Monday, August 30, 2004 (ASP Int’l) The Quiksilver Pro Japan is set to commence this Wednesday, September 1st, with a waiting period running through until the 8th. The sixth event on this year’s Foster’s men’s World Championship Tour (WCT), it is sure to prove critical in the 2004 ASP world title race, as a handful of top surfers try to close the ratings gap established by two-time world champion Andy Irons (HAW).
Following the Olympics in Athens, the Quiksilver Pro in Japan will showcase the best surfers and further satisfy the world’s hunger for epic sporting battles. With daily TV news feeds being broadcast via satellite, and all the action available live on www.quiksilver.com, surfing enthusiasts round the globe can cheer on their favorite surfers from the comfort of home, or even their school/office place.
Defending event and reigning world champ Andy Irons holds a commanding advantage already, after his stellar campaign through the initial events in 2004. Having won the previous tournament in South Africa, as well as placing runner-up twice and reaching two additional semifinals, the 26-year-old now sits a massive 1,464-points ahead of nearest rival, six-time world champ Kelly Slater (FL, USA).
Close behind Slater on the ratings is a logjam of talent including 2001 world champ CJ Hobgood (FL, USA), Nathan Hedge (AUS), Mark Occhilupo (AUS), Damien Hobgood (FL, USA) and Jake Paterson (West AUS). Together with remaining top 45 surfers and three local wildcards, the Quiksilver Pro Japan promises a battle royale.
Also in the draw, replacing injured surfers Shea Lopez (FL, USA), Mick Fanning (AUS) and expectant father Raoni Monteiro (BRA), are Australians Luke Hitchings (Bronte), Troy Brooks (Gold Coast) and Shane Powell (Avoca).
Brooks is no stranger to the WCT format, having earned a 5th placing in the Quiksilver Pro Fiji (2000) as a wildcard, and has competed in each major event this year. A proud father of newborn son “Jahli, the 25-year-old appears destined for a 2005 World Championship Tour position, following outstanding performances on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) in France this past month, but stated he’s eager to ‘make the cut’ via the big league on WCT points.
“That’s the plan, Brooks acknowledged, of wanting to qualify through this year’s WCT. “After France a lot of the pressure is off, so now I can focus on the ‘CT. It looks like I’ll get a berth in most of the events for the rest of the year, since Mick Fanning is out with a hamstring injury, but he might be back in time of the final tournament at Pipeline (Hawaii). All depends on his recovery.
“This will be my first WCT in Japan, he continued. “I’ve competed there a lot on the WQS and made quarterfinals last year. Hopefully we’ll get the tail end of the typhoon currently in the region, which could produce good waves and make it exciting.
This year, the Quiksilver Pro in Japan will relocate to the mainland at Hebara Beach, Chiba, which is one-and-a-half hour’s drive north-east of Tokyo. Last year the event was held on Niijima Island.
Also in the mix will be three local Japanese wildcards. Quiksilver sponsored Masatoshi “Mar Ohno, plus Naohisa Ogawa and Naoto Takanashi.
During last year’s tournament on Niijima Island, ‘Mar’ won a great opening heat over Neco Padaratz (BRA) and Taj Burrow (West AUS), before losing a nail-biting round three exchange to eventual contest winner Irons. The pair actually tied at heat’s end on their best two rides, with a single wave countback going the Hawaiian’s way.
Ogawa and Takanashi placed first and second respectively in the recent Quiksilver Trials held at the contest venue of Hebara, Chiba, to win wildcard slots into the main event.
The Quiksilver Pro in Japan has a waiting period from September 1-8 and will be held in the best conditions on offer.
You can follow the event live on www.quiksilver.com, and monitor swell activity for the region at: http://www.swellnet.com.au/events/quiksilveerjapanforecast.htm