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Andy knocks Holmes out with near-perfect J-bay ride

Andy Irons : photo ASPWorldtour/Tostee

Billabong Pro

ASP World Championship Tour event 5/12

Jeffreys Bay-South Africa

13 - 23 July 2004

Andy Knocks Holmes Out With Near-Perfect Ride

Surfersvillage Global Surf News,

Saturday, July 17, 2004 (Jeffreys Bay, South Africa) Reigning two-time world champion Andy Irons (Kauai, HAW) today solidified his surfing supremacy by eliminating the one person who has haunted his past two Billabong Pro campaigns.

All 16 third round heats in the Foster’s Men’s ASP World Championship Tournament (WCT) were completed in great waves.

Clean 4-5 ft (1.5m) lines remained throughout the day, though frustratingly inconsistent at times. A massive beach crowd converged to watch the world’s best tear apart the long walls on the warm African day.

The day’s most anticipated rematch between Irons and his wildcard nemesis of the past two Billabong Pro’s, Sean Holmes (Wilderness, ZAF), commenced at a snail’s pace. When the lineup transformed with growing swell lines however, so too did the vocal support as Holmes paddled for the first set using priority. While he executed a series of big maneuvers, the Kauaian took off on the wave behind and also carved a couple of strong top turns, before pulling into a speeding barrel and somehow managed to emerge to the sound of even more applause. His score proved the best of the tournament with a near-perfect 9.93 and offloaded pressure firmly onto his opponent.

Conditions for THE heat : photo ASPWorldtour/Karen

Needing a 7.61 for the final seven minutes, Holmes’ patience was eventually rewarded with another set towards conclusion and he utilized all it offered. Unfortunately judges deemed the ride less than required, awarding just 7-points.

“Finally,” began Irons, surrounded by media. “I’ve got to say it was a huge monkey on my back the last couple of years. Sean’s an awesome competitor, and he knows how to sit and wait for the good waves. I want to take my hat off to him. Hopefully he retires this year so I don’t have to deal with him next year (laughs).

“I knew I was going to have to put something good together, as the crowd was going nuts for him,” he recalled, of the critical exchange. "I did a couple of good hacks and then free fell into the barrel, which just ran. I adjusted on my board and luckily it opened up toward the end and I sneaked through.

“I went bungee jumping yesterday just to get the edge off, but it didn’t really work as I was still pretty nervous,” he continued. “It’s really hard to go against the wildcards for me, and I’m really glad it’s over. I was freaking when he caught his last wave, as it sounded like he was getting a 10 from the crowd. I knew it would be pretty close. When I heard the score it was the biggest relief.”

Sean Holmes : photo ASPWorldtour/Tostee

Australia’s Richie Lovett will challenge Irons next, after clawing his way back this morning with an inspired 9.5 ride against fellow countryman Phil MacDonald.

Six-time world and defending Billabong Pro champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) then put on a show against the sole remaining VZ wildcard, Bede Durbidge (Gold Coast, AUS). The Floridian was on his game, laying down huge carves and long floaters for a strong lead, and while Durbidge also entertained the crowd with some big aerial maneuvers, he ultimately needed another score with 7.78-points.

“I think he was hoping to land a big air and then link the wave all the way through,” reasoned Slater, of his opponent’s strategy. “It didn’t happen for him, but he’s a really good aerialist and he could have gotten a big score if he had.

“It’s early in the contest and I have to make it through my heats, so I don’t want to focus much on what Andy’s doing,” he added, of the ratings leader. “I basically have the same board design as I rode last year, and it feels solid under my feet. I’ve still four heats left in this contest I want to try and win, so I’ll focus on that for now.”

Kelly Slater : photo ASPWorldtour/Tostee

Slater meets Peterson Rosa in round four, after the Brazilian accounted for Tom Whitaker (Bronte, AUS) today. Rosa is competing with an ankle injury, but credited his love for surfing Jeffreys with his determination.

“Last month in Brazil I twisted my ankle doing an aerial,” said Rosa. “It’s very hard for me to surf, but I love this wave at Jeffreys Bay, so I told my Doctor I was going. Now I’m here and have made two rounds, so I think God is on my side. I chose the right waves, and surfed well. My next heat is going to be hard against Kelly Slater.”

1999 Billabong Pro winner Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, AUS) again illustrated his absence during the previous two WCT’s - while daughter Evie was born – hasn’t hindered anything. Against fellow countryman Chris Davidson, ‘Parko’ unleashed his fluid style from the outset, posting a 9.4 and then another 8.33 the following ride. His combined 17.73 tally is the best of the tournament so far.

“Davo is never an easy competitor, especially since he’s been out (injured) for awhile and is really hungry,’ said Parkinson. “I really tried to put on a good heat and not make any mistakes. I hadn’t ridden a wave for a couple of days, so my first maneuver I felt a little shaky, but I’ve got a good board and it worked really well. I’m pretty much just a stoked grommet being back here in these waves.”

