American surfer Bobby Martinez was equal parts anger and elation after his shock win over Australian star Taj Burrow at Bells Beach.
Martinez gestured angrily at the judges as he left the water at nearby Winkipop, even though he had beaten the 2007 Bells champion in their second-round heat of the Rip Curl Pro.
The judges were also in the spotlight on Thursday after local wildcard Adam Robertson narrowly lost to South African star Jordy Smith.
Robertson, runner-up to Joel Parkinson at this event two years ago, thought he had done enough on his last wave to eliminate Smith. But the judges disagreed with popular opinion and Smith won 17.43 to 16.26.
The Martinez-Burrow heat also went down to the wire and Burrow just failed to catch a wave with seconds left.
The Australian punched the water in frustration as Martinez won 16.16 to 15.93, but the American was unhappy at a wave score Burrow had received in their heat.
Asked to explain his gesture as he was leaving the water, Martinez said: “I saw Taj’s wave, that wasn’t a seven – the judge, it felt like they were dogging me out.
That’s the honest truth, a surfer knows when another surfer gets a good score.”
Burrow, normally an affable character, was shattered after the loss and did not want to comment.
This event is round two in the world tour and Burrow had made a strong start to the year in round one on the Gold Coast, finishing runner-up to 10-time world champion Kelly Slater.
Martinez, a passionate man who was a semi-finalist at last year’s Pro, said the win over Burrow was the best he had surfed at this event.
After the women held their second round on Thursday morning at Bells Beach, Martinez relished the organiser’s decision to move the men to the ideal two metre waves at Winkipop.
“Usually it’s Bells – Bells is horrible, this is actually good,” Martinez said. “For me, I’ve beaten one of the best surfers in the world in his home country and perfect waves – yeah, it’s a big accomplishment for me.”
Martinez had a fighter’s mentality as he spoke about the tough road ahead of him in the competition draw. “I have the best ahead of me in every single event,” he said. “I don’t have confidence, I’m all heart – I’m here to fight and I’m going down swinging. “I’m not going to quit and only God knows how far I will go.”
Also on Thursday, Australian Owen Wright and his younger sister Tyler Wright had clear wins to reach the third round. Hawaiian Carissa Moore, the current rankings leader, recovered from her surprise round-one loss to post the best women’s score of the day, an 18.23.
Gilmore, Slater, Parkinson and Mick Fanning will return to action in round three, with the men’s and women’s events likely to continue on Good Friday.