Andy Irons Suffers Shock First Round Elimination At Mundaka

October 14, 2003 (Mundaka, Euskadi-Spain) Defending Billabong Pro Mundaka winner and reigning world champ Andy Irons (Kauai, Haw) today suffered a shock first round elimination. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced this morning and ran through 10 heats before conditions forced an overnight postponement.

Good 4-5 ft (1.5m) surf was on offer for the early heats, but then slowly deteriorated in size and quality. Light onshore winds increased and messed up the lineup, and then higher tides returned as waves virtually stopped breaking.

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Irons – who claimed his fourth WCT of the year in France last week – faced fellow finalist Phil MacDonald (Aus) and Billabong USA wildcard Nathan Yeomans (USA). Despite an early lead in the crucial heat, Irons continued to catch smaller rides that ultimately closed out and allowed little room for maneuvers. Yeomans, on the other hand, was able to find a great set wave and lock in the top score for an 8.0, before MacDonald also found some good waves and floated his way to a narrow victory.

With the usual ‘losers’ second round not part of the Billabong Pro Mundaka format, Irons continued to search for the 6.17 score he required, knowing without it he’d be eliminated in third position. Nonetheless, he didn’t catch another good wave until seconds after the siren sounded, where he then launched a huge aerial and broke his favorite surfboard upon landing to add more insult to his poor result.

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“We shouldn’t have a contest without a ‘losers’ round,” began a frustrated Irons. “It’s not our format and I wasn’t there when they decided to change it and I don’t even remember being asked about it. The waves were terrible on the low tide and it was pretty much a closeout. There were a couple of waves, but frontsiders definitely had the advantage. Nathan caught a wave from the outside, but I sat wide and couldn’t get over a four… pretty much just a bad heat.

“I’m sure Kelly or Taj will win now,” he added pessimistically, of his nearest ratings rivals overtaking his lead. “It will make it exciting, but for me it’s a bummer. I’ll just have to shake it off and look forward to Brazil (next WCT).”

MacDonald – who secured his best result to date last week with a runner-up finish to Irons in France – gained revenge on the Kauaian and also kept wildcard Yeomans at bay with the win.

“Conditions were pretty hard out there and I don’t think it was really fair,” reasoned MacDonald. “You’d take off without really knowing what the wave what was going to do. The wildcard (Nathan) got an eight and put us on alert, but I was lucky to get a couple which ran a bit further. Just one of those days.”

Six-time world champion and current ratings #2 Kelly Slater (FL, USA) then capitalized by defeating Jake Paterson (Aus) and local Spanish wildcard Iker Fuentes the following heat. The Floridian was quick to post some good scores with incredibly precise turns and long floaters, and Paterson also progressed in second place.

“Yeah, very few round one wins are as satisfying,” joked Slater, referring to Irons’ earlier loss. “It’s totally unexpected to have Andy lose first round ever, but he’s had trouble with the wildcards this year – a lot more than the hardest guys on tour. Maybe he doesn’t expect the wildcards to do as good as they do, but in conditions like this, it’s really tricky. If you get in three moves you’ve got one of the high scores in the heat. I got ahead and just tried to protect it by sitting deep and holding Jake off waves.

“I’ve already made up a couple of hundred points,” he added, of the ratings race. “If I get a ninth place or further, I’ll be making up good ground. We’ll see what happens, but I’d like to make at least the semis.”

Current #5 Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast) won his heat against fellow Australians Trent Munro (Scott’s Head) and Billabong Europe wildcard Sam Carrier (now lives in France). The 22-year-old created an early lead and th continued to better his standing with long floaters and some tubes through the inside section. Both opponents remained further out the back looking for set waves, but only Munro was able to a post decent score. Carrier was unlucky not to emerge from the deeper barrels he pulled into.

“I just figured I would leave those guys out the back after my first good one and was lucky to get more through the inside section,” said Parkinson. “Those guys were fighting it out, but I was just doing the opposite and it worked in my favor. I love this wave, but it was nerve-wracking being in the first heat with no losers round. I haven’t won many first round heats this year, so I’m stoked to do it here.”

Brazilian Danilo Costa controlled the opening heat of the day, posting two high scoring rides at the outset of his match against Mick Lowe (Windang, Aus) and Pat O’Connell (CA, USA). Costa’s second wave included a good tube, as well as some big re-entries, and put him a combination of scores ahead of his opponents. O’Connell suffered even more than a heat loss and Billabong Pro Mundaka elimination however, tearing the ligaments in his right knee midway through the clash and was forced to return to shore.

