Irons And Giant Killer Holmes Primed For Classic Rematch At Billabong Pro

Wednesday July 16, 2003 (Jeffreys Bay, South Africa) Reigning world championAndy Irons (Kauai, Haw) and South African wildcard Sean Holmes are primed tosurf a highly anticipated third round rematch in the Billabong Pro. TheUS$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) resumed this morning withremaining round one heats, and then five heats of the second eliminationround were completed.

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Offshore winds and 4ft (1.3m) surf was on offer at Supertubes this morning,but as the wind subsided, glass-like conditions and perfect waves rolledthrough the lineup on another warm, sunny day at Jeffreys Bay.

Holmes – from nearby Wilderness – actually failed to secure a spot in themain event after placing third in his Von Zipper Trials heat yesterday.Following the withdrawal of an ill Kalani Robb (Haw) this morning, however,fortune favored the 25-year-old since he was next in line. After racing thetwo-hour drive to Jeffreys from his home, he went to battle againstBrazilians Guilherme Herdy and Danilo Costa, quickly establishing acommanding lead. The powerful natural footer appeared at ease; selectingsuperior waves and surfing confidently to advance directly into round threefor a classic rematch with Irons.

Against the Kauaian in last year’s Billabong Pro, Holmes put aside nerves todisplay an all-class act, progressing through to the quarterfinals where hewas eventually stopped despite opening with a perfect 10-point ride.Nonetheless, the South African gained plenty of attention and all eyes willagain be focused his way as he attempts to better the result in 2003.

“I raced back down this morning as it’s obviously very exciting for me,”explained Holmes after the win, of receiving news he was back in. “It allseems a little over-hyped to me right now, since I’ve only made one heat,but it’s good for a South African to make it. I just have to put everythingaside, as there’s a lot harder heats to come.

“These guys are surfing events all the time and are in the competitive stateof mind,” he added of the international field. “For me to come into thisevent, it takes a couple of heats just to get into that sync and up to thesame level. Once I’m there I feel fine and confident. There’s nobody here Idon’t feel I could beat. It’ll be nice to surf with Andy again. Now thathe’s the world champ he’s the guy to beat, and if you’re going to, why nothere at Jeffreys? Hopefully I can put it all together and just enjoy surfingout there.”

Irons, who was beaten in round one yesterday, eliminated VZ Trials wildcardWarwick Wright (Durban, SAfr) in round two and thus ensured a rematch withHolmes. Respectful of his upcoming opponent, the Kauaian offered nothing butpraise for Holmes and added his own excitement in trying to peg one back forlast year.

“I’m really happy to just make that heat,” began Irons. “I’m sure Sean willbe a really hard guy to beat. He’s probably one of the top guys in thiscompetition to win it, so it’ll be an all out affair. Hopefully I catch goodwaves and surf smart, and don’t make many mistakes.

“He got me last year really good,” he continued. “He surfs really well outhere, but I just have to take it as another heat. Anything can happen, butI’ll be out there with an open mind and take it wave for wave. He’s a coolguy and super nice. A full gentleman and I’ve known him for a long time.Should be a good heat and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully it brings mysurfing up, as I know he’ll be on fire.”

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WCT ‘rookie’ Luke Stedman (Whale Beach, Aus) caused an upset this morning bydefeating six-time world champion Kelly Slater (Fl, USA) and Brazilian NecoPadaratz (Florianopolis) in round one. The Australian has been surfing greatall year, but until now was yet to progress through a heat. The 26-year-oldremained calm against his daunting opponents, however, and laid down somegreat maneuvers. Padaratz came on strong toward the end, but ultimatelywasn’t able to catch ‘Steds’.

“To w against someone like Kelly – a six-time world champion and one of myfavorite surfers – it’s a heat to remember for sure,” said Stedman. “It’samazing just to be here at Jeffreys. It’s one of those places you’re soexcited to go to, especially after seeing it on TV the past couple of years.Finally making it this year and drawing Kelly and Neco and winning… Ican’t explain the feeling. It’s awesome (laughs).”

Slater – who missed a connecting flight out of New York due to increasedairport security and arrived a day late for the Billabong Pro – made up forthe early loss this morning by posting the best scores of the event hisfollowing round two clash against VZ Trials wildcard Adrian Buchan (Avoca,Aus). The Floridian only caught three waves, but posted a 9.07 on hissecond, and then a near-perfect 9.6 on his third and final ride for thehighest combined tally so far with 18.67-points.

“I was connecting via New York on my way here,” explained Slater of hisabsence yesterday. “My bags were late off the first flight and I was cut offfor the International flight. There was nothing I could do. And after myfirst heat this morning I was just thinking it was going to be a nightmaretrip. Thankfully it turned around. I switched boards after my last heat, andthis one was a bit looser and easier to surf in the pocket on smaller waves.Those waves came together really nicely for me and offered a lot of wall.

“My foot feels good now and is probably at 80 percent,” he continued, of theinjury he’s been nursing the past couple months. “I don’t really have all mystrength back there, but it feels OK. After a heat like that, I’m stoked tobe here, despite the 54-hours it took from leaving LA (laughs). Waves likethat make it worth the effort. My last big turn felt great, so it all workedout.”

