Andy Irons One Step Closer To World Title

Sunset Beach, Hawaii— After Round One of the Rip Curl Pro at Sunset Beach, Andy Irons is one step closer to winning a world title. The Kauai resident easily won his first-round heat in clean six- to-eight-foot surf as the second leg of the Vans Triple Crown finally restarted Sunday morning after a five-day lull in competition.

Competition started where it left off last Monday, when officials postponed the contest due to a building swell that by noon had become unsurfable. Andy’s heat was the second of the morning, and the current rankings leader drew Brazilian Peterson Rosa and fellow Hawaiian Pancho Sullivan.

Andy started slow, but as his heat progressed, the favorite to win the 2002 world title found his form.

“It was pretty hard out there, it was really all over the place,” Andy told an interviewer after his heat. “I had a real slow start, I couldn’t find an open wave. Then I got a little barrel in the beginning, and I kind of warmed up with that one. I pulled into a few after that and just didn’t make it. On that last one I kind of lucked out, the backwash hit it and let me out. Stoked.”

Pancho gave Andy a good run, with a couple powerful top turns and a clean barrel ride, but Irons’ 9.75 and 7.00 scores put him easily over the top.

Back on the beach, Andy was asked what it would mean to him to win the Sunset event. Andy responded: “It would be incredible, but I’m just going heat by heat right now, I don’t really think about the final yet. I’m looking forward to the next heat.”

In the heat following, current number-two in the rankings Luke Egan took second in his heat with Mick Campbell and Myles Padaca, putting Andy even closer to what’s looking more and more like the inevitable.

Brother Bruce, who qualified through the trails last week, surfed two heats later, placing second between Neco Padaratz (1st) and rankings number three Taj Burrow (3rd). Taj’s third-place finish in the first round further solidifies Andy’s assault on the title.

Luke and Taj are the only surfers who can still catch Andy. If they don’t win their heats in Round Two, Andy will be crowned World Champ today.

—Joel Patterson