The Session

The following interview with WCT warriors Andy Irons and Cory Lopez was conducted June 4, 2003 on Tavarua Island, Fiji after an epic session in empty eight-foot Cloudbreak barrels. The previous day these traveling roommates had been in the final of the 2003 Quiksilver Pro, and for the rest of the year they look set to dominate the ASP tour ratings.

When the swell hit Fiji, most of the WCT competitors had already rushed off to savor precious time at home, but Andy and Cory stayed and scored. Sitting by the pool after the session, Jesse Faen (who had joined them in the lineup) quizzed the two on the surf, the contest, their rivals, and the joys of being traveling pro surfers.

How often do you have sessions like that the day after a contest finishes?

Irons: Most places you want to go home as soon as the event is over, but at a place like this, the wave is world-class, and when it’s pumping, you want to stay. Today was six-to-eight foot, and there were five of us out. All year you think of sessions, you dream about sessions like that, so it was really worth sticking around.

Lopez: Yeah, I’ve got to say it was pretty epic to finish the contest off in the waves we did and then hang out, because everyone was saying the waves would be perfect the next couple of days. We had great waves today …

Irons: We scored.

Lopez: There’s no one around. I mean, Andy and me were the only WCT surfers out. Just a couple of other guys, and we could catch whatever waves we wanted.

Irons: No hassling. Three days ago there were 48 amped pros, and now they’re all gone. The island was booked out for two weeks, so no one else can come over … even if they wanted to.

Lopez: It’s pretty mental.

Irons: You’ve got to take advantage of that shit.

Explain what happened with the wave you broke your board on?

Irons: I just paddled into it on a little board , and the wave ledged up pretty hard, so I kind of took an airdrop. When I got down to the bottom it had a super long wall, and I just started pumping as fast as I could. I got in four or five pumps during the midsection, before I was too deep and had to grab my rail and lock in. The thing bottomed out, and my board sucked up underneath my feet. I had to jump forward and just got smashed. My arm got ripped around my head toward the back, and I came up all sore with my board broken.

Was that one of the bigger waves you caught during the trip?

Irons: Oh yeah, for sure. Probably the biggest.

Lopez: It was the biggest day yet.

It was probably the best wave, too, huh?

Irons: It had the best wall on it when I looked down the line. It was like a football field long, but it wasn’t closing out. It was tapering off and looked so sick.

Other than the one you broke your board on, what was the most memorable wave of the session?

Irons: I got a killer hands-on-the-roof barrel. I bottomed turned just sucked up and drained. I put my hands on the roof, and it was petty sweet. Plus that wave when I stood up and got lipped in the head … you saw that one, I think.

Yeah, it looked like a wave at Teahupo‘o.

Irons: I made it, but it hit me so hard. I just felt the lip hit me on the side of my right eye … like a full Mike Tyson punch. Then there was the wave I did a snap you and Cory were giving me props for. That felt really good. I had a lot of fun out there and watched Cory get some sick ones in front of me.

How about the airdrop you made?

Irons: I like those. I paddled in slow and tried to kick the tail out like a skateboard drop or something.

What about your most memorable wave, Cory?

Lopez: My first two waves, but I didn’t make the barrel.

Irons: Lopey had one brel and was so deep. He was like 30 yards back–worse than a closeout barrel.

Lopez: I could see the section so far in front, and I was trying to go as fast as I could. I just got locked in, but it was fun.

It was a crazy session, especially since it took place just a day after the final without anyone there. Plus we knew the swell was coming.

Irons: It was firing. Yeah, it is pretty weird. I think mainly since the event in Japan is coming up quick, everyone wanted to get the quality time at home with their families or girlfriends or whatever. Sleeping in your own bed for a few days is pretty nice, but when Cloudbreak is firing, I don’t mind staying away.

Lopez: Yeah, Australia is so close that most of the guys can be home so quick, they just want to get straight back. A lot of the Americans lost a few days ago, so they were all ready to go home. Andy and I lucked out by making the final day, and now we get the rewards of having a nice swell.

Pretty bizarre you guys were roommates here, playing tennis all those flat days together, and made the final against each other. Then to have a session like that with no one else around the next day is pretty much story-book material.

Irons: It’s a good chapter, for sure.

Lopez: Yeah, you could say our house did pretty well.

Irons: Our house ruled !

Lopez: We’ve got both the Turtles trophies.

Irons: The Turtles are kicking it in our room. It was pretty cool how a kid on the Internet was saying he wanted to see Cory and me in the final. I heard that and was like, “F–k yeah.” He read the article in Surfer mag about us going to my chick’s house in the Caribbean, where we scored.

Lopez: “Andy versus Cory.”

Irons: Yeah, wondering who would win the real man-on-man heat, or some deal like that. Pretty classic.

That was the first final you’d surfed against each other, right?

Lopez: Yeah.

