February 28, 2008 : – – On the eve of his first ever ASP Men’s World Tour heat as a full time professional, Tiago Pires (Ericeira, Portugal) re-signed with iconic global surf brand Billabong. The 28-year-old is the first surfer from Portugal to ever qualify for the elite level of professional competition and will join Andy Irons (Kauai), Taj Burrow (Yallingup, WA) and Joel Parkinson (Coolangatta) as the fourth Billabong sponsored athlete to contest the 2008 men’s world tour.
Pires joined the Billabong team in 1999, establishing himself as one of the brand’s top European surfers. “I feel like part of the family at Billabong,” said Pires. “For the past nine years the company has really looked after me, especially the guys in Portugal, so I’m honoured to be continuing the relationship.
“Billabong has an amazing history which I feel proud to have been a part of and representing the brand has always been very important to me.” Brand Manager for Billabong Europe Reid Pinder said Pires will be a crucial part of the company’s future marketing plans.
“Tiago has proven himself to be a fierce competitor and a highly respected surfer which fits perfectly with Billabong,” he said. “We are looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish on tour in 2008 and we will be backing him every step of the way. “He will be an asset to the continued growth of the Billabong brand, especially through Europe.”
Joining the World Qualifying Series in 1999, the path to top 45 qualification has been a long and arduous one for the powerful natural footer. Back to back wins of the six star rated Buondi Billabong Pro in his home country in 2005/2006 marked a career highlight, but struggling for consistency withheld the talented surfer from his rightful place on the men’s world tour.
2007 was the year things fell into place. A 2nd at the Drug Aware Pro six star in Margaret River, followed by a string of 9th placed finishes in South Africa, France, Japan, Maldives and Newcastle rocketed him into a qualifying position early in the year. From there all he had to do was hold tight. He did exactly that to finish the year in 5th with easily enough points to secure his 2008 tour position.
Billabong has seven world tour competitors in total. Rebecca Woods (AUS), Nicola Atherton (AUS) and Silvana Lima (BRA) represent the brand on the women’s world tour.