Lopez Eliminates Irons To Lead Quarterfinal Charge

May 14, 2003 (Teahupoo, Tahiti). 2001 Billabong Pro Teahupoo winner CoryLopez (FL, USA) today eliminated reigning world and defending champion AndyIrons (Kauai, Haw) to lead the quarterfinal charge in this year’s US$250,000World Championship Tournament (WCT). Round four was completed afterorganizers initially waited for the swell to become more consistent thismorning. The 2003 event will more than likely climax tomorrow with thecrowning of a men’s champion.

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Perfect 4-6 ft (1.5-2m) surf was on offer at Teahupoo. While set wavesproved inconsistent during some heats, hollow barrels racing down theshallow reef provided an epic arena for a classic tube-riding showdown.

The anticipated match-up between Lopez and Irons – both masters atTeahupoo -proved the day’s most dramatic exchange. Literally as soon as theheat commenced, the Kauaian snuck into an extremely deep barrel inside ofhis opponent and emerged to execute one of his now trademark backhandcutbacks at the life-threatening venue for a brilliant 9.6. Daunted but notintimidated, Lopez immediately struck back with his own tube and collected a9.43 score. The Floridian then locked in another near-perfect 9.67 barreland forehand cutback, taking a stranglehold of the match with the highestcombined total of the day for 19.1-points.

Irons – a two time champion at Teahupoo and winner of the previous WCT inAustralia last month – continued to hunt for the 9.51 score required, butultimately broke a surfboard on the wave offering his best chance and wasunable to find another. Despite collecting his second 9th place finish forthe season, he still leads the current ratings.

“I was bummed cause I was deeper than him for that first wave and let himgo,” explained Lopez afterward. “I thought we were both too deep and theannouncers were counting down the heat to start just then, but he got it. Icould hear the crowd and thought I’d let him win the heat. I was lucky tocome back and get a couple of nines and it worked out.

“I knew there were plenty of big scores out there,” he continued, of thesecond half of the heat when Irons required a near-perfect score. “When Isaw him catch a solid six-footer and it began to drain on the reef, I waslike ‘there it is, it’s a 9.8.’ Somehow he fell, and when I came up fromunder the wave his board was almost in my hands. I was so stoked (laughs).That was one of the hardest heats I’ve had out here for sure, coming upagainst Andy – the champion from last year and world champ as well. He surfsthis place better than anyone else, so I’m really happy.”

Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) finally gained revenge onworld #3 Luke Egan (Gold Coast, Aus). The Australian had won five previousmatches during the 2002 season, but the tide swung in favor of the Floridiantoday. Despite injuring his left foot yesterday afternoon during a free-surfand questioning whether he would even compete, Slater managed an early leadand then sealed his first quarterfinal berth – against fellow FloridianLopez – this year with a couple of eights in his tally.

“Luke fell on a few waves that if he’d made the situation would havedefinitely been different,” acknowledged Slater. “I was expecting both of usto have a higher scoring heat, but it went my way.

“I pulled into a barrel last night after the contest and dislocated twotoes,” he explained, of his strapped up foot. “I did some damage to thetissue, but I don’t think the bones are broken. It felt like it was, but Ihad it tapped up in a way which doesn’t hurt when I stand up. I had someshots of Novocain before that heat too. I was actually really surprised itdidn’t hurt at all then. I now know I can push it a bit. It’s a factor, butthis morning I wasn’t even going to surf cause I was scared to hurt it more.But I’m in the contest still and anything from here is a bonus.”

Egan had the added misfortune of flipping off a jet ski and gained someminor abrasions to his face when they hitry reef. The powerful goofyfooter charged plenty of waves during the match, but was unlucky not toescape more and required another score worth 8.67 to advance.

“I’m fine and it’s only a scratch,” began Egan, though his face was coveredwith blood afterward. “It looks worse than it is. We turned on the insideand flipped it. Two massive guys on a ski like that, we just got sidewaysand ended on the dry reef. ‘Poto’ and those (Tahitian Water Safety) guyswere onto it. They do a great job and it was no-one’s fault. It just happenswhen you’re pushing the limit like that.

“To beat Kelly you’ve got to come out of something nuts,” he continued, ofhis approach to the heat. “That’s what I was trying to do. Twice I reallythought I was coming out, but the foam ball lifted me up and I couldn’tland. That’s the way it goes.”

Hawaiian Kalani Robb set a blistering pace in the day’s first heat against2001 world champion CJ Hobgood (FL, USA). After creating an early andcommanding lead, Robb watched as his opponent paddled into a set waverequiring a 9.56 to catch up. Hobgood managed to emerge from the deep barreland was rewarded a 9.57 for poll position. The Hawaiian wasted no time,however, and paddled into the next wave ever further up the point andsomehow escaped the tube’s clutches to collect the fourth perfect 10-pointride of the tournament and advanced into the quarterfinals.

“I knew CJ was going to be surfing really good, and he pretty much pushes meto surf my best,” offered Robb. “He can really ride the barrel and charges,so I was stoked to beat him. Since all the guys like Mick, Parko, Andy andCJ have been around, it’s been a whole different thing on tour. The youngergeneration is just used to scoring nines and 10’s, and that’s just the wayit is. I was just lucky then, as you need a really good wave to beat thecompetitors nowadays.

