Day One – 2002 Billabong Pro South Africa

Irons Sets Pace In Epic Conditions
[IMAGE 1]Jeffreys Bay, South Africa (Tuesday, July 16) Current ratings leader AndyIrons (Haw) today continued his 2002 World Championship Tour (WCT) dream runby setting the pace in the Billabong Pro. The US$250,000 tournamentcommenced this morning with the VZ Trials producing four-wildcard entrants,before round one of the main event was then decided.

Perfect 6-8ft (2-2.6m) waves persisted throughout the day, though cold windand rain made for less than ideal spectator conditions. As the sun brokethrough this afternoon, however, the swell increased and presented a classicJ-Bay line-up.

Irons, who holds a commanding position courtesy of back-to-back victories inAustralia and then Tahiti, posted the only perfect 10 of the event so farwith a flawless series of tubes on his second ride. The Hawaiian then lockedin another 9.0 following four barrels on his fourth wave, leaving VZwildcard Sean Holmes (SAfr) and world #4 Taylor Knox (USA) both needing acombination of scores. The Californian broke his surfboard and injured hisgroin during the 30-minute heat.[IMAGE 2]”It’s incredible out there,” said Irons. “I’m just stoked to get someperfect waves. If Taylor or Sean got my waves they would have gotten perfectscores too, so I was just lucky. Either of those two guys could easily winthe contest. Two other guys out… it’s a dream come true.

“I don’t want to jinx myself,” he continued, of his form this year. “I justwant to keep it going wave by wave, heat by heat. Have fun with it.”

Current world #4 Luke Egan (Aus) continued his charge toward the top of theratings, defeating six-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) and RodrigoDornelles (Brz). In what proved a great duel between Egan and Slater, withthe lead switching after each secured another ride, it was the Australianwho ultimately advanced into round three following a backhand barrel rideand series of critical off the lip manoeuvres on his final wave.

“The waves were unreal fun out there, and against Kelly, you know he’s goingto go mad no matter what,” explained Egan. “I got in a good rhythm and wasstoked that wave came at the end. I managed to get a nice barrel and justgot the score (I needed).

“I love it here,” he continued, of the venue he won a block of land at in1991. “It’s really hard to concentrate on the contest though, cause it’s somuch fun that you’re not even thinking about it. We’re freezing cold andit’s raining, but it’s a good sign. The waves are going to continuepumping.”

Slater, who won the 1996 event at J-Bay, produced the heats’ highest singlewave score of 9.65 with an extremely long tube through the inside section,but still required another 6.11 in his best of two-wave tally. He will nowface Russell Winter (UK) in round two.

Australian WCT newcomers Dean Morrison, Kieren Perrow, Mick Fanning and LeeWinkler all caused major upsets, defeating reigning world champ C.J. Hobgood(USA), fellow Floridian and current world #2 Cory Lopez, last WCT winnerMick Lowe (Aus) and the year’s initial points leader Joel Parkinson (Aus) intheir respective heats.

Morrison, rated 18th leading into the Billabong Pro, secured a 9.5 toovercome a close battle with VZ local wildcard Brad Bricknell and Hobgood.The lead changed throughout, but in his first WCT heat at ‘Supertubes’ theAustralian emerged victorious.

“I was so lucky I got that wave,” said Morrison. “It’s probably one of thebest waves I’ve ever had out here. I didn’t think I was surfing that great,and felt like I needed another 20 kilos on me to stop the wind from blowingme away (laughs). But I’ve felt confident in my free-surfs and am stoked towin.”

Winkler, who travelled to J-Bay two weeks early in preparation, todayoutscored ‘Parko’ and fellow Aussie Mick Campbell. While his opponentscaught waves from the outset, the rookie’s patience paid off.

“I just waited for the good ones and felt really relaxed,” said Winkler. “Ikn I had a hard heat, so it wouldn’t do me any good panicking. It’s prettyhard not to have fun out there. There were just perfect waves one afteranother. This is what it’s all about.”
[IMAGE 3]Defending Billabong Pro champion Jake Paterson (Aus), who has won the lasttwo editions to become the first back-to-back winner since the inauguralcontest in 1983, was another upset today. The current #29 surfed a goodheat, but opponent Phil MacDonald proved in better rhythm with the setwaves.

