In January, ESPN reporter Daniel Ikaika Ito asked Dusty Payne what he was most psyched about for the 2013 tour. Payne explained that he was changing his approach.
"I'm really going to try to enjoy myself this year," he told Ito in an interview before the Volcom Pipeline Pro, "In past years I kind of put a lot of stress on myself, worrying about if I'm going to make my next heat or things like that. I'm going to minimize the stress and just go and enjoy the places I'm traveling to."
Payne seems to have found a way to let the stress melt away and he just won the Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River, the first ASP Prime event of 2013.
"This is my first major win and this is an awesome event," he said today, "I'm so glad to win in Western Australia, I love it over here! I was in good rhythm at the event, which never happens, lucky I guess. I'm just so stoked right now. I was injured for half of last year and had to sit on the sidelines and watch my friends surf and win events, and now here I am. It feels great."
It should feel great. Payne has had a pretty hard go of it the past few years. First there was an ankle injury that put him out for six months at a time when he was making a name for himself as one of the premiere power surfers on tour. Then there was a busted eardrum on December 30.
But Payne, the pride of Maui, is now healed up. He made the semis of the Volcom Pipe Pro in January and chipped through a few heats on the Gold Coast before the big win in Western Australia over Josh Kerr.
It was a big day for Hawaiians overall as Carissa Moore won the Women's Drug Aware event (which was a World Tour event on the ladies side.) It's become a hot ticket for Hawaiians, actually. John John Florence won here a year ago. Ironically, he suffered his own ankle injury on the Gold Coast. Next year, this event is a World Tour ticket for the men as well. Look to those Islanders.
All four semifinalists were World Tour surfers. Payne beat Julian Wilson and Kerr skated by Adrian Buchan. It was also a keeper result for surfers like Aritz Aranburu and Jay Quinn, who have shown flickers of brilliance over the last few years and made the quarters. Jonathan Gonzales, of the Canary Island also announced his intentions for 2013 without words at Margaret River.
With eight to ten-foot sets in the earlier rounds and solid swell still pulsing, it was certainly a power-surfer's event. And Payne had to muscle his way through well-known broker Jay Thompson in the quarters and then win a semi heat against Wilson that was possibly the best heat of the event, and ended up tighter than two coats of paint. Next up was Kerr, who admitted he was ready to give Payne the final after watching his performance through the event.
But Kerr didn't have to hand it to Payne, who gouged his way to a 9.23 in the final. Margaret River isn't an easy wave, and today definitely had some speed bumps. Payne easily found the most critical sections and laid down a frontside attack that will go into the Margaret River history books. Every turn was on rail and every lip obliterated.
It's hard to say if Payne will make a real run at the World Title or continue with some of the mediocre results he's had since qualifying. He's healthy now. This is certainly a solid stepping-stone for 2013. And he does seem to be enjoying himself.
DRUG AWARE MARGARET RIVER PRO RESULTS:
Dusty Payne (HAW) 16.36 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.20
MEN'S SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Dusty Payne (HAW) 18.00 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.16
SF 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.33 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.43
MEN'S QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.00 def. Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 8.27
QF 2: Dusty Payne (HAW) 13.17 def. Jay Thompson (AUS) 8.23
QF 3: Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.50 def. Jay Quinn (NZL) 13.20
QF 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.30 def. Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 14.50