Hawaiian sensation Bethany Hamilton to debut at Margaret River

It’s official. Margaret River’s famous Main Break will again play host to some of the world’s biggest names in surfing, when the Drug Aware Pro Margaret River presented by O’Neill makes its popular return to Western Australia’s South West coast from April 7-13, 2008.

Set to debut at Margaret River is world-renowned Hawaiian surfer, 18-year-old Bethany Hamilton, who lost her left arm in a savage shark attack in 2003.

Hamilton will join some 250 top professional male and female surfers from across the globe in competition for international rating points and combined prize money of more than AUD$205,500 (US$165,000).

Together, the Men’s 6-Star ‘Prime-Rated’ event and Women’s 5-Star event represent one of the biggest World Qualifying Series (WQS) surf contests in the world and one of the top tournaments on the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) 2008 calendar.

Event organisers expect to attract a high-calibre field of entrants from the ASP World Tour and World Qualifying Series, representing the surfing superpowers of Hawaii, mainland USA, Brazil, South Africa, France, Spain, Portugal and Australia. Seeding will be announced following the entry closing date of March 10.

Among entrants to date are former World Champions Sunny Garcia and Mark Occhilupo. West Australian competitors include local legend Jake Paterson (Yallingup) and his brother Paul Paterson, experienced ASP Women’s World Tour campaigner Claire Bevilacqua (City Beach, Perth), along with Ry Craike (Kalbarri) and Yadin Nicol (Margaret River).

Hamilton, who is currently ranked equal third on the WQS, said she was looking forward to putting in a strong appearance in Margaret River: “I’ve had a good start to the year so far and I’ll just try to keep going to qualify for the Tour next year. That’s my goal. Margaret River will be an important comp for me and I really hope to do well there,” she said.

“It looks like such a beautiful place and has great surf – it’s a part of Australia that I’ve always wanted to see. All my family is coming with me, so it will be a family vacation as well.”

Reigning contest champion, former World Number 6 Kieren Perrow (Byron Bay, New South Wales), who claimed his first-ever ASP victory in the Men’s event last year, is in preparation mode to defend his title. Perrow credits his historic Margaret River win for cementing his return to the ASP World Tour rankings, after a three-year hiatus following the birth of his son in 2004.

“I’m really excited about the prospect of heading back to Margarets and defending my title,” Perrow said. “It’s a fantastic wave and I love that part of Australia. I’ve always performed well there and feel confident that I can come away with back-to-back titles.”

“The event is definitely in the top pick of WQS contests, and for me, is even more significant given that I wouldn’t have requalified for the Tour without the win. I’ll be travelling with my family this time around (wife Danielle and son Tosh) and plan to spend some extra time in Margaret River, which will make it even more special.”

A round of Qualifying Trials on Sunday, April 6, will give 48 surfers (50% local, 50% national and international) the opportunity to vie for one of eight positions in the competition and the chance to surf against some of the world’s top professionals.

High-profile television coverage will see the Drug Aware Pro Margaret River beamed to more than a billion people in an estimated 48 countries worldwide. A live webcast (which, in 2007, was viewed by 400,000 unique visitors to the event website), will feature interactive commentary with internet followers across the globe.

Jenn Morris, who heads Healthway’s Board, said the Drug Aware Pro Margaret River was a significant sponsorship for Healthway because it was an opportunity to promote the Drug Aware message to young people and to work with the event organisers to showcase surfing in a healthy environment: “The competition is of a very high standard with the next generation of the world’s surfing stars competing on the famous waves of Margaret River,” Ms Morris said. “This will ensure a big turnout of spectators, as well as a huge following on the internet, making it an ideal event to spread the Drug Aware message to surf fans and young people around the State.”

“Healthway has been a sponsor of this event for many years and it is great that in recent times we have been able to support a re-energised women’s competition and provide more opportunities for the up and coming young female pro surfers,” said Ms Morris, an internationally respected athlete, who twice won Olympic gold in the sport of hockey. Also, given the event is held on a part of our coast often described as pristine, it is great that the organisers are committed to promoting a healthy way of living which includes avoiding harm from drugs and alcohol.”

As well as intense action in the surf, Saturday, April 12 features a massive ‘Party on the Point’, with bands Operation Beehive, Crysis and The Dirty Secrets performing live on stage, plus adrenaline-pumped aerial stunts by pro-skaters on a giant vert ramp overlooking the ocean at Surfers Point.

Entry will be free all week and just $5 per person on the Finals weekend (April 12 and 13). Children 12 and under will be admitted free. Free bus transfers will be provided to and from Surfers Point.

Visit the Drug Aware Pro website for further details and to view the live webcast.