The Best Head West to Surf the 2012 Telstra Drug Aware Pro22/02/2012 15:20PM WST
The best of the elite ASP World Tour will take on the iconic big waves at Surfer's Point, Margaret River in March to compete in Western Australia's premier surfing event, the 2012 Telstra Drug Aware Pro.
In a coup for event organisers, Australia's 4 times Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore is confirmed to return to Margaret River. The 24 year old will use the Telstra Drug Aware Pro to kick-start her 2012 campaign as she adjusts to the unusual position of not being the reigning World Champion. After winning in her first 4 years on the ASP World Tour (from 2007 - 2010), Gilmore suffered an injury-interrupted beginning to 2011 and will be keen to regain the coveted title.
2011 champions Damien Hobgood and Courtney Conlogue will both defend their titles. The Americans will be joined by the cream of Australia's ASP World Tour surf talent, headed by World Number 2 Joel Parkinson and fellow Top 16 ranked tour veterans Taj Burrow (4), Josh Kerr (8), Mick Fanning (11) and Kieran Perrow (15), all of who have won previously at Surfer's Point. They will face stiff competition from the rising young stars of Australian surfing as World Number 3 Owen Wright, will head to Margaret River along with Julian Wilson (9) and Matt Wilkinson (20)
Also confirmed to start in the 2012 Telstra Drug Aware Pro in March is Hawaiian prodigy John John Florence. After storming onto the world stage at the end of 2011 by winning the season ending Vans Triple Crown, the 19 year old started 2012 with a bang, winning the first event at his home break Pipeline in early February. Despite his young age, Florence's experience in the powerful surf of Hawaii's North Shore is expected to hold him in good stead at Margaret River.
Another youngster tagged as the "next big thing", American Kolohe Andino, will also feature at Surfer's Point as he sets out on his first official year on the main ASP World Tour. The 17 year old Californian-bred super grom brings an unprecedented junior resume to the big time. A nine-time NSSA National Champion and two-time USA National Champion, Andino became the first surfer to win both the NSSA open men's and open junior's divisions at the same contest as a 14 year old. The wunderkind now faces a whole new set of peers on the elite World Tour.
All world title contenders are once again chasing the tail of ASP World Champion Kelly Slater. The 11-times world title holder has been invited to compete again at this year's Telstra Drug Aware Pro - negotiations continue between Surfing WA and Slater's management team.
The 2012 Telstra Drug Aware Pro will retain its Prime Tour rating for the men's event and again carry prize money of $250,000. The women's event will remain a six star prime rated World Tour Event. Both events will again be sanctioned by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).
Joining Gilmore and Conlogue in the women's field will be former World Champion Sofia Mulanovich from Peru. They will be challenged by the new found depth of women's surfing with young ASP World Tour stars Pauline Ado (20, France), Laura Enever (20, Australia), Malian Manuel (18, Hawaii), Lakey Peterson (17, USA), Sage Erickson (21, USA), Paige Hareb (21, New Zealand), and Justine Dupont (20, France) all confirmed to surf at Margaret River.
The Telstra Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River will be part of a total package of events during the competition week, with a music and arts festival around the main surfing event also entertaining visitors to the region. It is expected that the Telstra Drug Aware Pro will draw bigger crowds than ever, further promoting tourism and the local economy. Spectator entry is free.
Continued support by the WA state government through their Tourism WA and Eventscorp arms has helped Surfing WA to grow the Telstra Drug Aware Pro substantially over the last three years. Naming rights partners Healthway (Drug Aware) and Telstra, along with major partners Mambo, HIF and Air Asia have also been instrumental in this development.
A full list of competing surfers will be announced closer to the event date.