PADANG Padang, Bali - An elite group of tuberiding specialists gathered at Padang Padang beach on Sunday for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Rip Curl Cup. They came from as far away as Tahiti, Hawaii, California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil to draw their heats and find out who they will surf against in the opening round of competition.
The largest crowd in event history showed up at Padang Padang to watch the presentation and press conference with the 32 invited surfers - 16 of Indonesia's best and 16 of the world's top tube riders. The opening ceremony marks the first day of the six-week event waiting period, and means that all 32 invited surfers are now on-call to be at Padang within 24 hours notice if event directors decide to give the green light to run.
The opening ceremony was capped off with the traditional Balinese kecak dance performance, to ask the Balinese gods for permission to hold the contest at this sacred spot and for a massive Padang swell to arrive during the waiting period. The kecak dance, always a fan favorite, is also a highlight for the surfers, said defending Rip Curl Cup champion Lee Wilson.
"Coming down here and seeing all the people on the beach and watching the kecak dance, it always gets me pumped because I know I'm going to be pulling into some big Padang barrels soon," Wilson said. "This is the first year I've been able to take my daughter to the opening ceremony. It's cool to be able to share this with her. She loved it."
Contest organizers devised the heat drawing so that each four-man heat features two Indonesian surfers and two international surfers. Rip Curl has also left four spots open in the contest for two mystery wildcards, to be announced later in the waiting period, and the two winners of the locals-only Bukit Trials.
After the draw was complete, two-time Rip Curl Cup champion Made "Bol" Adi Putra found himself in Heat 8 one of the mystery international wildcards.
"I have no idea who it is," Bol said of the mystery wildcard in his heat, "but for sure it's going to be someone dangerous. This contest is invite-only. Everyone in this event is the best of the best tuberiders, so they are probably saving that spot for a really gnarly guy."
A series of powerful Indian Ocean swells are headed towards Bali and contest directors are planning to run the Bukit Trials at either Padang or Uluwatu on Tuesday when the first swell is forecast to hit. The next swell is scheduled to arrive on Thursday and is expected to be much larger. Contest directors are monitoring this swell closely and eyeing a possible Thursday morning start to run the 2012 Rip Curl Cup at Padang Padang. Stay tuned to www.RipCurl.com for official event status updates.
**2012 Rip Curl Cup opening-round heat draw:
Heat 1: Jamie O'Brien (Hawaii), Mark Mathews (Australia), Putra Hermawan (Nusa Lembongan), Mega Semadhi (Bali).
Heat 2: Kevin Bourez (Tahiti), Bobby Hansen (New Zealand), Rahtu Suargita (Bali), *Trials Winner #1 (TBA).
Heat 3: Benji Weatherley (USA), Pepen Hendrik (Bali), Lee Wilson (Bali), Dylan Lightfoot (South Africa).
Heat 4: Mustofa Jeksen (Bali), Laurie Towner (Australia), *International Wildcard #1 (TBA), *Trials Winner #2 (TBA).
Heat 5: Rizal Tanjung (Bali), Garut Widiarta (Bali), Bruno Santos (Brazil), Dean Morrison (Australia).
Heat 6: Kalani Chapman (Hawaii), Anthony Walsh (Australia), Marlon Gerber (Bali), Darmaputra Tonjo (Bali).
Heat 7: Betet Merta (Bali), Chris Ward (USA), Dean Brady (Australia), Dede Suryana (Java).
Heat 8: Flynn Novak (Hawaii), Bol Adi Putra (Bali), Raditya Rondi (Bali), *International Wildcard #2 (TBA). **