Billabong Pro Tahiti
ASP Mens & Womens WCT
May 6-18, 2003
Day 9: Lopez Eliminates Irons To Lead Quarterfinal Charge
May 14, 2003 (Teahupoo, Tahiti). 2001 Billabong Pro Teahupoo winner Cory
Lopez (FL, USA) today eliminated reigning world and defending champion Andy
Irons (Kauai, Haw) to lead the quarterfinal charge in this year´s US$250,000
World Championship Tournament (WCT). Round four was completed after
organizers initially waited for the swell to become more consistent this
morning. The 2003 event will more than likely climax tomorrow with the
crowning of a men´s champion.
Perfect 4-6 ft (1.5-2m) surf was on offer at Teahupoo. While set waves
proved inconsistent during some heats, hollow barrels racing down the
shallow reef provided an epic arena for a classic tube-riding showdown.
The anticipated match-up between Lopez and Irons - both masters at
Teahupoo -proved the day´s most dramatic exchange. Literally as soon as the
heat commenced, the Kauaian snuck into an extremely deep barrel inside of
his opponent and emerged to execute one of his now trademark backhand
cutbacks at the life-threatening venue for a brilliant 9.6. Daunted but not
intimidated, Lopez immediately struck back with his own tube and collected a
9.43 score. The Floridian then locked in another near-perfect 9.67 barrel
and forehand cutback, taking a stranglehold of the match with the highest
combined total of the day for 19.1-points.
Irons - a two time champion at Teahupoo and winner of the previous WCT in
Australia last month - continued to hunt for the 9.51 score required, but
ultimately broke a surfboard on the wave offering his best chance and was
unable to find another. Despite collecting his second 9th place finish for
the season, he still leads the current ratings.
"I was bummed cause I was deeper than him for that first wave and let him
go," explained Lopez afterward. "I thought we were both too deep and the
announcers were counting down the heat to start just then, but he got it. I
could hear the crowd and thought I´d let him win the heat. I was lucky to
come back and get a couple of nines and it worked out.
"I knew there were plenty of big scores out there," he continued, of the
second half of the heat when Irons required a near-perfect score. "When I
saw him catch a solid six-footer and it began to drain on the reef, I was
like ´there it is, it´s a 9.8.´ Somehow he fell, and when I came up from
under the wave his board was almost in my hands. I was so stoked (laughs).
That was one of the hardest heats I´ve had out here for sure, coming up
against Andy - the champion from last year and world champ as well. He surfs
this place better than anyone else, so I´m really happy."
Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) finally gained revenge on
world #3 Luke Egan (Gold Coast, Aus). The Australian had won five previous
matches during the 2002 season, but the tide swung in favor of the Floridian
today. Despite injuring his left foot yesterday afternoon during a free-surf
and questioning whether he would even compete, Slater managed an early lead
and then sealed his first quarterfinal berth - against fellow Floridian
Lopez - this year with a couple of eights in his tally.
"Luke fell on a few waves that if he´d made the situation would have
definitely been different," acknowledged Slater. "I was expecting both of us
to have a higher scoring heat, but it went my way.
"I pulled into a barrel last night after the contest and dislocated two
toes," he explained, of his strapped up foot. "I did some damage to the
tissue, but I don´t think the bones are broken. It felt like it was, but I
had it tapped up in a way which doesn´t hurt when I stand up. I had some
shots of Novocain before that heat too. I was actually really surprised it
didn´t hurt at all then. I now know I can push it a bit. It´s a factor, but
this morning I wasn´t even going to surf cause I was scared to hurt it more.
But I´m in the contest still and anything from here is a bonus."
Egan had the added misfortune of flipping off a jet ski and gained some
minor abrasions to his face when they hit dry reef. The powerful goofy
footer charged plenty of waves during the match, but was unlucky not to
escape more and required another score worth 8.67 to advance.
"I´m fine and it´s only a scratch," began Egan, though his face was covered
with blood afterward. "It looks worse than it is. We turned on the inside
and flipped it. Two massive guys on a ski like that, we just got sideways
and ended on the dry reef. ´Poto´ and those (Tahitian Water Safety) guys
were onto it. They do a great job and it was no-one´s fault. It just happens
when you´re pushing the limit like that.
"To beat Kelly you´ve got to come out of something nuts," he continued, of
his approach to the heat. "That´s what I was trying to do. Twice I really
thought I was coming out, but the foam ball lifted me up and I couldn´t
land. That´s the way it goes."