“I didn’t have such a great heat,” said Paterson. “Phil kind of took therhythm I’m used to. He surfed really well.

“There’s a little bit of pressure I put on myself,” he admitted. “With thebest two format I should have just been more patient. There are plenty ofwaves, so it was a mistake on my part and I’ll try not to do it again.”

MacDonald, rated last in 46th position leading into the Billabong Pro,displayed a mature performance to accumulate a 9.0 and then an 8.75 for aconvincing win.

“I picked up that first wave and got a 9.0 on it, so I knew I could do itfrom there,” explained MacDonald. “I was lucky enough to get another waveand do some turns and get some barrels. It’s always good to get through aheat, especially against a two-time event champion and Shea’s having such agood year. I’m really happy.

“I’m trying to keep my confidence up,” added the current world #46. “Ihaven’t been doing too well, but I’ve had a couple of close heats. I know Ican beat these guys and that’s why I’m here. These waves suit me, andhopefully the bigger it gets the more it will.”

Shane Powell dominated his clash against fellow Australians Mark Occhilupoand VZ wildcard Shaun Cansdell. The current #19 secured a near-perfect 9.6,while Cansdell unfortunately lost his board new the start when his leashbroke. Occhilupo, the 1999 world champ and current #6, was unable to postany scores over 6.25 and will now meet local wildcard Bricknell in roundtwo.

“The waves are so long out there,” explained Powell. “There’s a bit of luckinvolved for sure. It was good to get in some practice yesterday, and I feltreally good then.”

2000 world champion Sunny Garcia (Haw) began his Billabong Pro campaign withsuperb double tube to score 9.5 out of a possible 10-points in the day’sfirst main event heat. The Hawaiian also put his powerful forehand snaps towork, showing no signs of a recent dirt bike accident he suffered at home.Opponents Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) and Pat O’Connell (USA) were delegated tothe ‘losers’ second round, while he advanced straight into the third.

“The day before yesterday was actually the first time I’d gotten back in thewater a little over a month,” explained Garcia. “After Fiji I went home anda couple of days later I crashed my dirt bike and ruined my ankle prettybad. It’s still sore, so I wanted to wait for the good ones and fortunatelymy second wave was one of those J-Bay classics.”

Greg Emslie (SAfr) secured his nation’s only main event victory, againstTrent Munro (Aus) and Paulo Moura (Brz). The South African made it out ofone long tube way past the judges tower, and was rewarded an 8.25 and theheat.

“Just being out there was insane,” said Emslie. “It was hard to pick theright waves, but if you did, they were absolutely perfect. I don’t think thejudges could see my last barrel as I went right past them down the point,but I was loving it (laughs).”

Also of note was the day’s second last heat, where Brazilian Fabio Gouveialost his surfboard when his leash broke and all watched as it drifted out tosea due to the strong offshore winds. Australians Nathan Webster and RichieLovett traded epic barrel rides as Gouveia was forced to swim in. Heeventually made it back out on a replacement board, found some deep tubes,and ultimately finished second to Webster following a great double tube rideon his last wave. His board was never found.

