This week, longtime rivals Brad Gerlach (USA) and Martin Potter (GRB) will face off in the second ASP Heritage heat, during the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women's Pro at Trestles. Before they paddle out, the iconic former pros shared -- in separate interviews -- their respective versions of the infamous incident in which their rivalry nearly came to blows.
Martin Potter: In '91 [Gerlach] was going for a World Title and he needed to beat me in the Quarterfinals to get as many points as possible before going to Hawaii -- he was never very good in Hawaii. Heat starts, I'm kind of leading, he's got priority. A wave comes through and he ends up letting it go. So I turned around and went and ended up blitzing the wave all the way to the beach. I ended up beating him and ruining his chances for a World Title. When I was paddling back out I had a big smile on my face because I knew he had just totally screwed up.
He lost it. We ended up literally crashing into each other and trying to get each other with our boards. They called us out of the water and ended up disqualifying him. So that was the end of his run to the World Title.
That was the end of his run to the World Title. - Potter
Brad Gerlach: Potts put a ding in my board while I was paddling for a wave and that's why we had such a big [fight]. Can you imagine? That's like your race car, that's your favorite bat, that's the extension of your body. So for someone to accost it was -- that's worth fighting for. I loved that board. It would go so fast in nothing waves, so I felt like I had an advantage. That was in 1991, right when Slater and Machado and all the new-school guys would come out, and they were really light. I was already a man at that point, like 170 pounds, and those guys were all around 140. They were really hard to beat in little waves. Real nimble. So that [board] was my little-guy killer.
Potter: It wasn't our proudest moment. They ended up calling us both out of the water because we weren't surfing; we were getting into it. It was about 10 minutes in and it could have got ugly if they didn't call us out of the water, so it's probably good that they did. Lucky it was just our boards that took damage, not us. But I tell you what: If he didn't put his board up I woulda got 'im.
Gerlach: I was close to punching him. But I'm so glad that I had the self-control not to. I kind of knew, too. I thought, 'If I do this, I'm going to regret it.' But I still wanted to so I pushed him, instead of punching him. That's when they stopped the heat.
Potter: We're similar human beings -- passionate, headstrong, stubborn, aggressive in the water -- and when you get two guys like that, there's gonna be fireworks. It's like when you look in the mirror and you don't like what you see. He was feisty and he wanted to win badly and so did I. You need those rivalries. Every time I knew I was gonna get him I focused more, I picked my game up. The last thing I wanted to do was have him walk away and go, â€œYeah, I got you.â€
Gerlach: The rival thing is extremely important for sport. But also, I look back at my whole career. If Potts wasn't there, my career wouldn't have been as joyous. But if you'd asked me that at the time, I would have said he should quit.
I was close to punching him. - Gerlach
The ASP Heritage Heat
Potter: If there's a rivalry I'm leading it. I won the last two right before I retired so I walked away with the upper hand. He's got something to prove I guess so I'm just going to let my surfing do the talking and we'll see how it goes.
Gerlach: I'm going to do my best -- I'm not going to get in any paddle battles, or confrontations. However, I'm going to try to let myself be free. And when the spray clears, no matter what, I know I'm going to have a lot of fun. So is he. But I'm here to prove that I'm better.