Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
2003 World Championship Tour (WCT)
Monday June 23, 2003 (Niijima Island, Japan) Reigning world champion AndyIrons (Kauai, Haw) today won the Niijima Quiksilver Pro and extended hisalready commanding ratings lead. The US$250,000 World ChampionshipTournament (WCT) again relocated to ‘Secret Point’ with semifinalscommencing at 5:45am (local time), and then climaxed with the grand finalesoon after.
2-3 ft (0.6-1m) waves remained for the final day, with a slight onshore windblowing. After the final concluded however, stronger winds and rain set inon Niijima Island.
Irons, who flew into Niijima with two WCT wins already this season includingthe previous Quiksilver Pro in Fiji, has now cemented his world titledefense with a rock solid foundation. Three wins from five starts andvirtually a thousand ratings points now separate him from nearestcontenders.
Against world #2 Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, Aus) in the Niijima QuiksilverPro final, the Kauaian wasted no time racking up scores and a steady lead hemaintained. Conditions deteriorated somewhat for the 30-minute decider, butthe 24-year-old scavenged the lineup for superior waves and picked off along lefthander and then a punchy right for his winning rides. The victoryearning another US$30,000, and brings his total prizemoney for 2003 up to aneven U$100,000.
“I can’t believe I’m in Japan and actually won,” began Irons, surrounded bymedia onshore. “Especially against ‘Parko’ as he was surfing so good in thesemis. It kind of brought my confidence down and I thought I had no chanceat all. I just caught a bunch of little waves, but it ended up paying off.The little waves were actually scores as the big ones closed out. I’m reallystoked right now.
“Oh my God,” he added, at the fact he’s won three of this year’s five WCT’s.”There are still eight events left so we’re not even halfway through, butI’m definitely psyched (on the world title). I got it last year and alreadyhave three wins this year, so I’m just going for it all out. I’m going toget a whole bunch of new boards when I get home and start going to the gymand then head to J-Bay (next WCT in South Africa July 15-25) early andhopefully get a result there as well. I’ve never done well there either, butright now I’m just so stoked. It’s been an unbelievable year so far. 100K infive events, it’s amazing! So cool there’s such good money in surfing thesedays. It’s really an added incentive to try and do well.”
Parkinson earlier posted the Niijima Quiksilver Pro’s highest total score of18-points against good mate Mick Fanning in the semifinals, but evidentlypeaked too soon. While Irons continued his hungry attack, ‘Parko’ failed tofind similar drive and never scored beyond a 4.43 in the final. Despite thesame outcome as their WCT battle at Bells Beach Australia, in April, the22-year-old still improved his current rating by locking in fourth position.
“I just couldn’t get in the rhythm with the waves,” acknowledged Parkinson.”I guess a lot of focus went into my semi with Mick. We’ve had such acompetitive rivalry since we were young. Now that we’re in the big league…that was the first (WCT) match up we’ve had, so a lot of my energy went intothat. No excuse though, I should have been able to comeback in the final. Iwas looking for anything, but I got nothing. Andy’s the best surfer in theworld and hands down he’s the hardest guy to beat.
“The ratings probably won’t change much up the top end, but it’s going to beinteresting to see how the year keeps unfolding,” he added. “J-Bay is myfavorite event, so I’m hanging for that one.”
Finishing equal third in the Niijima Quiksilver Pro were Australians KierenPerrow (Byron Bay) and Mick Fanning (Gold Coast). Perrow, who proved a wavemagnet throughout the event, started slowly against Irons and ultimatelyleft his charge too late. Nonetheless, the ratings #3 earneed his secondconsecutive semifinal berth and landed a couple of great aerial maneuversfor good measure.
“Falling on my first one probably got my mind thinking in the wrongdirection,” conceded Perrow. “I’m just stoked to make it this far and beingagainst Andy is always really good for your competitive skills and yoursurfing. Halfway through I realized I needed to pull something out, butunfortunately it wasn’t enough at the end. These conditions aren’t really myforte, but I’m starting to enjoy surfing small waves a lot more. It’s justcompetition and anyone can win, so I’m looking forward to the next event.”
Fanning – the 2002 ASP ‘Rookie of the Year’ and world #5 – appeared the realdanger man throughout the Niijima Quiksilver Pro with his light-footed,super fast surfing. Against Parkinson in the day’s highest scoring heat, heopened with a commanding 8.33 ride and locked in two additional eight plusscores, but the judges favored the aerial maneuvers of his opponent,rewarding him an 8.93 and 9.07 to progress onwards.
“I knew it was going to be tough with Joel, as it always is,” said Fanning.”He got the better waves and boosted some airs, and I didn’t. It’s been funstill. This is my first trip to Japan and I had a great time. It’s a pitythe waves get really good, but hopefully next year. I’ll just have to takeJoel out tonight in a fight (laughs)… nah, it’s good. I’m just wonderinghow many times I have to make the semis before I reach a final this year?”
Later at the awards ceremony, where finalists were presented their trophiesmade from Niijima Kohga stone, contest co-director Rod Brooks offered a fewpertinent words of gratitude to the local people of Niijima Island.
“I’d just like to repeat out gratitude to the local surfers,” said Brooks.”Particularly the guys who drove the 4-wheel drives up and down the beachall week. ‘Secret Point’ was the best break for the contest and we couldn’thave done it without all support of the local guys. We’d also like to thankall the competitors. I experienced a new level of professionalism andmaturity from them here at this event and was really proud to see it.”
Official Niijima Quiksilver Pro
1st Andy Irons (Haw) 13.4 – US$30,000
2nd Joel Parkinson (Aus) 8.7 – US$16,000
Semifinals (1st>Finals; 2nd=3rd, receives US$10,000)
SF1: Andy Irons (Haw) 13.83 def. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 11.84
SF2: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 18.0 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 16.56
Current Ratings after Niijima Quiksilver Pro – WCT #5
1. Andy Irons (Haw) 4,800
2. Mick Fanning (Aus) 3,840
3. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 3,816
4. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 3,756
5. Cory Lopez (USA) 3,456
6. Kelly Slater (USA) 3,420
7. CJ Hobgood (USA) 3,408
8. Taj Burrow (Aus) 3,204
9. Dean Morrison (Aus) 3,120
10. Michael Lowe (Aus) 2,976