“I guess 10’s are usually the ones you don’t think you’re going to make,” headded, of his perfect ride. “I was so deep when I took off. I just keptgoing and never gave up. Even if I was going to end up on the reef – which Ialready had, I didn’t care as I wanted to make it.”

Brazilian giant killer Danilo Costa then beat Hobgood’s twin brother Damienthe following heat. The WCT newcomer had already eliminated 1999 event andworld champion Mark Occhilupo and fellow Australian rising star DeanMorrison, before locking in a few more critical barrels this morning for hisbest result to date. He’ll face Robb in the first quarterfinal.

“I’m so happy as I got some great tubes in that heat and my board works sogood,” said Costa. “Now I have to keep the focus to win the contest, as Iknow I can. This is my first year in the WCT and it’s so nice surfing withjust one other guy, as when you get priority you can catch the best waves atTeahupoo. I just looked for the ones with the barrels.

“Kalani had some really big scores for his tubes this morning,” he added.”I’ve beaten hard names already in this contest and he’s just one more.Everybody knows who Kalani is already, but I’m so happy to still be in thecontest against him now.”

World #4 Taj Burrow (West Australia) eliminated yesterday’s standout NathanHedge (Narrabeen, Aus) in what was another nail-biter. Both secured goodwaves at the start, but it was during the final minute the actionintensified with the lead swinging on the pair’s last rides. Burrowultimately snuck through to next challenge Shane Dorian, who ended the runof Air Tahiti Nui VZ Trials wildcard and close friend and fellow HawaiianConan Hayes.

“We both had an eight in our tally, so I knew the next best wave was goingto win,” explained Burrow. “We waited for so long and then it came downright to the end and the waves were bang, bang, bang. He ended up getting a5.73 and with like 10-seconds to go I lucked into another wave to score the5.07 I needed. It was so close, but I knew my last wave was going to do itif I came out, as I was right back on the foam ball for moment. I was justtrying to hang on as long as I could.

“It’s definitely going to be hard against Shane,” he continued. “He’s one ofthe best out there and I love the way he just sits in the barrel. I want todo the same thing, but just that little bit longer, hopefully (laughs).”

WCT replacement Beau Emerton (Gold Coast, Aus) and world #7 Kieren Perrow(Byron Bay, Aus) will meet in the fourth quarterfinal, after the pairdominated their respective heats this afternoon. Perrow, in particular,added to his well-earned reputation as a charger in treacherous waves,having hit the reef with his head prior to competition resuming this morningand required three stitches above his right eye. During his match withPeterson Rosa (Brz), however, the Australian continued to surf withseemingly reckless abandon, along the way picking up a couple of highscoring nines for a combined total of 18.97-points.

Internet users are able to watch all the surfing action live from theBillabong Pro Teahupoo. Simply log onto http://www.BillabongPro.com andenjoy the show.

Official Billabong Pro Teahupoo Round Four Results (1st>Quarterfinals;2nd=9th, receives US$5,000)
H1: Kalani Robb (Haw) 18.93 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.54
H2: Danilo Costa (Brz) 17.53 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.53
H3: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.17 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 13.53
H4: Cory Lopez (USA) 19.1 def. Andy Irons (Haw) 14.6
H5: Shane Dorian (Haw) 16.87 def. Conan Hayes (Haw) 12.83
H6: Taj Burrow (Aus) 14.6 def. Nathan Hedge (Aus) 13.9
H7: Beau Emerton (Aus) 17.86 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 10.5
H8: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 18.97 def. Peterson Rosa (Brz) 14.33
t. I was justtrying to hang on as long as I could.

“It’s definitely going to be hard against Shane,” he continued. “He’s one ofthe best out there and I love the way he just sits in the barrel. I want todo the same thing, but just that little bit longer, hopefully (laughs).”

WCT replacement Beau Emerton (Gold Coast, Aus) and world #7 Kieren Perrow(Byron Bay, Aus) will meet in the fourth quarterfinal, after the pairdominated their respective heats this afternoon. Perrow, in particular,added to his well-earned reputation as a charger in treacherous waves,having hit the reef with his head prior to competition resuming this morningand required three stitches above his right eye. During his match withPeterson Rosa (Brz), however, the Australian continued to surf withseemingly reckless abandon, along the way picking up a couple of highscoring nines for a combined total of 18.97-points.

Internet users are able to watch all the surfing action live from theBillabong Pro Teahupoo. Simply log onto http://www.BillabongPro.com andenjoy the show.

Official Billabong Pro Teahupoo Round Four Results (1st>Quarterfinals;2nd=9th, receives US$5,000)
H1: Kalani Robb (Haw) 18.93 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.54
H2: Danilo Costa (Brz) 17.53 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.53
H3: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.17 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 13.53
H4: Cory Lopez (USA) 19.1 def. Andy Irons (Haw) 14.6
H5: Shane Dorian (Haw) 16.87 def. Conan Hayes (Haw) 12.83
H6: Taj Burrow (Aus) 14.6 def. Nathan Hedge (Aus) 13.9
H7: Beau Emerton (Aus) 17.86 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 10.5
H8: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 18.97 def. Peterson Rosa (Brz) 14.33