Current world #1 rated surfer Andy Irons(Haw) heads into the upcoming Billabong Pro at Teahupoo, Tahiti, as one ofthe favorites to take out the third tournament on the men’s 2002 Associationof Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour (WCT). Irons, 23, isa proven performer in one of the world’s most radical waves, having won the2000 trials with a fearless showing in spectacular 9ft (3m) conditions.Teahupoo (pronounced Chow-poo) is a dredging left-hander on a razor sharpreef that has seen much bloodletting in its days.
The natural footer is not underestimating his opponents, commenting: “Theguys I don’t want to draw in a heat are guys like Cory Lopez (USA), theHobgoods’ (World champion C.J. and twin brother Damien -USA), Michael Lowe(Aus), Luke Egan (Aus) and Shane Dorian (Haw),” said Irons. “Guys who put iton the line every time they paddle out at spots like Teahupoo.”
Despite the fact goofy-footers dominated the tournament last year withFloridian Cory Lopez winning from fellow American C.J. Hobgood, Irons feelsthe natural footers have the advantage in the bigger conditions.
“I think it’s an advantage (to be a natural footer) when the waves arebigger because you can drop in later and a disadvantage when it is smallerbecause the wave is so tight and sectiony,” continued Irons.
On hearing the comment from Irons, Australian Luke Egan said: “I feel thesame way about Andy,” adding, “It’s going to be good to put the littleboards away and pull out the big ones.”
World #2 Mark Occhilupo (Aus) is another favorite, having won the tournamentin his world title year of 1999 and featured in the semi-finals both in 2000and 2001. The powerful Australian goofy-footer will be entering after hisbest start ever this season, currently ranked behind Irons after claimingtwo equal 3rd’s in the opening two WCT events.
“This is the best opening run of results I can remember having,” saidOcchilupo. “I’ve never had two good results together in the beginning of aseason. I am just really comfortable right now as everything is going reallywell for me with Billabong and it’s made me more relaxed. I’m lookingforward to competing at Teahupoo, it’s always exciting.”
Australian tour rookies Mick Fanning and Dean Morrison have headed to thebreak early. With reports of massive 20ft (7m) swells hitting the reef, theyare hoping to get as much practice time in before the event commences on May7th. Morrison has drawn close mate Joel Parkinson and fellow AustralianBeau Emerton in their opening non-elimination heat. Fanning will take onsix-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) and Brazilian Peterson Rosa inhis first round match-up.
“I heard it’s about 20ft right now and it’s one of the gnarliest waves inthe world,” said Morrison. “I really want to do well out there so wedecided to go as early as possible.”
The VZ Hinano Trials will commence this Thursday, May 2nd (local time), andhas until Saturday May 4th. One wildcard will be awarded to the winner ofthe Trials and one to the highest placed Tahitian surfer. The strongTahitian line-up of contenders includes Manoa Drollet, Hira Terinatoofa,Alain Riou, and last year’s wildcard winner Nicolas Leetham.
The Billabong Pro Teahupoo comprises a men’s and women’s WCT tournament -featuring the world’s top 45 male surfers and the women’s top 17 worldranked surfers and has a waiting period from May 7-18.
The world’s top rated women are currently in Fiji contesting their secondWCT for the season. Australian Laurina McGrath will fill the one sponsor’swildcard position.