Irons Defeats Garcia To Win The Rip Curl Pro At Bells

Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
2002 World Championship Tour (WCT)

Irons Defeats Garcia In All-Hawaiian Final
[IMAGE 1]Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia (Saturday, April 6th) Andy Irons todaydefeated fellow Hawaiian Sunny Garcia to win the 30th Anniversary Rip CurlPro World Championship Tournament (WCT). In doing so, he jumped to the topof the current world ratings and collected US$30,000 prizemoney.

Clean 3-5 ft (1.5m) surf was on offer, though a slight onshore wind affectedthe lineup in latter heats. Jet skis ensured virtually all waves wereutilized, with surfers rushed out the back following each ride.

Irons, 23, set the pace during the 40-minute final with a good wave at theoutset. He then continued to dominate, creating a solid lead over hisopponent. Garcia slowly fought back and locked in a near-perfect 9.25 towardthe end, but the younger Hawaiian had already done too much. With a 9.0,8.35, and 7.1 to his name, he secured a total of 24.45-points and his thirdever WCT victory. As he raised his arms riding into shore, the beach crowderupted in applause.
[IMAGE 2]”Oh my god,” began Irons, surrounded by gathered media. “I’m freaking. Justto be in a final with Sunny is a dream come true in itself. To actually beatthe guy is beyond. I can’t even believe it yet.

“My stomach was just doing back flips the whole time,” he continued. “I gota couple of good waves, and then that 9.0 was really killer, with an 8.35right on its back. Sunny got a 9.25, though, and only needed a score hecould have gotten on anything. I was stressed out the whole time and justgot lucky he didn’t catch one.

“It’s going to be a great year,” he added, of the world title race.”Hopefully I can keep up my momentum and be in the title chase at the end ofthe year. Still really early, but I’ll be definitely going for that.

“I live 200-hundred yards down the road from this guy,” he joked, of hisKauai neighbor Garcia. “I’m going to have claiming rights for a while. I’mgoing to drive by with my Bell (laughs). He’s got three of them, but I gotone now, so am pretty stoked.”

Garcia, a three-time Rip Curl Pro winner and the 2000 world champion, wasnever out of contention in his fifth final here. Having contested 15 RipCurl Pro’s now, the 32 year old only required a 7.21 during the finalfive-minutes, but was unable to catch anything. With 11 quarterfinal orbetter finishes already to his credit at Bells, he was vying for recordequaling fourth winner’s trophy, but it wasn’t to be in 2002.

“I made a crucial error in the beginning when I paddled for a wave and lostpriority, and Andy capitalized on it,” began Garcia. “If I would have had acouple more seconds… I saw a bomb coming in, but I didn’t have enough timefor it. That’s the way it goes. I’ve got three first place Bells’ and nowtwo second place ones.

“It’s Andy’s time to shine,” he continued, of his close friend. “We’re goinginto two of the events he can do really well in. I told him before the finalit’s just a matter of doing well in all of the events he can, and the worldtitle could easily be his. It’s still early in the year, but I’m happy withsecond. He got lucky with the best waves, and I was unfortunate not to catchone more. I’m glad that I didn’t get comboed (laughs).”

Finishing equal third were Australians Danny Wills and 1998 Rip Curl Prowinner and 1999 world champ Mark Occhilupo.

Wills, who eliminated Garcia from the quarterfinals of last year’stournament, today felt the sting of revenge as his opponent took control oftheir semifinal match. Despite starting with a 7.25, the 26 year old wasunable to find anything else of value, requiring a combination of ridesworth 13.41-points when the heat concluded.
[IMAGE 2]”I couldn’t put a foot right out there for some reason,” admitted Wills. “Ijust couldn’t get it together. I’m pretty happy to make it to the semis. Itwould have been good to go one step further, but Sunny surfed welll anddeserved to win that heat.”
[IMAGE 3]Occhilupo, 35, had been the form surfer throughout the entire 2002tournament. After racking up the three highest single wave scores, includinga 9.5 on his first ride this morning, he was the favorite. Against Ironsduring their semifinal, however, the powerful goofy-footer was abandoned byMother Nature. His best score came at the halfway mark for only 5.75-points,and though he caught two more waves while his opponent held priority,neither helped, and he lost needing 13.01 more points.

“Yeah it did,” agreed Occhilupo, of the ocean going flat. “I kind of knew itmight happen cause it was right on low tide and no sets were coming. I wasout of position for the first set, which was just about the only one, sothat was probably my mistake. Other than that I had no other chances.

“Nah, I knew they weren’t,” he added, of whether his last two rides werepotential scorers. “I just was hoping to go anyway. I’m still stoked.”

Equal fifth today in the Rip Curl Pro were Australians Nathan Hedge, WCTnewcomer Kieren Perrow, former world #2 Taj Burrow, as well as BrazilianRenan Rocha. All bowed out this morning during their quarterfinal clashes.

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