Billabong Pro WCT (July 12 – 22)
ASSOCIATION OF SURFING PROFESSIONALS (ASP)FOSTER’S MEN’S WORLD TOUR
Slater And Irons Survive In Day Of Mixed Results At Billabong Pro, Jeffreys Bay
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa played host to some of the most spectacular showdowns of the season (if not ever) today when perfect 1.2 to 1.6 metre (4 to 6 foot) waves consistently pumped into the arena offering surfers maximum opportunity to perform.
The early demise of Fanning and Munro could heavily influence the top end of the title ratings, as going into the Billabong Pro, Jeffreys Bay, it was slim pickings amongst the top four (see below).
Slater could now easily begin to build an unassailable lead in the race with an event victory here, while Irons could very quickly throw himself back into title contention if he goes on to claim the stakes.
While the focus out of the water was on the ratings, in the water the standard was red hot and one and all were treated to some blazing displays of searing power and incredibly deep tube riding.
In what could arguably have been one of the best heats of all time, sentimental favorite for the Billabong Pro, Mark Occhilupo (AUS) was a round three casualty, when he was eliminated by in-form Bruce Irons (HAW) in heat 10 of the day.
Due to his impending retirement at the end of 2005 this could be his last showing at his favored J-Bay and Occy began the heat showing the low-driving power that earned him the moniker “Raging Bull.
But soon after he looked like he would dominate from go to whoa, his lead was pegged back as Irons mounted an attack of unprecedented proportions posting a total two-wave tally of 18.43 out of 20 against Occy’s 17.83 (a score which would have won most heats during the day).
It was the young gun versus the stalwart in the wave for wave encounter — Occy unleashing his patented backside body-torqueing backside gouges against the smooth frontside tube riding of Irons.
“He has a mental backhand that could easily have won out there, said an almost relieved Irons playing down the epic encounter. “I just seemed to find the waves that let me sit in the barrel so I didn’t have to do much. I knew that if the wave lined up he would have had the score he needed. I blew it early when I took off on a really bad one and I thought, I’m not going to let that happen again, so I just sat there and waited so that when the best waves came I was onto them.
In a day of many high points it was a very relaxed Slater who shone again when he fairly easily disposed of South African wildcard Damien Fahrenfort.
Slater who is eyeing his seventh Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour crown really threw down the challenge to all comers as his top to bottom forehand obliteration of waves was phenomenal.
Bursting in to and out of tubes at will, in between some mind blowing rail turns, he really looked in tune with the J-Bay wave and his equipment.
“I was just trying to get the big s-shaped turns on the face and get out the pocket and draw lines on the wave, instead of just surfing on the lip, said Slater. “I was trying to push my board a bit and see what it does in different sections. I had the lead so I was able to test things a bit.
Andy Irons, despite his opponent Bernado Pigmeu suffering an ankle injury on his first wave, also really lashed out on the open-faced walls of Jeffreys Bay and his victory, interestingly, will now pit him against his brother Bruce in round four.
“I had a couple of fun waves, said Irons. “I actually fell a lot and made a couple of mistakes but hopefully I’m warmed up for the next one. I think I can beat Bruce a lot easier than I could’ve beaten Occy. (laughs) Hopefully I’m not biting myself in the ass there but I’m ready for him.
Lone remaining Brazilian, Raoni Monteiro was another who looked more than at home deep in tube onn the famed right hander as he accounted for Australian Nathan Hedge.
“It was no easy heat and I was just trying my best, waiting for the good ones and I got lucky, said Monteiro. “I tried to do what I did in the heats before — stay out there and wait for two good ones. I’ve been really lucky at J-Bay this year, everything has been working so well. I felt I did everything right, didn’t fall and did a good job.
Local hopes were also kept alive when Greg Emslie (ZAF) showed 7th seeded Taj Burrow (AUS) the exit door.
Emslie, who tied together some spectacular carves on some sizable waves was ecstatic with his win as was the supporting crowd.
“It was a pretty crazy heat, I’m really happy, said Emslie. “Walking down there I was so focused but with the crowd support I was really nervous at the same time. I fell on my first wave, I had a bit of nerves so I took a few deep breaths and told myself to pretend it was just any day of the week. I got my positioning, got my good wave and just had an absolute ball out there.
With the swell predicted to peak tomorrow there is every chance that the 2005 Billabong Pro, Jeffreys Bay champ will be crowned tomorrow afternoon.
Organisers will convene at 7am tomorrow morning, Thursday July 21, to determine the proceedings for the day.
Heat 1. Luke Stedman (AUS) 13.33 def Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.60
Heat 2. Luke Egan (AUS) 14.67 def Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 11.50
Heat 3. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 14.83 def Michael Lowe (AUS) 14.16
Heat 4. Tim Reyes (USA) 15.17 def Trent Munro (AUS) 7.33
Heat 5. Lee Winkler (AUS) def Cory Lopez (USA) 12.34
Heat 6. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 16.34 def Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.34
Heat 7. Jake Paterson (AUS) 17.57 def Tom Whitaker 11.34
Heat 8. Kelly Slater (USA) 18.50 def Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF) 11.50
Heat 9. Andy Irons (HAW) 16.00 def Bernado Pigmeu (BRA) 8.83
Heat 10. Bruce Irons (HAW) 18.43 def Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 17.83
Heat 11. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 14.83 def Nathan Hedge (AUS) 12.74
Heat 13. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.83 def Toby Martin (AUS) 14.00
Heat 14. Dean Morrison (AUS) 15.34 def Richard Lovett (AUS) 15.00
Heat 15. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 18.10 def Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.76
Heat 16. Taylor Knox (USA) 16.00 def Danny Wills (AUS) 15.50
Top 10 ratings prior to the Billabong Pro, Jeffreys Bay
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 4142
2. Trent Munro (AUS) 3876
3. Mick Fanning (AUS) 3820
4. Andy Irons (HAW) 3564
5. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 3321
6. Cory Lopez (USA) 3165
7. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 3033
8. Taj Burrow (AUS) 3028
8. Fredrick Patacchia Jr (HAW) 3028
10. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 3000