Margaret River local, Ryan Hardy (WA, AUS) has conquered bodyboarding's finest and some of the craziest conditions Mother Nature could produce to claim the second event on the 2011 IBA World Tour, the IBA Box Pro.
In wild and dangerous five-metre plus waves, 31 year-old Hardy defeated Brazil's Magno Oliveira (Guarapari) in a 30-minute final, earning himself 2,000 valuable Grand Slam Series ratings points and second place on the IBA World Ratings heading into event three scheduled for Arica, Chile beginning May 20th.
Hardy choked back tears as he accepted his trophy on the presentation dais in front of his wife, Leah and newborn son, Oliver, while friends and fellow Margaret River locals, cheered the most prestigious win of his career.
â€œIt means so much to win at my home break and with your friends and family and everyone here from my hometown, it's the biggest win of my career by far. To get the conditions we have and to be able to win is just incredible, it's a dream come true, said Hardy.
Hardy did not drop a heat the entire event, and admitted 20 years of surfing the break was the major factor in his win, particularly on a day where riders were faced with giant waves that threatened to close out the entire bay from Margaret River's Surfers Point, to the Box itself.
I could see the guys who hadn't surfed out there much were getting pulled out of position. Knowing the way the water moved around on the reef was a huge advantage. When a wave breaks at the Box, it's much more intense than a lot of places, you have these swells that travel so far through the Indian Ocean and then hit this shallow slab of reef. It can be dangerous, but if you know which ones to catch, then it's easily one of the most exciting waves in the world, said Hardy.
I've surfed it this big before, but never in competition. Today it was twice as big as forecasted, so it definitely caught everyone by surprise.
Hardy's first leapt to prominence on the international bodyboarding stage came when he claimed the Tahiti Skins at the notorious Teahupoo in 2000. His second major win was at Cronulla's Shark Island near Sydney in 2006. He has also won at Hawaii's famous Banzai Pipeline in 2009.
Oliveira's runner-up performance was world-beating; the 26 year-old eliminated two world champions on the final day, taking out reigning champion Amaury Lavernhe (REU) in the semi-finals and six-time world champion Guilherme Tamega (BRA) in the quarter-finals to post what is easily the best result of his career.
It was the best result of my life for sure. These are the kind of waves are the waves I like best. There are giant waves and it's shallow and pretty dangerous. You don't see any other sports run in these kind of conditions. I'm proud of being a bodyboarder and days like this, said Oliveira.
Oliveira's path to the final also would not have been possible if it were not for the implementation of the unique new three round non-elimination format at the IBA Box Pro. Oliveira missed his first heat entirely when he went for a warm up session at a nearby break during, but good placings in his following two outings saw him survive the cut and qualify for Round 4.
Miracles happen, I went through a lot of miracles to make the final, laughed Oliveira. So I knew I could do it. But there wasn't many waves in the final. I had a lot of cramps in my last heat. It was so inconsistent. I had a bad selection, maybe if I had more time against Ryan, it was tough, he added.
If a single move summed up the commitment of the riders in such wild conditions today, Oliveira's invert air on a stepped-out 10-ft plus Box mutation during his semi was prime example.
With one eye on the lip and the other on the reef lurking just inches below the surface, Oliveira punched for heavens and landed the giant air, with the wave gobbling him whole moments after impact.
Even reigning Wold Champion, Lavernhe, who was eliminated by Oliveira in the heat, was impressed.
I was in the lineup and I had priority. I saw him take off on that set wave and I thought, Okay, that's good for me, He's going to be wasting his time, then I looked behind and I just saw his body flying through the air and I was like, Oh, sh#t! That's a big air!
I asked him, Did you land it? and he said yeah. That was the biggest move of the comp. He was ripping the whole competition, so I am stoked for him.
South African, Mark McCarthy (Richard's Bay) finished equal third alongside Lavernhe today, McCarthy falling victim to Hardy's rampaging hometown finals run. Though there was a glimmer of hope for the visiting 27 year-old, he had Hardy on the ropes with less than a third of their semi-final remaining.
Ryan was really patient. We had like 15 minutes where the sets poured in from the wrong direction and messed up the lineup. So we had to wait for it to clean up, then Ryan was lucky to get those good ones and he surfed them like a champ. I knew I was ahead for most of the heat, then Ryan got those scores and by then it was too late, time got the better of me, explained McCarthy.
