Surf's up at Lower Trestles, and so are Patacchia and Barger's fortunes
Fred Patacchia, from Hawaii's North Shore, won the Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro
Kai Barger, 19, from the Maui villege of Haiku, won the Oakley Pro Junior
SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. -- As USC football coach Pete Carroll and nine-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater stood above the sun-kissed shores of Lower Trestles talking about their love for Hawaii (Slater is a Pipeline legend and Carroll owns a home on the North Shore) they were drawn away from their impromptu meeting twice by the sight of two Hawaiians who carved up the mainland waves and competition as if they were back on Sunset Beach.
Fred Patacchia from the North Shore won the Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro while Kai Barger from Haiku claimed the Oakley Pro Junior on a day when both used the two- to four-foot surf near the famed cobblestone reef of Lower Trestles as their canvas, creating works of art with each stroke of their boards that even the most novice observer could appreciate.
"Look at the way he attacks the wave," said Carroll, watching Patacchia as if he were a prospective recruit. "It's amazing."
Patacchia, 27, who is ranked No. 3 in the world, destroyed the right-hand waves in his final against Ben Bourgeois and surfed as if he had nothing to lose, which was exactly the case. Patacchia wasn't even planning on surfing Lowers until he discovered that it fit into his schedule and that he would be passing through the area on his way to Tahiti for the Billabong Pro Teahupoo next week.
Riding with a carefree attitude Patacchia put the competition out of reach early in his 30-minute final against Bourgeois, scoring a 9.17 out of 10 in the opening minutes of the heat and solidifying his win with a 7.67 to win 16.84 to 14.10.
While Patacchia wanted to pretend as if the Lowers was just a pit stop for him, he later smiled as he was draped in a Hawaiian flag and brushing away the remnants of the Bud Light that had been poured on him by friends who carried him on their shoulders from the shores to the winner's podium.
"I just said that because I didn't want to get too cocky or ahead of myself," said Patacchia. "When you have a chance to win any event, whether it's one you and your buddies put on at a local spot or a six-star like this, that's what you try to do. I wanted to win."
Patacchia wanted to win even more considering he was going against his old friend Bourgeois, who beat him in the finals of the Lowers Pro last year.
"It was in my mind haunting me, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to beat this guy," said Patachhia, who leaves Sunday night for Tahiti and will test the swells there Tuesday. "We were giggling about it the whole time even when we were in the quarterfinals. We were saying were going to be in the finals together. I told him I was going to see him in the finals and he said, 'Yeah, if you make it there.' It was a good rivalry since I've grown up with Ben my whole amateur career."
This year's final was vastly different from last year's although it had nothing to do with "Freddy P" and "Benny B" trading places on the winner's podium. Since last year, Patacchia has established himself as one of the top three surfers in the world, while Bourgeois, 30, has retired from the daily grind of being on tour, only surfing competitively on the mainland in a select few events. So in a final heat in which neither surfer was looking for points or to re-qualify, both put on the kind of show you can only get when pride is the only the only thing at stake among friends without any added outside pressure.
"I just want to have fun, I have no desire to get back on tour so there's not much pressure on me," said Bourgeois. "We just had fun. We were talking while we were paddling back out there and I'm glad I got to surf against him. Lowers is a friendly, easy wave to surf, it's not life or death, and that's the way it was out there."
While both established surfers seem to be comfortable in their current roles, the story of the day may have been the continual rise of Kai Barger, 19, who is experiencing the type of run that only his peers can dream about. Since January Barger has won the World Junior Championships in Australia, been on the cover of Surfer magazine and now adds the Oakley Pro Junior title to his growing resume.
"I'm just trying to keep my sponsors off my back," said Barger, who wowed the crowd with his progressive surfing, unleashing massive fins-free turns and huge air reverses in the final. "They've been hounding me to do good so I just bought myself a couple more weks."
Barger was so dominant in his final, scoring a near-flawless two-wave total score of 18.60 (out of 20), that he motivated Patacchia before his final. "Man, Kai Barger looked electric out there," said Patacchia. "He inspired me. I wanted to go left but he inspired me to go right when I saw him surf. That whole next generation is looking insane. I'm just excited that there's another goofy footer from Hawaii shaking things up."
When Barger was told what Pattachia said it quickly surpassed the trophy and check he was holding in his hands as the biggest award of the day.
"That's amazing to hear Fred say that," said Barger. "He's one of my favorites and I actually imitate him. I don't know whether he knows that but I base the way I surf off of how he surfs. That's funny how it's working for both of us."