April 25, 2003 (Johanna, VIC, Australia) Defending Rip Curl Pro and reigningworld champion Andy Irons (Haw) today claimed his second consecutivewinner’s Bell Trophy. The 31st anniversary US$250,000 World ChampionshipTournament (WCT) began with semifinals this morning at Johanna, beforeclimaxing with the grand finale and crowning of this year’s champion.
Clean 4ft (1.3m) right-handers were on offer, though a strong rip currentwas still running through the lineup. The large beach crowd, including RipCurl Co-Founders Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer, cheered on the surfingaction. A minute’s silence was witnessed prior to the final for ANZAC day,and then a testimonial for Australian surfing personality Marc Prpic, whorecently passed away, took place as the finalists paddled out.
The 35-minute decider between the world #1 and last year’s runner-up JoelParkinson (Aus) proved a dramatic exchange. Irons first, and near-perfect9.8 ride set the pace, following a series of critical forehand carves,floaters, layback snaps and even a clean tube through the inside section.The 24-year-old then collected a couple of solid backup scores through themiddle of the bout, but it was a final 7.77 ride that provided the idealbookend for his outstanding performance and sealed his 7th WCT victory.
Interestingly, Irons is the first to claim consecutive Bells titles since’96, when fellow Hawaiian Sunny Garcia – whom he beat here last year -earned his second of three titles. Having arrived late to this year’s eventfollowing a lost passport delay, the world champ’s win today was yet anotherhuge achievement, bringing with it US$30,000 prizemoney and the currentratings top spot.
“It’s just amazing,” exclaimed Irons. “I guess lightning strikes twice. Iknew Parko was going to be really hard to beat out there, but luckily thatfirst wave came and I scored. I didn’t count Parko out until the horn wentthough. If he needed a 9.9, or even a 10, I knew he could possibly get it,as the kid’s so talented.
“I’m stoked the way things went last year, as that was amazing, but as faras world titles go, I’m not getting ahead of myself,” he added. “I just wantto enjoy this win right now. Going into Teahupoo (Tah) and Fiji – I reallylike that leg (of the tour), but I’m so happy now.”
Parkinson, who last year won the first and then final WCT of the season tofinish runner-up to Irons, was determined to get one up on the Hawaiian. The22-year-old showed his fighting ANZAC spirit to reach the Rip Curl Pro’spinnacle heat, but following his opponent’s first wave, odds were alreadystacked against him.
Somehow he managed to escape from one deep barrel, but afterwards realizedhe’d buckled his surfboard and was forced to grab another from his fatherBrian on the beach. Plenty of time remained, however, and he even held thelead momentarily following two average rides. Once the Hawaiian posted a7.67 though, the Australian was chasing a combination of scores. Hecollected a great 8.5 ride to narrow the gap, but ultimately requiredanother 9.08 when time elapsed.
“What can you say?” began Parkinson of his opponents start. “I saw that wavecome and I knew he was going to go to town on it. Sure enough he did with a9.8, and then I broke my board, so I thought everything was going to go hisway. I tried to fight back and never say die, but sometimes you’re just toofar behind the eight ball.
“As I came out the barrel I felt the tail flex and looked down and it wasjust like a banana board,” he explained of his equipment. “No excusesthough. I’m stoked to be in a good position again at the start of the year.Hopefully I can get a better result toward the end of the year (laughs), butI’m happy.”
Finishing equal third were 2001 Rip Curl Pro Champion Mick Fanning (Aus) and2001 world champion CJ Hobgood (USA). Both collected US$10,000 and a hugeratings boost with 876-points respectively.
Fanning, who secured his second cconsecutive semifinal berth from two WCTstarts this year, was unable to match the wave selection and scores of Ironsin the day’s first clash. The 2002 ASP ‘Rookie of the Year’ never appearedin rhythm, either falling off on inside maneuvers, or his waves would fadeout. Nonetheless, the 21-year-old holds fourth position on the currentratings and is well primed for another great season on tour.
“I felt alright, but just didn’t get any good waves,” said Fanning. “Everyone I caught wouldn’t line up through the inside, or I’d fall off. I guessit just wasn’t my day.
“Pretty stoked with my start to the year,” he added. “I wanted a good startthis year and hopefully I’ll keep carrying on. I’d be stoked to get a fewmore results and hopefully make a final one day (laughs).”
Hobgood, 23, actually held the lead toward the end of his match withParkinson, but the Australian fought back with a great ride within the final5-minutes. The Floridian then had another opportunity with priority, as agood set wave appeared on the final minute. His first backhand re-entryhinted the required 5.33 score was imminent, but he fell soon after, and wasunable to catch another ride.
“I blew it a couple of times out there,” admitted Hobgood. “I had priorityand took off on a stupid wave, and then he got a 7.5, so that was my firstmistake. Then I had that last wave, but… stuff happens. All the respect inthe world for Joel, but I could have had the heat.
“I’m stoked with the result, but it doesn’t matter where you’re at, you’vegot take advantage of opportunities,” he added. “You’re not going to winworld titles with Andy and Joel in the final. They finished one and two lastyear, so with me finishing third today, I blew an opportunity.”
The Rip Curl Pro would not be possible without the combined efforts of thedifferent groups involved in the event’s staging – Surfing Victoria; TheVictorian Government Department of Tourism, Sport & The Commonwealth Games;The Surf Coast Shire Council; and the Association of Surfing Professionals(ASP) – plus the supporting sponsorship of Lifesavers, Ansell, Coca-Cola,Vodka Cruiser, Falls Creek, Fudge & Tooheys Extra Dry.
Official Results of the Rip Curl Pro (1st>Semifinals; 2nd finishes=5th,receives US$8,000)
1st Andy Irons (Haw) 17.57 – US$30,000
2nd Joel Parkinson (Aus) 15.4 – US$16,000
Semifinals (1st>Final; 2nd finishes=3rd, receives US$10,000)
SF1: Andy Irons (Haw) 17.44 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 10.83
SF2: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 13.9 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 13.57
Current Top 10 Ratings After Rip Curl Pro
1. Andy Irons (Haw) – 1,800
=2. Joel Parkinson (Aus); Mark Occhilupo (Aus) – 1,764
4. Mick Fanning (Aus) – 1,752
5. Dean Morrison (Aus) – 1,680
6. CJ Hobgood (USA) – 1,476
=7. Kieren Perrow (Aus); Neco Padaratz (Brz) – 1,332
=9. Taj Burrow (Aus); Shea Lopez (USA) – 1,212