Lee Winkler : photo ASPWorldtour/Tostee

South Africa’s sole remaining contestant in the Billabong Pro, Greg Emslie (East London) gave his nation something to get excited about this afternoon by eliminating former world #2 Taj Burrow (West AUS). ‘Bigfoot’ began strongly with an 8.17, and despite losing the lead midway through, was able to lock in another 7.5 to gain control in the dying minutes. Burrow was able to catch another set, but fell toward the end of the ride on a critical maneuver, losing hope of the 7.17 he chased.

“It was a tough heat and I think anyone on tour would be stoked to beat Taj,” said Emslie. “In my opinion he’s the most dynamic surfer on the pro tour. I just stuck to my game plan and got the sets, and surfed like I normally would at J-Bay on a free surf session. I gave it my all, so am stoked it went my way. It’s pretty awesome surfing with all this crowd support.”

1999 world champion Mark Occhilupo (Gold Coast, AUS) – who won the event an incredible 20-years ago, continued his campaign past Shane Beschen (CA, USA). The Californian got off to a quick start, but Occy’s patience paid off with one of the larger set waves he completely worked over for a 9.17 score. The 38-year-old will now face fellow Australian Lee Winkler, who surfed a commanding round three heat to eliminate an equally inform Cory Lopez (FL, USA).

“I was patient and waited for the nine,” explained Occhilupo. “But it was a scary heat, since it was so inconsistent. I’ve been competing against Shane for so long and he’s a real tough competitor. He’s just come back from injury and is surfing really well already, so I knew it would be a hard one.”

Mark Occhilupo : photo ASPWorldtour/Karen

Hawaiian heavyweight and 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia stamped his authority against Brazil’s Marcelo Nunes. The 34-year-old collected two eight plus scores for trademark power snaps, advancing to face Shane Powell (Avoca, AUS) in round four, after the Australia won a great battle against 2001 world champ and current ratings runner-up CJ Hobgood (FL, USA).

“After watching Andy and Kelly, and all the boys surfing great today, I really wanted to go out there and get two of my own waves,” said Garcia. “That’s all it takes, and fortunately I was able to do it.”

Luke Hitchings (Bronte, AUS) eliminated current ratings #5 Damien Hobgood (FL, USA) for an early upset this morning. The Floridian not only won the previous event in Fiji, but also placed runner-up in the 2003 Billabong Pro. Unfazed, Hitchings locked in a great 9-point ride for advantage and then sealed a narrow victory to face two-time event champion Jake Paterson (West AUS) in round four. Having replaced 2002 Billabong Pro winner Mick Fanning in the draw following the Australia’s recent hamstring injury, ‘Hitcho’ is always a major threat at Jeffreys with his powerful style.

“I’m really happy to win that,” said Hitchings. “I’ve just been trying to enjoy my heats, and be more aggressive with my surfing. I might fall off a bit more, but probably make the most of my opportunities when they do come.”

Peterson Rosa : photo ASPWorldtour/Tostee

Another decision will be made tomorrow morning by 7:30am (local time).

Billabong Pro Round Three Heats (1st>Rnd4; 2nd=17th receives US$4,225)

H1: Luke Hitchings (AUS) 13.0 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.1

H2: Jake Paterson (AUS) 12.47 def. Kalani Robb (HAW) 11.83

H3: Lee Winkler (AUS) 16.0 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 15.17

H4: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 14.84 def. Shane Beschen (USA) 12.67

H5: Michael Lowe (AUS) 13.16 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 9.57

H6: Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.34 def. Nathan Webster (AUS) 10.77

H7: Richie Lovett (AUS) 16.07 def. Phil MacDonald (AUS) 14.93

H8: Andy Irons (HAW) 16.1 def. Sean Holmes (ZAF) 15.5

H9: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.6 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.83

H10: Peterson Rosa (BRA) 14.0 def. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 13.16

H11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.73 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 14.06

H12: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 15.1 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 14.0

H13: Shane Powell (AUS) 15.5 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 15.5

H14: Sunny Garcia (HAW) 16.4 def. Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 13.5

H15: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 15.67 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.0

H16: Toby Martin (AUS) 12.33 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 11.5

Official event website

Previous reports:

# 1 : Surfing World focused on Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay 04

# 2 : Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay scheduled to start Tuesday

# 3 : Billabong Pro Round One & Von Zipper Trials completed

# 4 : Holmes secures rematch with Irons at Billabong Pro Jbay

# 5 : Billabong Pro Jbay round 2 completed in great barrels

# 6 : Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay postponed due to small surf

# 7 : Coming soon

# 8 : Coming soon

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Billabong South Africa

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