“That was my first time in the water here,” explained Costa, of his maiden surf at Mundaka. “I got the tube and it felt so nice as I stayed inside a long time. Pat O’Connell had some problems with his knee though, so I feel sorry for him.

“I needed to get through that heat so much,” he added. “After making the semifinals at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo (Tah), I broke my foot in Fiji and haven’t had confidence since. I’ve dreamed about this contest though, as it’s a lefthander and I tried for a long time to make the WCT to surf waves like this. I hope I can continue making it through.”

Mick Campbell dominated his match with fellow Australians Luke Egan and Tom Whitaker, posting the highest scores of the Billabong Pro Mundaka so far The goofy footer found a great tube and then backdoored a deep section immediately after, escaping through the heavy section for cheers from the crowd and a 9.17 from the judges. Having broken his back at the venue two years ago while free surfing, the win is especially satisfying.

“That good wave came through and I just ran through it for a little bit and sneaked out the end,” explained Campbell. “I’ve kind of feel like I’ve got a score to settle with this place (after his injury), so hopefully I can keep getting some barrels. You’ve just got to stay relaxed out there, that’s the key.”

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Last year’s Billabong Pro Mundaka runner-up Neco Padaratz (Brz) was another shock loser in round one this morning. The Brazilian broke his surfboard at the start of the heat against Californian’s Tim Curran and Taylor Knox, and didn’t have a spare board in the lineup. He eventually retrieved one thanks to the help of his fellow countrymen with half the heat remaining, but was still unable to post the scores he required, falling on a crucial ride near the end.

Another decision will be made tomorrow morning at 10am (local time) as to the day’s schedule.

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Billabong Pro Mundaka Round One (1st, 2nd>Rnd 2
3rd=33rd receives US$3,000)

H2
Danilo Costa (Brz) 16.17
Mick Lowe (Aus) 10.87
Pat O’Connell (USA) 7.16

H3
Michael Campbell (Aus) 17.17
Luke Egan (Aus) 12.43
Tom Whitaker (Aus) 10.74

H4
Tim Curran (USA) 12.17
Taylor Knox (USA) 10.83
Neco Padaratz (Brz) 5.76

H5
Kieren Perrow (Aus) 10.83
Victor Ribas (Brz) 7.84
Tiago Pires (Port) 6.94

H7
Joel Parkinson (Aus) 16.43
Trent Munro (Aus) 11.0
Sam Carrier (Aus) 5.9

H6
Paulo Moura (Brz) 9.9
Mick Fanning (Aus) 9.0
Adrian Buchan (Aus) 8.53

H8
Phil MacDonald (Aus) 13.16
Nathan Yeomans (USA) 12.43
Andy Irons (Haw) 11.34

H9
Kelly Slater (USA) 13.87
Jake Paterson (Aus) 13.1
Iker Fuentes (Spn) 8.76

H10
Kalani Robb (Haw) 13.84
Taj Burrow (Aus) 7.7
Hodei Collazo (Spn) 6.9

H11
Dean Morrison (Aus) 15.1
Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 13.77
Toby Martin
(Aus) 12.16

Remaining Billabong Pro Mundaka Round One (1st, 2nd Rnd 23rd 33rd receives: US$3,000)

H12
Daniel Wills (Aus)
Nathan Hedge (Aus)
Fabio Gouveia (Brz)

H13
Mark Occhilupo (Aus)
Shane Powell (Aus)
Darren O’Rafferty (Aus)

H14
Cory Lopez (USA)
Armando Daltro (Brz)
Beau Emerton (Aus)

H15
Damien Hobgood (USA)
Chris Davidson (Aus)
Luke Hitchings (Aus)

H16
Richard Lovett (Aus)
Flavio Padaratz (Brz)
Lee Winkler (Aus)

er Fuentes (Spn) 8.76

H10
Kalani Robb (Haw) 13.84
Taj Burrow (Aus) 7.7
Hodei Collazo (Spn) 6.9

H11
Dean Morrison (Aus) 15.1
Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 13.77
Toby Martin
(Aus) 12.16

Remaining Billabong Pro Mundaka Round One (1st, 2nd Rnd 23rd 33rd receives: US$3,000)

H12
Daniel Wills (Aus)
Nathan Hedge (Aus)
Fabio Gouveia (Brz)

H13
Mark Occhilupo (Aus)
Shane Powell (Aus)
Darren O’Rafferty (Aus)

H14
Cory Lopez (USA)
Armando Daltro (Brz)
Beau Emerton (Aus)

H15
Damien Hobgood (USA)
Chris Davidson (Aus)
Luke Hitchings (Aus)

H16
Richard Lovett (Aus)
Flavio Padaratz (Brz)
Lee Winkler (Aus)