Andy Irons wins Quicksilver Pro

Winners podium : Photo Tostee/ASP

Quiksilver Pro France

Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)
2003 World Championship Tour (WCT)
Southwest France, (mobile)
30 September - 11 October 2003

Irons Wins Fourth WCT & Extends Ratings Lead

October 11, 2003 (Hossegor, France) Reigning world champ Andy Irons (Kauai, Haw) today won the Quiksilver Pro France over Phil MacDonald (Aus) and extended his domination of this year ´s ratings. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) commenced with the first two quarterfinals this morning, before competition went on hold during the midday lower tide. When conditions again turned on, remaining quarterfinals, the semifinals and then the grand finale climaxed in front of thousands of spectators. Two Evian Expression Sessions were also held.

Perfect 6ft (2m) surf was on offer, with bigger sets breaking further out the back. Hollow barrels and some of Europe ´s best waves of the past few months graced the sandbank at La Graviere on a glorious French day.

Irons claimed his fourth WCT title of the year in stellar form. The Kauaian built momentum throughout the Quiksilver Pro France (where he finished runner-up in 2002), gaining plenty of confidence as he emerged though the earlier ´wildcard ´ rounds and approached the business end of the draw.

Andy Irons : Photo Tostee/ASP

Once in the main decider, the 25-year-old stamped his authority from the outset, creating a daunting advantage within the first six-minutes. He opened with an 8-point tube ride, and then posted a near-perfect 9.63 score following another amazing barrel and forehand slash. He later earned an 8.43 to better his standing with a long backhand tube and searing cutback, sealing victory in style. Despite breaking his board within the final 7-minutes, it made little difference as he collected another US$30,000 and is now more than 700-points ahead of his nearest ratings rival.

"This is incredible and I ´m on top of the world," began Irons, surrounding by media. Just to be in a final and win in conditions like that is an amazing feeling. This is what I love to do and when the waves are like that... I ´m just so happy. I had two bad contests in a row and started to feel like I was losing my form, so to get it back in France - it ´s such a crucial part of the year - feels amazing.

"All I really wanted to do when the year began was be able to defend my title well and stay in the race," he continued. "I ´m just having such a good year, so hopefully it goes through to Hawaii where the title will be crowned. I ´ve got a 700-point lead now going into Mundaka (next WCT starting tomorrow), and there and Brazil will be crucial. I ´ve just got to do as well as the guys near me (on the ratings) each event so the lead doesn ´t change.

Phil MacDonald : Photo Tostee/ASP

"I ´m really happy for Phil right now too," he added. "He ´s a great surfer a good friend of mine, and it ´s a great result for him. After he beat Kelly I would have been happy with a second, but of course I wanted to win."

MacDonald was a dark horse throughout the 40-minute clash, despite being in his first WCT final. The 24-year-old played the patience game he perfected in the semifinals against six-time world champ Kelly Slater (FL, USA), and it almost paid off again. He trailed by a huge combination of scores for the first half, but then locked in an 8.4 to be within a possible one-wave recovery. Unfortunately he wasn ´t able to find the 9.66 needed, and had to settle with runner-up position and US$16,000.

"Yeah, I ´m stoked," said MacDonald. "The waves were good, but after Andy ´s first couple of rides I was playing catch-up the whole time. I just didn ´t get the waves, but it ´s an unreal result. Congratulations to Andy. He ´s a true champion.

Kelly Slater : Photo Tostee/ASP

"A second is a good confidence booster," he continued. "I beat a couple of pretty good guys along the way, so I was stoked to be in the final. It would have been good to take it, but there ´s always next week."

Equal third were West Australian Taj Burrow and Slater. Burrow retained his third position on the current ratings with his second semifinal berth of the season, and remains within striking distance for this year ´s world title. Against Irons he led at the start, but ultimately required an 8.57 at the end following Irons ´ best 9.33 ride.

"It was pretty tough," reasoned Burrow. "I think I was maybe trying too hard, and there was a couple I didn ´t come out of which would have definitely helped. I just couldn ´t find a really good one, even though it ´s one of the best days ever here.

Taj Burrrow : Photo Tostee/ASP

"Semis is an amazing result and I ´m stoked, but with the other two guys placing the same, and better than of me, it kind of takes away from it," he added. "The ratings are going to be pretty tight. I can ´t wait for Mundaka now, as I ´ve heard the banks are really good. Hope we get enough swell to run out there everyday."