Irons: That was only the second heat we’ve ever had together. I had him in round four at Teahupo‘o last event. He beat me there, so I had to get some payback.

Lopez: He got me when it counts, too.

Irons: Yep, got you where it counts, huh, Lopesy? Right where it hurts … in the pocket. Paycheck.

Lopez: I would have liked to come out of a combo, but the ocean just voodooed out and went flat for like fifteen minutes, and I couldn’t even get a nine to come out of the combination. But what can you say when the guy gets a nine and a ten?

Irons: I wasn’t taking anything for granted, though. I had a 9.7 first wave at Teahupo‘o, and Lopey came back with a 9.3 and a 9.6, so I knew the kid was capable of pulling out some big scores, so I wasn’t taking anything for granted this time.

Lopez: He was trying to act like he was still worried, like I was going to come back, but I was like, “Dude, there’s five minutes left, and I freakin’ need a 9.6 and a 9.5 to beat you.” He was like, “Dude, you can do it.” I knew it was over, but I was just hoping to get out of a combination, so I would have a little pride.

Irons: I’ll be rubbing that one in for a long time. “Remember that one final at Tavvy, when I combo’d your ass when it was like six foot?”

Lopez: Arrrgh.

Irons: Oh, I won’t rub too much salt in the wounds .

Lopez: It was just the way the dice rolled.

Irons: I’m sure there will be plenty of finals between me and Lopey … I’m hoping.

What are your memories of the final day–after all the hype and emotions and then obviously the beers and party last night?

Lopez: The hardest thing for me yesterday was just getting past Lowey, you now? Last year he took Shea and me both out, and he was trying to do the same thing this year. That was a bit of stress on my shoulders. I could feel the burden and was thinking, “If I lose to Lowey, he would have taken us both out two years in a row.” I couldn’t let that happen, so I was stoked I got him . Once I was in the final I was kind of relieved. I knew I had Andy and that it would be close, but I figured we could just go for it. If I caught the good waves or if he did, whatever, it was no big deal to me by then.

The fact that Kelly’s back and you guys are still beating him must feel good?

Lopez: Yeah, I think it justifies it more, having him there. Obviously, the media plays it up more now that he’s around.

Irons: He still is the best surfer in the world.

Lopez: He’s definitely one of the best surfers in the world, for sure.

Irons: If we don’t have him on the tour, it’s kind of like our missing link. The “what if Kelly was there?” would always be asked. So it’s sweet to have him there and be able to beat him. I mean, all the crew. He’s definitely hungrier this year than last, but when we’re on, I think we can still take him out.

Lopez: I’d say the tour has gotten a lot harder than back in the old days, when he had those Damien Hardman type guys … not to specifically name names, but you know what I mean . Just from the old days to the new-school style of surfing like Andy, the Hobgoods, Taj, and everyone else, the level has gone up so much over the past six or seven years. I really think he’s having a harder challenge now. He likes the challenge, though, it’s more exciting for him. That’s probably why he quit back then, because he was bored. It was so easy for him.

Irons: Yeah, he looks psyched again–all fired up. He surfed a final with a broken foot, so you know he’s psyching to get a good result.

Did you guys see the final in Tahiti?

Irons: Nah, I left after Cory lost.

Lopez: Yeah, I watched it. It was a tough final to watch .

Irons: Oh, Loper. Lopey’s been talking about that one for a couple of days now. He should have been in there. He got worked on the paddle battle with Kelly.

Lopez: He definitely went off that event, but yeah, you’ve got to know the rules in this game.

Irons: You read the rulebook that night. Lopey shouldn’t have stopped paddling.

Yeah, Kelly said afterward it was the turning point for him during the event. When you stopped it just made him want to go twice as hard to make you think he had more in reserve than he actually did.

Lopez: I didn’t know the rules. I didn’t know that if we tied to the lineup that it would be my priority, ’cause I caught the first wave in the set and he got the second one. We would have tied if I would have kept paddling for another twenty seconds, but I didn’t realize. Afterwards, Richie Lovett was like, “Dude, why did you stop paddling? You would have gotten priority.” That made it even worse , but I’d never been in that situation before. Live and learn, I guess.

Andy, you were saying how Kelly was calling you a lot before the contest started. Have you heard from him since you won and extended your lead?

Irons: Hell no. He hasn’t called me back . It’s all right, though, I don’t feel left out at all. He was probably getting his foot worked on and psyching up for Japan. I’m just glad it was looking small for the start of the event here, he might have come over otherwise and just got pitted.

I heard some people thought Kelly might be trying to mess with your mind by not showing up here after his win.

Irons: Oh my god . Once I was in the final I was kind of relieved. I knew I had Andy and that it would be close, but I figured we could just go for it. If I caught the good waves or if he did, whatever, it was no big deal to me by then.

