In a classic California clash halfway around the world, Taylor Knox defeated Tom Curren to win the Grand Final of the 2013 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy and take home a $10,000 first-place prize.
"Just being here has been the trip of a lifetime, and to get to surf with Tom, who's somebody that really shaped my surfing as a kid, it's just been an amazing experience, and besides the competition, this has been one of the best trips of my life.
Knox got out to an early lead in the final thanks to his patented brand of power surfing, while Curren spent the first 10 minutes without a wave and looking very much in trouble.
"I was on my way to having a shocker," said Curren after the final. "But then a couple waves came and I was able to put a couple of scores up."
As the clock ticked down Curren had seized control of the final, leaving Knox needing a nine-point ride. But after 20-plus years on the ASP World Tour he was remained undeterred and battled back, catching a wave that earned him a 9.17 to take the lead and win the final.
"That wave came in and I saw I was going to be able to put a solid first turn in, then it lineup up and let me bash it all the way through," said Knox. "It's funny, when I was on tour Kelly [Slater] always said that I was a better surfer than I was a competitor, and it's been long time since I've had a win, so this is just incredible.
After a blustery week of wind, weather and some seriously heady competition on both single and twin-fins, the day of the final broke with bluebird skies and flawless four-to-five foot surf at Sultan's Point. In following with the unique event's format, Round 3 saw all six of the event's competitors take to the water on their more state-of-the-art, high performance thrusters, and from the onset it was that Knox set the pace.
After winning every heat the day prior to claim the twin-fin round, Knox maintained the momentum on his Channel Islands thruster, blitzing through Layne Beachley and Damien Hardman in Round 1, then making short work of Brazil's Pedro Henrique in Round 2 to advance into the final.
On the other side of the draw, in Round 1 Curren got to work early against Henrique and two-time world champ Tom Carroll. In Round 2 he faced last year's champ Hardman, but managed to squeak out a win, which set up the Curren/Knox final.
"Congrats to Knox, he was surfing great and really put in a good performance all throughout the event," said Curren.
For Knox the event was more like a fantasy camp than a surf competition.
"Growing up Carroll, Hardman and Curren all had a profound effect on my development as a competitive surfer in their own unique ways," said Knox. "Carroll had the power and was always so fit that I started applying various forms of training to help improve my surfing. Hardman was just an intelligent competitor -- you don't get the nickname "Iceman" for nothing. And Curren, I think every surfer in the world wishes they could surf like him. The style and grace is timeless."
As is always the case with surfing, you can't always control the conditions, and there were times during the week that the skies were gray and the wind howled, but ultimately the Indian Ocean delivered for a memorable and somewhat historic final day.
"I can't wait to come back next year," smile Knox. "This really has been one of the best surf trips I could ever imagine.
1. Taylor Knox (USA)
2. Tom Curren (USA)
3. Damien Hardman (AUS)
4. Pedro Henrique (BRZ)
5. Tom Carroll (Aus)
6. Layne Beachley (Aus)