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Tuesday, January 28, 2003


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Gary Elkerton overcame former world No. 2 Brad Gerlach yesterday in Makaha, scoring 17.25 points out of a possible 20.




Hard work catches up to Elkerton


By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

After spending a good portion of his early professional career as the guy who came very close but never won a world title, lately surfer Gary Elkerton has been doing nothing but winning championships.

Appearing only now to be peaking as he nears 40, the Australia-born Elkerton captured his third straight world championship yesterday by defeating Brad Gerlach, of California, at the Quiksilver Masters World Championships at Makaha.

To the three second-place finishes (second-highest total in history) he settled for while competing on the regular Association of Surfing Professionals tour during the late '80s and early '90s, Elkerton can now add a trifecta of masters division (ages 35-44) world titles.

"That final (against Gerlach) was the easiest one yet, out of the last three," said Elkerton, 39, currently residing in France. "I've been training a hell of a lot. The vindication is that if I had been on the same training program I'm on now, I would have won those (earlier chances at) world titles quite easily. You have to do a lot of other training (besides surfing to be successful) and that's what I've learned - it's shown the last three years."

The final day of competition at the famous right-hand point break on Oahu's West Side saw clean waves with 4- to 8-foot faces and 30-minute man-on-man heats. Large waves in the 10- to 20-foot range pounded through Makaha for the round-robin portion on the first of the contest's four days last Tuesday.

An elite field of 32 of surfing's biggest names were invited to the event, spread equally among two divisions - masters and grand masters (45-over). Seventeen former world champions were invited, several of them with multiple titles.

The annual single contest circuit was moved to Makaha from Morocco only at the beginning of this month due to safety concerns over world events. After beginning in 1997 in Fiji and making stops in Mexico and Europe, this year marked the first time the Masters was held in Hawaii.

"I think the Masters concept is extraordinary because it's giving surfers an extension on their careers," Elkerton said. "It's in every other sport except surfing - but it's starting to happen now."

Elkerton received $7,200 for yesterday's victory, as did Australian Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew, the 1978 world champ, who won the grand masters division.

With the win, Bartholomew, the current director of the ASP, captured his second grand masters victory in the last four Masters. He also got a measure of revenge over fellow Aussie Mark Richards, who beat him in 2001 in Ireland but finished second this year. Richards won four straight titles between 1979-82.

Bartholomew surfed consistently well over the course of the event, routinely positioning himself for the best waves at the difficult break and executing critical maneuvers while riding them. He took the lead from the outset of the final with Richards, and posted a 9.5-point wave score (out of 10 maximum) - highest of the day for the division - about two-thirds through the heat. The wave basically sealed what turned out to be a 17.5-to-13.4 (best two waves scored) victory.

"I was asking a lot about the line-up of people who spend a lot of time out here," Bartholomew, 48, said. "But probably more than anything, I just got in a really nice rhythm and I stayed in it. I did have a feeling when I came over here that everything (about my surfing) was really right."

Losing in the semifinals and finishing in equal-third place for the grand masters were Hawaii surfers Bobby Owens and Buzzy Kerbox. Equal-third for the masters were Rob Bain, of Australia, and the UK's Martin Potter.

Elkerton eliminated Potter, the 1989 world champion, en route to the finals. He used the same successful formula against Potter that he did in winning the quarterfinals over three-time champ Tom Curren: nabbing a high-scoring wave immediately after the heat began.

Elkerton continued the trend against Gerlach, nabbing an 8.5 in the first minute. Adding an 8.75 in the final minute for a solid 8-foot wave on which he turned hard off the top and then made several carving combinations, Elkerton handily defeated Gerlach, 17.25 to 13.25.

"I totally picked the wrong waves," said Gerlach, 36, a first-time Masters participant. "(But) Gary's the champ, he's the guy to beat. So losing to him is no disgrace. He is still surfing so good and it's great to see."



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