Slater appeared destined for a final ´s showdown against Irons, but was eventually stopped by MacDonald, who clawed back from oblivion with an epic 9.33 tube ride. The Floridian had a commanding lead after two eight plus rides, but after allowing his opponent to catch a righthander while he held priority, the Australian secured the 7.63 score he required. Nonetheless, Slater still posted the best scores of the Quiksilver Pro France and remains Iron ´s main nemesis as the world title race continues.

"From my perspective it didn ´t look like it was going to be one of the better waves out there," said Slater, of MacDonald ´s turning ride. "I figured there was about five minutes left, and if I took that I ´d lose priority and for sure a better wave would come in. I thought I ´d get another good wave, but it didn ´t happen for me.

Shea Lopez : Photo Tostee/ASP

"The points are a little deceptive, as I ´m counting a 33rd place and he ´s got a 17th, so I ´m probably 150-points closer than it looks on paper," he explained of the race with Irons. "He ´s got four wins this year and I have two. If I had won I would have closed the gap by some 500-points, so it ´s a huge loss for me, really. This was a magical contest, having the scores I had, but it ´s still disappointing to lose. I guess I underestimated Phil a little bit, as I wasn ´t expecting him to get that 9.33. I just broke my favorite board after the semi too, so I ´m a little bummed right now."

Finishing equal fifth today in the Quiksilver Pro France were Danny Wills (Byron Bay, Aus) Taylor Knox (CA, USA), Trent Munro (Scott ´s Head, Aus) and Shea Lopez (FL, USA). The Floridian, especially, was unlucky not to progress further. He opened his quarterfinal against Slater with an amazing backhand barrel for a near-perfect 9.8, but even this wasn ´t enough to stop pro surfing ´s wunderkind.

The Evian Expression Session took place after the final, with a handful of the world ´s best making the most of epic conditions. Cory Lopez (FL, USA) secured the main prize of US$5,000 for a huge aerial, while Brazilian Neco Padaratz emerged from the best tube for US$3,000. The most radical maneuver was awarded to Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, Aus) for his critical forehand snap.

Taj Burrow & Danny Wills : Photo Tostee/ASP

"That was so enjoyable to be out there putting on a show for everyone," said Padaratz afterward. "There was no pressure and everyone was excited for each other. People on the beach loved it and we all wanted to do the best we could."

An Evian Girls Expression Session also took place with 10 of the world ´s best women earlier in the day. Four-time world champ and Roxy Pro France co-contest director Lisa Andersen (FL, USA) took out the main prize of US$1,500 with a great forehand bash, and Rochelle Ballard (Haw) finished runner-up and Roxy Pro France winner Chelsea Georgeson (Aus) came in third.

"It was cool to be out there having fun," said Andersen. "I got that one wave and just belted it (laughs). It was a long 10-days during the event, so it was good to go surfing and hoot everybody into waves."

Spectator crowds : Photo Tostee/ASP

The world ´s best male surfers will now head a couple of hours further south, across the Spanish border and into the Basque country for the Billabong Pro at Mundaka. Competition is expected to commence tomorrow morning with round one.

Quiksilver Pro Final
1st Andy Irons (Haw) 18.06 - US$30,000
2nd Phil MacDonald (Aus) 13.73 - US$16,000

(1st>Final; 2nd=3rd receives US$10,000)
SF1: Andy Irons (Haw) 16.06 def. Taj Burrow (Aus) 14.83
SF2: Phillip MacDonald (Aus) 16.96 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 16.83

(1st>Semifinals; 2nd=5th receives US$8,000)
QF1: Taj Burrow (Aus) 13.5 def. Daniel Wills (Aus) 13.03
QF2: Andy Irons (Haw) 14.16 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 6.84
QF3: Phillip MacDonald (Aus) 15.17 def. Trent Munro (Aus) 7.83
QF4: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.1 def. Shea Lopez (USA) 15.63

Current Top 10 Ratings After Quiksilver Pro France, WCT #8/12
1. Andy Irons (Haw) 6,960
2. Kelly Slater (USA) 6,228
3. Taj Burrow (Aus) 5,988
4. Mick Fanning (Aus) 5,652
5. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 5,568
6. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 5,304
7. Taylor Knox (USA) 4,932
8. Dean Morrison (Aus) 4,740
9. CJ Hobgood (USA) 4,716
=10. Mick Lowe (Aus); Shea Lopez (USA) 4,656


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