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8 March 2000

Press Conference Officially Welcomes Billabong Pro And Asp World Championship Tour 2000

Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Australia (Wednesday, March 08, 2000). Many of the world’s best surfers gathered today alongside a host of media to welcome in the Billabong Pro (March 9th – 19th). The event kicks off the ASP’s World Championship Tour (WCT) for 2000, and is based at Burleigh Heads, though will become mobile between the Gold Coast’s North Stradbroke Island and Duranbah, if conditions warrant a move.

Current world champion Mark Occhilupo, 33, a resident of the area, was first to speak today, acknowledging his strong desire to win the event, plus defend his much-acclaimed title.

‘I’m excited about being at home and it would be a dream to win here,’ said Occhilupo, who’s never won the Billabong Pro in Australia. ‘I feel good and have been surfing a fair bit lately with Luke (Egan), in good, three-to four-foot waves.’

‘After achieving my goal last year of the world title, I feel really good and just want to get out there and enjoy my surfing more in heats. I’m hungry and want to win the title again, I’m just more relaxed.’

Current two-times women’s world champion Layne Beachley (Aus), was also present to announce her desire for a Billabong Pro victory and another world title this year. Layne, like Occy, has never won the coveted event.

‘It’s eluded me for years,’ said Beachley. ‘I’d love to finally win a Billabong Pro. Serena (Brooke) got me last year in the final, and Trudy (Todd) did the year before.’

Last years’ men’s world title runner-up, Taj Burrow (Aus), was quick to point out his nerves going into the first event of the new season, but extremely eager to surf the tour’s epic wave locations on offer.

‘We’re at that stage where everyone’s a bit nervous,’ he reasoned. ‘About to start off another event and another new year on tour. I’m just looking forward to the year and a lot of great events… it’s going to be killer!’

The Billabong Pro will feature the world’s Top 44 men and Top 15 women professional surfers, as well as wildcard invitees, including ASP world junior champion Joel Parkinson (Aus), fellow Gold Coaster David Rastovich, no.2 rated Australasian junior surfer Shaun Cansdell (Coffs Harbour), and American Keith Malloy, who received an ASP injury-wildcard position for the entire 2000 season. Amee Donohoe (Aus) has been granted the women’s wildcard spot.

Six-times world champion Kelly Slater (USA), who won back-to-back Billabong Pro titles in 1997-98, was a late withdrawal from the tournament due to a personal family matter.

The event’s ten day waiting period begins tomorrow morning, with a start depending on contestable conditions.

Jesse Faen Media Director, ASP Int’l

Further Information Jesse Faen: 61-407-189-289 (mobile) Mandy McKinnon: 61-417-079-941 (mobile) Billabong Pro – Media Number (active Thursday, 9th of March) Phone: 61-755-205-088; Fax: 61-755-206-979.

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