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He Plays Waiting Game, Wins

Pro surfing: Lopez makes the most of mediocre wave in heat's waning seconds to advance to quarterfinals.

September 30, 2000|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Clemente's Shea Lopez spent the majority of Friday's heat waiting for good waves at the Billabong Pro World Championship Tour surfing event at Lower Trestles, but he almost waited too long.

With only a minute remaining in his 30-minute heat and still trailing No. 6 Shane Dorian of Hawaii, the 11th-ranked Lopez took off on a not-so-perfect right-hander, but milked it for all it was worth to complete a comeback and advance to today's quarterfinals.

"I hate to leave it 'til the end," Lopez said.

Lopez needed a 5.31 on his final wave to overtake Dorian, but he didn't have wave priority. So as he moved into position, he was surprised that Dorian didn't maneuver to take the wave.

"I couldn't believe Shane was letting me have it," Lopez said. "But I knew that was the wave, and once I stood up, I just knew I had to stay on my feet."

Lopez carved out four strong turns, riding the wave nearly to the shore, and the judges rewarded him with a 5.75, giving him 19.10 points to Dorian's 18.65. The ride capped a see-saw battle that started with Lopez taking an early lead before Dorian seized control.

Dorian had wave scores of 6.50, 5.50 and 6.65 on his first three waves to wipe out Lopez's early advantage.

Lopez scored a 7.75 on his first wave, highlighted by a nice floater. Then Lopez remained inactive as he watched Dorian pile up solid scores before he rallied in the final seven minutes.

Lopez caught a left and scored a 5.60, but couldn't get the clincher until the final minute. And when he caught his final wave, his hometown crowd cheered, especially after the score was announced.

Lopez advanced to face No. 22 Fabio Gouveia of Brazil in the quarterfinals.

*

The world's top-ranked surfer, Sunny Garcia of Hawaii, advanced to face No. 7 Jake Paterson of Australia in today's quarterfinals, which begin at 8 a.m.

Garcia, who can clinch his first world title by winning the Billabong Pro, narrowly defeated No. 19 Michael Lowe of Australia, 21.65-21.20, Friday in Round 4.

Today's other quarterfinals feature No. 15 Guilherme Herdy of Brazil facing No. 21 Shane Powell of Australia, and No. 43 Andy Irons of Hawaii meeting No. 9 Taj Burrow of Australia. The semifinals follow and the finals are scheduled at 11:45 a.m.

*

It was a tough day for Californians, with No. 24 Taylor Knox of San Diego, No. 30 Tim Curran of Oxnard and No. 41 Pat O'Connell of Laguna Beach all failing to advance to the quarterfinals.

O'Connell suffered the closest loss, tying Herdy at 17.00 points, but Herdy advanced because his top two scoring waves, totaling 14, were higher than O'Connell's 12.

Curran lost to Irons in a heat that had some of the day's flattest conditions. Curran only had three scoring waves, one of which was a 1.00.

The conditions didn't get much better for the heat that followed, which had Knox and Burrow sitting on their boards for 15 minutes with no ridable waves. Event officials restarted the heat at that 15-minute mark, extending the heat for 30 more minutes.

A head-high set rolled through immediately after the horn sounded to restart the heat, and that initial set proved to be the difference as Burrow tallied a 7.00 on his first wave, but Knox managed only a 3.90.

"I got a little cold sitting there for so long," Knox said. "Maybe I got a little too excited with those first couple waves, but I have no one to blame but myself.

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