Monday 5 September, 2005Malibu Reef, Chiba, Japan
QUIKSILVER PRO JAPAN (31 August — 7 September, 2005)
EVENT #7 ON THE ASSOCIATION OF SURFING PROFESSIONALS (ASP)FOSTER’S MEN’S WORLD TOUR
Irons Beats Archrival Slater In Epic Quiksilver Pro Japan Finale
Andy Irons (HAW) claimed revenge today for his last minute loss to Kelly Slater (USA) in South Africa in July, when he beat Slater in epic 2-2.5 metre (six-to-eight foot) waves in the Quiksilver Pro Japan to claim his first victory of the season.
In what many believe to be one of the best finals ever seen on the Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour, three-time tour champion Irons really saved his best till last, peaking just at the right time to leave six time tour champion, Slater needing two excellent rides to overtake him.
Irons posted a 9.5 early and then remained quiet as Slater came back to post two quality rides, an 8.83 and a 9.23. Then with less than six minutes remaining, Irons launched into an incredible wave that allowed him to get deep inside a tube followed by a very critical frontside floater as the wave shut down in front of him.
The huge rain-soaked crowd erupted as Irons pumped both fists in the air and from there Slater had no comeback, even returning to the beach early. Irons was predictably ecstatic and was thankful his tactics paid off.
“I was so stoked to get to the finals again, he said. “Peaking in the final was just the way it happened. I changed boards at the right time — the tide started to come in and the waves started to get better and better.
“I’m just stoked to win one finally. There was a lot of pressure out there as Kelly got those two good rides. I was a bit stressed, but I knew I had that one good score locked away and all I needed to do was back it up. I had to be patient and knew I needed to do something good and I was just waiting for the opportunity. Luckily it all fell into place.
Despite today’s loss in the final, Slater was smiling knowing that he still has a firm grip on the title race.
This result however slightly tightens the gap between Irons and Slater on the Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour ratings with Slater out in front on 6374 points and Irons on 5796. But with Mick Fanning (AUS) and Trent Munro (AUS) being eliminated in the quarter-finals and round four respectively, the race for the world crown is slowly being narrowed to today’s finalists. Fanning now sits in third on 4962 points and Munro has been pushed back to fourth on 4886.
“It may have been one wave in one heat but by him winning he gained 178 points on me and if I’d won I would have moved ahead about the same, said an analytical Slater. “In the next event we’re going to come up against some pretty high standard wildcards like Rob Machado (USA) and Dane Reynolds (USA) so there’s not going to be any ‘walk throughs’ for either of us.
“I’m happy to have three wins so far, Slater continued. “Last year I didn’t have any but this year I’ve been able to drag that will-to-win out again. Now is the time to determine whether or not it will be a two-horse race for the title. If Andy gets ahead of the pack it will be, but if he falls between Fanning and Munro then they could step it up — and it will all be back for the taking. Trestles will tell all.
As predicted early, Australian Toby Martin did prove to be a thorn in the side of the tour frontrunners especially as he knocked out Fanning in the quarter-finals plus ousted Hawaiian free surfing maestro, Bruce Irons, and prior to that, 2001 Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour champ, CJ Hobgood (USA).
Taking an equal third place after being eliminated by Kelly Slater in semi one, it was Martin’s best World Championship Tour (WCT) result and it was especially pleasing for him as he’d suffered some nasty setbacks early in the season due to injury.
“I’m absolutely over the moon, ssaid Martin. “If I knew I was going to come over and get a third I would have been doing cartwheels on the plane all the way here. A few things went wrong in my wave selection in the semi and you can’t let Kelly get anything because he can turn a potential five point ride into an eight pretty quickly. He found the better waves today and I didn’t. But I’ll take a lot of confidence away from this event and I can’t wait to get to Trestles to give them hell.
Fellow Australian Tommy Whitaker was another to cause some headaches ousting Munro in round four and then former world number two Taj Burrow in the quarters.
Whitaker, who has struggled to find consistency since taking a third place in the opening event of the tour, the Quiksilver Pro in Queensland, Australia, was disappointed not to make the final but took solace in the fact that he’d lost to the eventual event winner.
“I’m stoked to get to a semi-final here in Japan, said Whitaker. “There’s no shame in being beaten by Andy and I’ll just keep plugging away and will hopefully get him next time.
Other highlights of what was a memorable day all round included Troy Brooks’ quarter-final finish after defeating tour veteran and two-time Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour champion, Sunny Garcia in round four.
Taking it right to the sometimes-intimidating Garcia, Brooks’ put on a courageous display, scoring some deep tuberides, despite having damaged ribs.
Also demanding attention was the round four match-up of Slater and Mark Occhilupo (AUS). Unfortunately, Occhilupo was forced out of what could be his last event in Japan due to poor wave selection. At the heat’s end he showed tremendous sportsmanship in racing straight up to Slater to congratulate him and wish him all the best.
The Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour now moves to California, USA for the Boost Mobile Pro, presented by Quiksilver. That event is scheduled to run from September 13 to 18.
Results round four:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.50 def Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.66
Heat 2: Toby Martin (AUS) 11.17 def Bruce Irons (HAW) 9.00
Heat 3: Phil MacDonald (AUS) 12.33 def Paulo Moura (BRA) 9.93
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.16 def Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 10.67
Heat 5: Andy Irons (HAW) 13.10 def Taylor Knox (USA) 10.00
Heat 6: Troy Brooks (AUS) 15.67 def Sunny Garcia (HAW) 12.50
Heat 7: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 15.34 def Trent Munro (AUS) 13.60
Heat 8: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.34 def Dean Morrison (AUS) 10.90
Quarter final 1: Martin 14.90 def Fanning 11.50
Quarter final 2: Slater 13.83 def MacDonald 13.33
Quarter final 3: Irons 17.10 def Brooks 15.10
Quarter final 4: Whitaker 14.66 def Burrow 10.00
Semi final 1: Slater 19.54 def Martin 13.27
Semi final 2: Irons 17.66 def Whitaker 8.84
Irons 19.43 def Slater 18.06
Quiksilver will be doing live webcasts of the next two ASP WCT events on www.quiksilver.com and www.aspworldtour.com*
Boost Mobile Pro presented by Quiksilver. 13-18 September*
Quiksilver Pro France. 23 September – 2 October