Brazilian Flavio Padaratz was another standout today, posting an 8.5 andthen heat-sealing 9.5 right at end of his match with Chris Davidson(Narrabeen, Aus) and Shea Lopez (FL, USA). The goofyfoot had fallen on anumber of rides midway through the heat, put kept his cool when the finalset wave approached.

“It was amazing to get that last wave,” acknowledged Padaratz. “I got that8.5 at the start and then tried to get another decent wave to stay in front,but I kept falling off. Then ‘Davo’ was ahead near the end, so I just closedmy eyes and started praying to get a wave I wouldn’t fall on (laughs).Thankfully I didn’t make a mistake.”

World #6 Mick Lowe (Windang, Aus) – who finished runner-up in last year’sBillabong Pro – accounted for close friend Greg Emslie (East London) in theday’s final match. The former WCT campaigner earned a spot through the VZTrials yesterday, and despite excellent surfing, fell victim to aninconsistent ocean and Lowe’s strong backhand attack.

“Greg and I have traveled for the past four or five years together,” saidLowe. “He had one great wave, but I was lucky enough to get another good onebefore the waves stopped. After making the final here last year, J-Bay’sprobably my favorite stop on tour, or at least second after Fiji (where hewon a WCT last year). I love coming here as it’s such a great surfing townand incredible wave.”

Following in the footsteps of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo in Tahiti, theJeffreys Bay tournament will once again be a three-camera webcast with livestreaming footage, live scores and commentary available onwww.billabongpro.com or www.aspworldtour.com.

Billabong Pro Round Two (1st>Rnd3; 2nd=33rd receives US$3,000)
H1: Andy Irons (Haw) 15.83 def. Warwick Wright (SAfr) 10.76
H2: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 15.17 def. Bede Durbidge (Aus) 12.07
H3: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.67 def. Adrian Buchan (Aus) 7.53
H4: Cory Lopez (USA) 15.33 def. Tiago Pires (Port) 14.2
H5: Michael Lowe (Aus) 14.23 def. Greg Emslie (SAfr) 14.0

Round One Heats (1st>Rnd3; 2nd & 3rd>Rnd2)
H12: Peterson Rosa (Brz) 15.6; Nathan Webster (Aus) 15.17; Mark Occhilupo(Aus) 12.93
H13: Daniel Wills (Aus) 14.44; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 12.34; Armando Daltro(Brz) 9.93
H15: Richard Lovett (Aus) 14.67; Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.84; Victor Ribas(Brz) 11.0
H16: Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 18.0; Chris Davidson (Aus) 15.1; Shea Lopez (USA)13.34
H6: Luke Stedman (Aus) 14.67; Neco Padaratz (Brz) 14.44; Kelly Slater (USA)11.87
H14: Sean Holmes (SAfr) 16.66; Danilo Costa (Brz) 9.27; Guilherme Herdy(Brz) 5.0
Remaining Round Two Heats (1st>Rnd3; 2nd & 3rd>Rnd2)
H6: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) vs. Tim Curran (USA)
H7: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Toby Martin (Aus)
H8: Shea Lopez (USA) vs. Fabio Gouveia (Brz)
H9: Pat O’Connell (USA) vs. Beau Emerton (Aus)
H10: Paulo Moura (Brz) vs. Lee Winkler (Aus)
H11: Neco Padaratz (Brz) vs. Nathan Webster (Aus)
H12: Nathan Hedge (Aus) vs. Armando Daltro (Brz)
H13: Shane Powell (Aus) vs. Danilo Costa (Brz)
H14: Luke Hitchings (Aus) vs. Victor Ribas (Brz)
H15: Trent Munro (Aus) vs. Chris Davidson (Aus)
H16: Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) vs. Guilherme Herdy (Brz)
(Aus) 14.44; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 12.34; Armando Daltro(Brz) 9.93
H15: Richard Lovett (Aus) 14.67; Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.84; Victor Ribas(Brz) 11.0
H16: Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 18.0; Chris Davidson (Aus) 15.1; Shea Lopez (USA)13.34
H6: Luke Stedman (Aus) 14.67; Neco Padaratz (Brz) 14.44; Kelly Slater (USA)11.87
H14: Sean Holmes (SAfr) 16.66; Danilo Costa (Brz) 9.27; Guilherme Herdy(Brz) 5.0
Remaining Round Two Heats (1st>Rnd3; 2nd & 3rd>Rnd2)
H6: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) vs. Tim Curran (USA)
H7: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Toby Martin (Aus)
H8: Shea Lopez (USA) vs. Fabio Gouveia (Brz)
H9: Pat O’Connell (USA) vs. Beau Emerton (Aus)
H10: Paulo Moura (Brz) vs. Lee Winkler (Aus)
H11: Neco Padaratz (Brz) vs. Nathan Webster (Aus)
H12: Nathan Hedge (Aus) vs. Armando Daltro (Brz)
H13: Shane Powell (Aus) vs. Danilo Costa (Brz)
H14: Luke Hitchings (Aus) vs. Victor Ribas (Brz)
H15: Trent Munro (Aus) vs. Chris Davidson (Aus)
H16: Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) vs. Guilherme Herdy (Brz)