The Rip Curl Rottnest Search signals a return of the wandering CT format that was a massive part of the tour for a decade from 2005. Each year a new, location was added to the CT roster. It added spark, freshness, and X-factor. Here we take a look at five Search events that will never be forgotten.
Reunion Island 2005
In 2005, Rip Curl took their Search program, a quest for the best waves on the planet, into the competitive realm. The chosen venue of St. Leu, Reunion, couldn't have fitted the remit any better.
The left, whilst not exactly secret, had a reputation for a mix of perfection and performance. The warm waters, hypercolor reef and mix of French and African culture added further allure.
So when a massive SW swell hit Reunion Island for the event, and a young Mick Fanning white lighteninged to a victory, the Search competitive template was set. That this was the CT's last visit to Reunion Island, where surfing has been banned since 2013 due to persistent shark incidents, only adds to that sense that was an iconic event, perhaps never to be repeated.
"The day before the competition was out of this world, then the next day was even better and this is the best surf I've ever had in my life," Taj Burrow gushed after his first heat 2006 Rip Curl Search in Mexico.
The Search had moved to the Mexican pointbreak of Barra de la Cruz. With the sand as perfect as it had ever been, the shock factor of watching the best surfers in the world compete at a then-relatively unknown wave, and the relatable, mind-numbing perfection of a 6-foot, non-life-threatening sand point, was truly groundbreaking.
"This place is better than the Gold Coast and better than Jeffreys," said Kelly Slater, the then World No. 1. However, it was Andy Irons who dominated and this may have been the last time surf fans witnessed peak Andy. In some of the most memorable waves ever seen for a surfing competition, Andy showed the type of surfing that made him an icon of the sport.
"That was my goal before the end of the year, to win one of these things," Bruce Irons told Sean Doherty in 2008. "I knew my best chances were at Tahiti, Fiji, and here. Tahiti: shitty. Fiji: shitty. And here? Booyah!"
The "here" Bruce was referring to was Bali. The Search had gone back to one of its spiritual homes of Indonesian surfing. And in the earlier rounds at Padang Padang and later at Uluwatu, the perfection of the Bukit peninsula allowed the best surfers in the world to let rip.
Slater set the benchmark early; posting a perfect ten before getting barreled switch-foot at Padang. However, it was Bruce, having announced earlier that this was his last year on tour, who cleaned up. He defeated fellow Hawaiian Freddy Patacchia Jr. on the way to his first, and last, win as a CT surfer.
As mentioned, Search events had scored epic waves in Mexico, Chile and Indonesia before it touched down in Peniche, Portugal, in 2009. On Finals Day Supertubos was introduced to the CT with competitors scoring spectacular 8- to 10-foot thundering waves. Mick Fanning would take the win at the Rip Curl Search, which would prove pivotal in his World Title win.
"I remember one afternoon it was as close to a Pipe wave as you are going to get," Fanning said at the time. "It was big and perfect and green and all I had to do was take off and let the wave do the rest. I'll never forget it."
This was the first Search to feature the Women's division, and such was the quality of the wave, the Rip Curl Pro Portugal has been a fixture on the calendar ever since.
Puerto Rico 2010
While the 2010 Puerto Rican Rip Curl Search event featured great, rippable waves at the reef at Middles, it is probably best remembered for the tragic and unexpected loss of former three-time World Champion Andy Irons. Andy, a two-time Search winner, had been due to compete in Puerto Rico. However, he left suddenly and tragically never made it home.
After a somber two-day postponement of the event out of respect for Irons' passing, the world's best surfers, inspired by his legacy, roared back to life for two of the most high-performance days in surfing history.
Fittingly it was Slater, Andy's great rival, and friend, who won the event, posting a 10 in the Final and clinched his historic tenth World Title. Stephanie Gilmore claimed another decisive victory en route to her fourth straight title.
"I felt like Andy was with me today," Kelly said after his win. "And I dedicate this to him."
The waiting period for the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona kicks off on May 16. Stay tuned for all the latest news, forecasts and updates right here at WorldSurfLeague.com.