Hawaiian Kalani Robb set a blistering pace in the day´s first heat against
2001 world champion CJ Hobgood (FL, USA). After creating an early and
commanding lead, Robb watched as his opponent paddled into a set wave
requiring a 9.56 to catch up. Hobgood managed to emerge from the deep barrel
and was rewarded a 9.57 for poll position. The Hawaiian wasted no time,
however, and paddled into the next wave ever further up the point and
somehow escaped the tube´s clutches to collect the fourth perfect 10-point
ride of the tournament and advanced into the quarterfinals.
"I knew CJ was going to be surfing really good, and he pretty much pushes me
to surf my best," offered Robb. "He can really ride the barrel and charges,
so I was stoked to beat him. Since all the guys like Mick, Parko, Andy and
CJ have been around, it´s been a whole different thing on tour. The younger
generation is just used to scoring nines and 10´s, and that´s just the way
it is. I was just lucky then, as you need a really good wave to beat the
"I guess 10´s are usually the ones you don´t think you´re going to make," he
added, of his perfect ride. "I was so deep when I took off. I just kept
going and never gave up. Even if I was going to end up on the reef - which I
already had, I didn´t care as I wanted to make it."
Brazilian giant killer Danilo Costa then beat Hobgood´s twin brother Damien
the following heat. The WCT newcomer had already eliminated 1999 event and
world champion Mark Occhilupo and fellow Australian rising star Dean
Morrison, before locking in a few more critical barrels this morning for his
best result to date. He´ll face Robb in the first quarterfinal.
"I´m so happy as I got some great tubes in that heat and my board works so
good," said Costa. "Now I have to keep the focus to win the contest, as I
know I can. This is my first year in the WCT and it´s so nice surfing with
just one other guy, as when you get priority you can catch the best waves at
Teahupoo. I just looked for the ones with the barrels.
"Kalani had some really big scores for his tubes this morning," he added.
"I´ve beaten hard names already in this contest and he´s just one more.
Everybody knows who Kalani is already, but I´m so happy to still be in the
contest against him now."
World #4 Taj Burrow (West Australia) eliminated yesterday´s standout Nathan
Hedge (Narrabeen, Aus) in what was another nail-biter. Both secured good
waves at the start, but it was during the final minute the action
intensified with the lead swinging on the pair´s last rides. Burrow
ultimately snuck through to next challenge Shane Dorian, who ended the run
of Air Tahiti Nui VZ Trials wildcard and close friend and fellow Hawaiian
"We both had an eight in our tally, so I knew the next best wave was going
to win," explained Burrow. "We waited for so long and then it came down
right to the end and the waves were bang, bang, bang. He ended up getting a
5.73 and with like 10-seconds to go I lucked into another wave to score the
5.07 I needed. It was so close, but I knew my last wave was going to do it
if I came out, as I was right back on the foam ball for moment. I was just
trying to hang on as long as I could.
"It´s definitely going to be hard against Shane," he continued. "He´s one of
the best out there and I love the way he just sits in the barrel. I want to
do the same thing, but just that little bit longer, hopefully (laughs)."
WCT replacement Beau Emerton (Gold Coast, Aus) and world #7 Kieren Perrow
(Byron Bay, Aus) will meet in the fourth quarterfinal, after the pair
dominated their respective heats this afternoon. Perrow, in particular,
added to his well-earned reputation as a charger in treacherous waves,
having hit the reef with his head prior to competition resuming this morning
and required three stitches above his right eye. During his match with
Peterson Rosa (Brz), however, the Australian continued to surf with
seemingly reckless abandon, along the way picking up a couple of high
scoring nines for a combined total of 18.97-points.
Internet users are able to watch all the surfing action live from the
Billabong Pro Teahupoo. Simply log onto www.BillabongPro.com and enjoy the show.
Official Billabong Pro Teahupoo results
(1st>Quarterfinals; 2nd=9th, receives US$5,000)
H1: Kalani Robb (Haw) 18.93 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 17.54
H2: Danilo Costa (Brz) 17.53 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.53
H3: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.17 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 13.53
H4: Cory Lopez (USA) 19.1 def. Andy Irons (Haw) 14.6
H5: Shane Dorian (Haw) 16.87 def. Conan Hayes (Haw) 12.83
H6: Taj Burrow (Aus) 14.6 def. Nathan Hedge (Aus) 13.9
H7: Beau Emerton (Aus) 17.86 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 10.5
H8: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 18.97 def. Peterson Rosa (Brz) 14.33
Event Warm-up Swell photos available here
For more information contact:-
International Media Manager
Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
Mobile (onsite): +61-(0)-407-189-289
ASP Office (Aus): +61-(0)-755-991-550
Contact in Tahiti
Mandy Mckinnon 0011 (6) 8925 7525
Contact in Australia
Blake Mckinnon 0421 811 014
WCT-Contests - Surfersvillage