Clark and Knutsen set to retain Champs’ titles in El Salvador

Reigning ISA World Masters surfing champions Heather Clark and Chris Knutsen were on track to retain their titles yesterday by advancing to the last four in their respective divisions at the 2011 El Salvador ISA World Masters Surfing Championships (Thursday).

The waves at Punta Roca produced long walls and hollow tubes for the world’s best competitive surfers over 35 years of age.

Knutsen was the first South African in action and the three-time ISA Masters gold medallist fromDurbantook an early lead in his Grand Kahunas (Over 50 years) Round 2 heat before being overhauled by Nick Pearson (AUS) to finish a comfortable second, six points ahead of the third placed surfer.

Knutsen and Pearson are now into the last four in the qualifying stream of the division along with Alan Sarlo (USA) and Javier Gorbea (Puerto Rico). The top two in this match-up will progress directly to the Grand Final where they are guaranteed a gold, silver, bronze or copper medal. Those finishing third and fourth will get another chance to reach the Grand Final when they take on the top two surfers coming through the repecharge rounds.

After getting a walk through in her Round 1 heat,Clarkshowed the form that has earned back-to-back ISA Women’s Masters titles by totally dominating yesterday’s 20 minute Round 2 encounter. The 40 year-old from Port Shepstone opened her account with a ride of 7.33 points, the second highest of the Women’s division to date, and added a 5.33 to leave runner-up Melissa Proud (HAW) needing a near perfect 9.47 point ride for victory.

Clark and Proud will take on seven-time ASP World champion Layne Beachley (AUS) and Andrea Lopez (BRA) for a place in the Women’s Grand Final.

Graeme Field (Kommetjie) was the only other Team SA member in action yesterday and he posted the score he needed on his last ride to grab second place and progress to repecharge Round 3 in the Men’s Masters (O/35) division. The gruelling nature of the repecharge rounds means Field will have to finish in the top two in five more heats to qualify for a medal.

With 40 of the 124 competitors eliminated from the event in yesterday’s repecharge rounds, only five of the 21 national teams still have all eight team members in contention for individual honours. They include two-time gold medallistsSouth Africaalong with 2010 champions Australia, traditional surfing powerhouse Brazil and theUSAandHawaii, both of whom are competing in the World Masters event for the first time.

The team medals are determined by the accumulated finishing positions of all their team members with the rankings points for competitors in the Men’s Masters, Grand Masters (O/40) and Kahunas (O/45) counting double.

Today’s action (21 October 2011), starting at 4 pm SA time, will see Andre Malherbe (East London) the first South African in action in Grand Masters repecharge Round 2. The schedule for the day is: (SA surfers in brackets).

Repecharge 2 Kahunas

Repecharge 2 Grand Masters       (Andre Malherbe)

Repecharge 2 Grand Kahunas

Qualifying 3 Masters                       (Gary van Wieringen)

Qualifying 3 Grand Masters           (Kevin O’Brien)

Qualifying 3 Kahunas                    (David Malherbe & Colin Buitendag)

Repecharge 3 Kahunas

Repecharge 3 Grand Masters       (Andre Malherbe)

Repecharge 3 Masters                    (Graeme Field)

The El Salvador ISA World Masters Surfing Championships runs until Sunday.

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