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SURFING

Australian Prevails in Bitter Duel

July 24, 2000|JOHN WEYLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Australian Michael Campbell said all American surfers were pathetic. Hawaii's Sunny Garcia said Michael Campbell is pathetic. The first was just a bit of Aussie bravado, the second probably a bit of an overreaction.

In reality, the only thing that truly was pathetic was the surf south of the Huntington Beach pier as No. 1 Garcia and No. 6 Campbell squared off for the final of the Bluetorch Pro on Sunday afternoon.

After spending the first third of the 35-minute final sitting on their boards in the gently rolling sea that provided no bumps big enough to catch, Campbell and Garcia made the most of the few swells that did roll in and slashed their way to a finish that was dramatic if not dynamic.

Garcia, needing a score of 4.86 to take the lead, caught a small wave near the pier and milked it all the way until his fins hit the sand as the horn sounded ending the competition. He stood on the beach holding his board and looking up to the judges' tower. Campbell sat on his board in the lineup, looking up at the judges.

When the score was announced, it was Campbell who slapped at the water and thrust both fists in the air in a victory salute. He had edged Garcia, 19.60-19, winning $15,000 in the process.

Then the action really started.

Garcia, who improved his lead in the World Championship Tour rankings over second-place Luke Egan of Australia, accepted his second-place check for $8,000, thanked the crowd of about 40,000 for their overwhelming support, and said he was sorry for "letting down America." He then slipped off the victory stand without shaking Campbell's hand.

"I read in an Australian [surfing] magazine that he said all American surfers were pathetic," Garcia said. "I'm very upset about losing to Mick. I'm American, so I take it as Mick saying I'm pathetic."

Campbell said the magazine comment was made with the intention of "stirring the pot." Apparently, he succeeded in getting into Garcia's kitchen.

"We've got a thing called freedom of speech, mate," Campbell said, "and if people want to take it personally, that's their problem. I've got a lot of respect for Sunny. Maybe he doesn't respect me, but that's all right.

"I wasn't really serious, it was just a little mind game to get people flustered. Hopefully, they'll be falling off because they're stressing about how much they hate me."

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