish the whole thing off with a win. I fell on that last wave and I guess we'll never know whether I could have got the score or not to beat Ola (Eleogram). When I do calm down after losing I'll be really proud of myself and what I achieved this week."
In the women's division, Courtney Conlogue would have to be feeling proud of herself too, with her back-to-back wins. Last year's result propelled her onto the world championship tour and today she came up against fellow tour rookie, Malia Manuel in a closely fought final. Hawaii's Manuel is one of the exciting newcomers to the world tour this year and has been posting very good results at all of her previous events. This year's field at Margaret River contained the likes of Stephanie Gilmore, Sofia Mulanovich, Laura Enever and Paige Hareb, putting the results for Manuel and Conlogue into perspective.
"It was definitely hard going for back-to-back wins," said Conlogue on the way to the showers to try and douse off the salt water, "The talent lever this year was so much higher and all the women were surfing amazingly well, so to win for the second year in a row is very special. And now I'm looking forward to the next event and hopefully the ball will keep on rolling."
The next event for Florence and Conlogue is the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach starting in just over a week on the other side of Australia, where conditions could be very similar to the powerful conditions experienced here. Both surfers will certainly be taking the confidence of winning at Margaret River with them.