Andy Irons And Keala Kennelly To Defend Billabong Pro Teahupoo Titles

April 30, 2003 (Teahupoo, Tahiti) Reigning world champions Andy Irons andfellow Hawaiian Keala Kennelly will both enter the Billabong Pro Teahupooevent in Tahiti as defending champions and also, the #1 rated surfers on the2003 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour(WCT). The pair from the Island of Kauai, are regarded as the surfers tobeat at Teahupoo (pronounced Chow-poo) with their well earned reputations atthe dredging left-hand reef break which is located “at the end of the road”about an hours drive south of Tahiti’s capital Papeete and situated 400meters off-shore.

Kennelly, who shares the ASP women’s ratings lead with reigning five-timeworld champion Layne Beachley (Aus) will, like Irons be out for back-to-backWCT victories heading into what is regarded as perhaps the world’s mostradical wave ever surfed.

It’s a repeat scenario for Irons, who in his world title-winning year alsoentered the 3rd event of the season at the head of the point’s table closelyfollowed by former event champion Mark Occhilupo (Aus) and fellow GoldCoaster Joel Parkinson (Aus), both now positioned in equal 2nd.

24-year-old Irons, who also won the 2000 Trials in spectacular 3m waves, isnot underestimating the break stating, “Teahupoo is the heaviest wave in theworld and even though it scares me, I look forward to competing there. Towin last year was incredible. It’s the “new Pipe” of surfing only a lotheavier.

“I can’t wait, the pressure’s on. Everyone’s going to be psyching. I justhope things work out the way they’ve been going. It’s been an unreal startand I hope it continues throughout the year.”

Occy also is a proven Teahupoo performer winning the tournament in his 1999world title year and featuring in the semi-finals in both 2000 and 2001.Fellow goofy-footer Luke Egan (Aus), who finished runner-up to Irons lastyear will be out to overcome a slow start to the 2003 season in what isregarded as one of his performance stops on tour.

“I’d love to go one better than I did last year,” said Egan. “It’s importantfor me to get a good result there. It’s one of the most intense waves toride in the world. It’s more than experience; you have to have a “go-for-it”attitude. People who perform on adrenaline go well in Tahiti.

“It’s a unique set-up, a small village out in the middle of the ocean withthe water safety patrol, the surfers and the media. It’s a small townhovering over the reef.”

Sydney surfer Beachley is regarded as Kennelly’s greatest foe in theBillabong Pro Tahiti Women’s event, with the pair dominating the tournamentfor the past few years. Beachley, who won the 2002 tournament, finishedrunner-up to the powerful goofy-footer last year. Kennelly’s 2002 victorysaw her claim her 3rd Teahupoo title by adding to her 2000 WCT win and the1998 World Qualifying Series (WQS) win.

“Competing at Teahupoo always requires a different mindset to any otherlocation in the world. At first it is nerve racking but after surfing a fewheats I tend to find a level of comfort out there. I think everyone’sbiggest fear is hitting the reef,” said Beachley.

“Keala exudes enormous confidence at Teahupoo, more than any other wave inthe world. She doesn’t surf any other competition wave as strategically oras determined as she does at Teahupoo. Keala is always the one to beat.”

Having won the recent WCT women’s tournament in Fiji – a similarly heavyleft-hand reef break – Kennelly holds added confidence in her campaign.

Reigning world grommet champion Rebecca Woods (Copacabana, AUS) has beengranted a wildcard into the women’s WCT event and is entering fresh from twoback-to-back wins on the ASP Australasian junior circuit. The 18-year-oldsuffered a radical wipeout in her first surfing session at Teahupoo. With abuilding 3m swell hitting the reef, Woods was sucked back over the fallswhile duck diving through a set wave but managed to survive physicallyunscathed. Fellow NSW Central Coast surferss Adrian Buchan and Glen Hall wererelieved when Woods emerged after being held down for a solid 20 seconds,both declaring their readiness to rescue her.

“I was trying to relax and go with it. If you panic out here you are goingto get smashed,” said Woods. “I knew that Adrian (Buchan) and Glen (Hall)were out there in the line-up and if worst came to worst that they wouldcome in and get me.”

Sixteen international Teahupoo surfing specialists will take on 32 localTahitians in the Air Tahiti Nui VZ Trials at the world’s premier break forthree days of competition within the May 1st to 5th timeframe. Threewildcards will be awarded to the top two placed Tahitians and the nexthighest placed surfer into the Billabong Pro Teahupoo Tahiti WCT event.

The three-story wooden tower structure that is built specifically for thejudges and officials has been rebuilt after being smashed by last weeksmassive 4m swell. The “tower” is situated 70m inside the impact zone on thereef and anchored by concrete blocks on the sand bed and supported by ropeand steel cables to the coral heads.

Internet users will be able to watch all the surfing action live from roundone of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo Tahiti. Both the men and women’s WCTtournaments will be filmed from the all-important boat angle situated in thechannel looking directly into the barrel. A stabilizing camera lens and amicrowave system will create a spectacular webcasting experience from one ofthe world’s most remote surfing locations. Simply log and enjoy the show.