Official results of the Billabong Pro Day One
H1: Sunny Garcia (Haw) 16.5; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 14.15; Pat O’Connell(USA) 12.75
H2: Danny Wills (Aus) 15.25; Shane Dorian (Haw) 9.5; Victor Ribas (Brz) 7.15
H3: Mick Fanning (Aus) 15.55; Mick Lowe (Aus) 14.0; Guilherme Herdy (Brz)5.05
H4: Luke Egan (Aus) 15.75; Kelly Slater (USA) 15.65; Rodrigo Dornelles (Brz)9.85
H5: Nathan Hedge (Aus) 13.0; Kalani Robb (Haw) 10.0; Marcelo Nunes (Brz)9.55
H6: Phil MacDonald (Aus) 17.75; Jake Paterson (Aus) 15.0; Shea Lopez (USA)11.35
H7: Shane Powell (Aus) 18.1; Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 12.0; Shaun Cansdell (Aus)9.35
H8: Andy Irons (Haw) 19.0; Sean Holmes (SAfr) 13.25; Taylor Knox (USA) 12.0
H9: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 14.4; Cory Lopez (USA) 14.0; Bede Durbidge (Aus)12.5
H10: Dean Morrison (Aus) 16.75; Brad Bricknell (SAfr) 15.25; CJ Hobgood(USA) 15.0
H11: Luke Hitchings (Aus) 15.3; Peterson Rosa (Brz) 13.75; Renan Rocha (Brz)11.75
H12: Lee Winkler (Aus) 17.75; Joel Parkinson (Aus) 14.0; Mick Campbell (Aus)9.5
H13: Damien Hobgood (USA) 17.25; Maz Quinn (NZ) 15.0; Paul Canning (SAfr)9.0
H14: Beau Emerton (Aus) 16.55; Taj Burrow (Aus) 15.75; Russell Winter (UK)14.7
H15: Nathan Webster (Aus) 16.25; Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 12.75; Richie Lovett(Aus) 10.0
H16: Greg Emslie (SAfr) 14.5; Trent Munro (Aus) 13.5; Paulo Moura (Brz) 7.75

VZ Trials presented by Remax PropertiesH1: Sean Holmes (SAfr) 15.0; Shaun Cansdell (Aus) 13.15; Simon Nicholson(SAfr) 12.6; Che Stang (USA) 9.5
H2: Bede Durbidge (Aus) 13.5; Brad Bricknell (SAfr) 13.4; Danilo Costa (Brz)11.55; Craig Els (SAfr) 9.5
Garcia (Haw) 16.5; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 14.15; Pat O’Connell(USA) 12.75
H2: Danny Wills (Aus) 15.25; Shane Dorian (Haw) 9.5; Victor Ribas (Brz) 7.15
H3: Mick Fanning (Aus) 15.55; Mick Lowe (Aus) 14.0; Guilherme Herdy (Brz)5.05
H4: Luke Egan (Aus) 15.75; Kelly Slater (USA) 15.65; Rodrigo Dornelles (Brz)9.85
H5: Nathan Hedge (Aus) 13.0; Kalani Robb (Haw) 10.0; Marcelo Nunes (Brz)9.55
H6: Phil MacDonald (Aus) 17.75; Jake Paterson (Aus) 15.0; Shea Lopez (USA)11.35
H7: Shane Powell (Aus) 18.1; Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 12.0; Shaun Cansdell (Aus)9.35
H8: Andy Irons (Haw) 19.0; Sean Holmes (SAfr) 13.25; Taylor Knox (USA) 12.0
H9: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 14.4; Cory Lopez (USA) 14.0; Bede Durbidge (Aus)12.5
H10: Dean Morrison (Aus) 16.75; Brad Bricknell (SAfr) 15.25; CJ Hobgood(USA) 15.0
H11: Luke Hitchings (Aus) 15.3; Peterson Rosa (Brz) 13.75; Renan Rocha (Brz)11.75
H12: Lee Winkler (Aus) 17.75; Joel Parkinson (Aus) 14.0; Mick Campbell (Aus)9.5
H13: Damien Hobgood (USA) 17.25; Maz Quinn (NZ) 15.0; Paul Canning (SAfr)9.0
H14: Beau Emerton (Aus) 16.55; Taj Burrow (Aus) 15.75; Russell Winter (UK)14.7
H15: Nathan Webster (Aus) 16.25; Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 12.75; Richie Lovett(Aus) 10.0
H16: Greg Emslie (SAfr) 14.5; Trent Munro (Aus) 13.5; Paulo Moura (Brz) 7.75

VZ Trials presented by Remax PropertiesH1: Sean Holmes (SAfr) 15.0; Shaun Cansdell (Aus) 13.15; Simon Nicholson(SAfr) 12.6; Che Stang (USA) 9.5
H2: Bede Durbidge (Aus) 13.5; Brad Bricknell (SAfr) 13.4; Danilo Costa (Brz)11.55; Craig Els (SAfr) 9.5