A semifinal loss for Luke Egan gives Andy the title.
Sunset Beach, Hawaii At 10:15 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time, Andy Irons became the ASP World Champion. He was carried on the shoulders of his friends from the truck where he watched Luke Egan fail to advance to the semifinals to the stage 100 yards away. He was surrounded by a sea of photographers and journalists, frantically jostling for good positioning.
His victory came when Luke Egan placed third in his quarterfinal heat with Taylor Knox, Shane Dorian, and Luke Hitchings. Luke’s elimination put Andy out of reach of any other WCT competitor with only Pipeline left on the CT’s schedule. When Taj Burrow was eliminated in Round 2 yesterday afternoon (interestingly, Taj was beaten by Andy’s brother Bruce) that left only Luke Egan still mathematically viable for a challenge for the world title.
And Luke made it interesting until the final moments of his heat, catching a wave with just ten seconds remaining. Luke needed a 7.07 to continue his challenge for the title, but he fell just short, scoring a 6.3, and sending the crowd of friends, family, and miscellaneous hangers-on surrounding Andy into a frenzy.
An interference call had eliminated Andy from Quarterfinal #2 just half an hour earlier, and so he watched Luke’s heat from the passenger seat of a white Ford Ranger just up the beach. The minute between Luke’s final wave and the announcement of his losing score seemed like a week. When it had been announced that Andy was the new World Champ, he got up on the hood of the truck and screamed “Yes!”
Hat’s were immediately distributed, reading: Kauai World Champ.
On the podium, the emotion of the moment was getting to Andy, and you could tell he was taking deep breaths to keep himself focused. Focus has been the buzzword surrounding Andy this year. He’s been the odds-on favorite since the tour began in March, but at the age of 24, many don’t have the type of focus required to win a world title. It involves a tremendous amount of traveling, patience, and strength, and more than just a bit of luck. But he survived to bask in the win, just after the clouds broke to let the warm Hawaiian early morning sun in.
On stage, Rabbit Bartholomew asked the new world champ how he is feeling right now.
Andy: “There’s a lot of emotion running through me right now, Andy responded. “It’s really been an incredible year. I never thought I’d put a year together like this. It’s been an unreal ride. I just can’t believe it. I want to thank all my friends for hanging out and being so supportive. They’re the best friends in the world. I want to thank my mom and dad for coming down. I have a lot of people to thank—all my sponsors, of course. I want to thank everyone for showing up today … it’s been just incredible. Some good times ahead, hopefully. I’m just really thankful right now. Thank you. And definitely my girlfriend Lisa, I gotta thank her.”
Rabbit: “You started with the Rip Curl event, you won Bells, and that put you on the road [to winning a world title] mate, that must have been pretty good after that.”
Andy: “Yeah, winning Bells was a dream come true. I never, ever thought I’d win there. And winning Teahupoo right after that made it just a dream month for me. I was really comfortable, I didn’t make the stupid mistakes I used to, I got a little older, and I’ve been learning from those mistakes. I’ll probably make more mistakes in the future, but as long as you keep learning from them … “
Rabbit: “Luke gave you a good run all year, and you guys had a great battle, especially at Teahupoo. And you and Luke went all the way.”
Andy: “I gotta say this: Luke, man, he’s always been one of my favorite surfers. I’ve always gone down to watch his heats, because I love the way he surfs. I know he’s gonna win one. He’s like wine—he gets sweeter every year. He’s surfing better than ever. The guy’s incredible. I”ve really got to tip my hat to him. I have a lot of respect for him, and I know he’s gonna get one … I can feel it.”
Sunset will conclude before the end of the day Tuesday, the opening ceremonies for the Eddie will be held today at Waimea Bay, and the Pipeline Masters’ waiting period is set to kick off in less than a week, but today belongs to Andy.
In a press conference a half hour after his victory was announced, Andy calmly told a reporter, “If the world ended tomorrow, I’d die happy … for sure.”