The fact that Kelly’s back and you guys are still beating him must feel good?

Lopez: Yeah, I think it justifies it more, having him there. Obviously, the media plays it up more now that he’s around.

Irons: He still is the best surfer in the world.

Lopez: He’s definitely one of the best surfers in the world, for sure.

Irons: If we don’t have him on the tour, it’s kind of like our missing link. The “what if Kelly was there?” would always be asked. So it’s sweet to have him there and be able to beat him. I mean, all the crew. He’s definitely hungrier this year than last, but when we’re on, I think we can still take him out.

Lopez: I’d say the tour has gotten a lot harder than back in the old days, when he had those Damien Hardman type guys … not to specifically name names, but you know what I mean . Just from the old days to the new-school style of surfing like Andy, the Hobgoods, Taj, and everyone else, the level has gone up so much over the past six or seven years. I really think he’s having a harder challenge now. He likes the challenge, though, it’s more exciting for him. That’s probably why he quit back then, because he was bored. It was so easy for him.

Irons: Yeah, he looks psyched again–all fired up. He surfed a final with a broken foot, so you know he’s psyching to get a good result.

Did you guys see the final in Tahiti?

Irons: Nah, I left after Cory lost.

Lopez: Yeah, I watched it. It was a tough final to watch .

Irons: Oh, Loper. Lopey’s been talking about that one for a couple of days now. He should have been in there. He got worked on the paddle battle with Kelly.

Lopez: He definitely went off that event, but yeah, you’ve got to know the rules in this game.

Irons: You read the rulebook that night. Lopey shouldn’t have stopped paddling.

Yeah, Kelly said afterward it was the turning point for him during the event. When you stopped it just made him want to go twice as hard to make you think he had more in reserve than he actually did.

Lopez: I didn’t know the rules. I didn’t know that if we tied to the lineup that it would be my priority, ’cause I caught the first wave in the set and he got the second one. We would have tied if I would have kept paddling for another twenty seconds, but I didn’t realize. Afterwards, Richie Lovett was like, “Dude, why did you stop paddling? You would have gotten priority.” That made it even worse , but I’d never been in that situation before. Live and learn, I guess.

Andy, you were saying how Kelly was calling you a lot before the contest started. Have you heard from him since you won and extended your lead?

Irons: Hell no. He hasn’t called me back . It’s all right, though, I don’t feel left out at all. He was probably getting his foot worked on and psyching up for Japan. I’m just glad it was looking small for the start of the event here, he might have come over otherwise and just got pitted.

I heard some people thought Kelly might be trying to mess with your mind by not showing up here after his win.

Irons: Oh my god . He’s hurt. I’m more worried about Mick right now. Mick’s dangerous in beachbreak, and he’s done well at reef breaks. He’s really looking in form this year. Parko as well, and then there’s Cory right behind him. Kelly, if he gets his foot better … I’m sure he won’t go to all the events this year, so he’s going to have to try and get some more results early. I don’t know, but I’m just more worried about this crew right now. These guys are looking real hungry.

Lopez: You can’t write Slater off. Even though he’s hurt right now, he’s going to come back. I’m sure he’ll be there at J-Bay or something. You can’t write him off at all.

Irons: Hopefully he’s out of it before Pipe, so I don’t have to worry about that one.

Lopez: There’ll be three events, and he’ll still be running for the title.

Irons: Top five, yeah.

Well, this event has been pretty amazing with the waves, the time off to relax, and then you guys making the final together.

Lopez: Yeah, I’d have to say I love this place. I hope Quiksilver keeps it here every year. If there are no waves, there’s still plenty to do. You can go fishing, hang out, the accommodation is nice, and it’s a great place to be …

Irons: And the tennis court. It’s pretty damn cozy.

laughs>. He’s hurt. I’m more worried about Mick right now. Mick’s dangerous in beachbreak, and he’s done well at reef breaks. He’s really looking in form this year. Parko as well, and then there’s Cory right behind him. Kelly, if he gets his foot better … I’m sure he won’t go to all the events this year, so he’s going to have to try and get some more results early. I don’t know, but I’m just more worried about this crew right now. These guys are looking real hungry.

Lopez: You can’t write Slater off. Even though he’s hurt right now, he’s going to come back. I’m sure he’ll be there at J-Bay or something. You can’t write him off at all.

Irons: Hopefully he’s out of it before Pipe, so I don’t have to worry about that one.

Lopez: There’ll be three events, and he’ll still be running for the title.

Irons: Top five, yeah.

Well, this event has been pretty amazing with the waves, the time off to relax, and then you guys making the final together.

Lopez: Yeah, I’d have to say I love this place. I hope Quiksilver keeps it here every year. If there are no waves, there’s still plenty to do. You can go fishing, hang out, the accommodation is nice, and it’s a great place to be …

Irons: And the tennis court. It’s pretty damn cozy.