Luck played a huge factor for the visiting internationals. Determining which waves would hold up and which might not was a tricky task. Time restraints left most riders with little option they had to take chances.
Finishing equal fifth today were Dallas Singer (Newcastle, NSW, AUS), Guilherme Tamega (BRA), Jared Houston (ZAF) and Hawaiian Jeff Hubbard (HAW).
Hawaiian Jeff Hubbard (HAW) came into the BOX IBA Pro as ratings leader and bowed out to Lavernhe.
It was really tough out there. It's the biggest I've ever seen it, there's solid 15ft waves and you're trying to get yourself into position, trying to decide which waves are makeable, which ones are going to close out, it was BIG out there. Plus, you can't hear scores, it was windy, so I would see Amuary take off and I'd be thinking, Did he make it? Did he get a score. It was definitely challenging, said Hubbard.
Six-time world champion, Guilherme Tamega (BRA) started strongly in his quarter versus Oliveira, locking in a good scoring wave, but could not capitalise.
You have to prepared for every type of condition, from the smallest waves to days like today. You never know what you're going to get. But fifth is not such a bad result. We have six events and a great tour this year, I'm looking forward to the next event in Chile, said Tamega.
Jared Houston's equal-fifth place today follows a solid third place finish at Pipeline in February and the 21 year-old sits at equal third on the GSS world ratings.
My goal coming into this event was to at least finish top-five so I've done that. Obviously a win would have been nice, but I can at least be happy I accomplished my goal. Now I have a third and a fifth, I'm happy with that. And I'm happy to see Mark, one of my countrymen, go on and get a good result, Houston said.
Aussie, Dallas Singer, faced the toughest of opponents in the form of local Ryan Hardy in the first heat of the day. Thrown out in unpredictable 15ft stormy surf, Singer's heat was watched with interest by everyone gathered early to assess conditions.
Yeah, first heat of the day, I felt like a real guinea pig. It's not the day you want Ryan Hardy in your heat. It seemed like he knew exactly where to sit and which waves to catch. I took off on a couple and was looking way down the line and I could see the ocean gurgling and was just looking way too shallow, so I was trying out run these things. It's a bit upsetting, I had a shocker, but that's the way it goes sometimes, said Singer.
All the action from every IBA World Tour event is made available for viewing live via redbull.com with finals available at redbull.tv .
The attention of the world bodyboarding tour now turns to Arica, Chile, with a 10-day waiting period beginning May 20.
IBA BOX PRO Final Results
1st Ryan Hardy (AUS) 15.15pts
2nd Magno Oliveira (BRA) 7.35pts
SF1: Ryan Hardy (AUS) 14.85pts d Mark McCarthy (ZAF) 10.95
SF2: Magno Oliveira (BRA) 16.75pts d Amaury Lavernhe 12.35pts
QF1: Ryan Hardy (WA, AUS) 13.35pts d Dallas Singer (NSW, AUS) 3.35pts
QF2: Mark McCarthy (Durban, ZAF) 13.30pts d Jared Houston (Capetown, ZAF) v 11.95pts
QF3: Amaury Lavernhe (REU) 12.00pts d Jeff Hubbard (Haw) 10.90pts
QF4: Magno Oliveira (BRA) 14.50pts v Guilherme Tamega (BRA) 11.75pts
IBA WORLD TOUR TOP 10
After event #2, The IBA Box Pro
1. Jeff Hubbard (Haw) 3220
2. Ryan Hardy (AUS) 3000
3. Mark McCarthy (ZAF) 2680
3. Jared Houston (ZAF) 2680
5. Magno Oliveira (BRA) 2620
6. Dallas Singer (AUS) 2560
7. Tom Rigby (AUS) 2470
8. Amaury Lavernhe (REU) 2360
9. Guilherme Tamega (BRA) 2330
10. Pierre Louis Costes (FRA) 2220
The IBA Box Pro was made possible with the support of:
Red Bull redbull.tv
The Black Dog institute blackdoginstitute.org.au
Good Earth Surf Shop goodearthsurf.com
Music : Casey Lalonde 'Wanderer 34 Remix' from the album Thank You.