Sunset Beach, Hawaii – Current ratings leader Andy Irons (Kaua’i) moved closer to his maiden world title Sunday with a commanding performance in the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach on Oahu.
The $250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) marks the second leg of the 20th Anniversary Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and will very likely host the crowning of the 2002 ASP world champion.
After being postponed for the past six days due to unfavorable conditions, round one was completed in good surf – clean 6-8 ft (2-2.6m) waves were on offer at Sunset beach.
Irons, who paddled out for his first heat against Rip Curl Cup Trials winner Pancho Sullivan (Haw) and Peterson Rosa (Brz), posted a near-perfect 9.75 score with a long tube, followed by a carving cutback. Together with his earlier 7-point ride, he left both opponents requiring a combination of rides and advanced directly into round three with the best single wave and combined total of the day.
“I felt really shaky at the start of that heat,” said Irons afterward. “I saw Pancho get a really good wave, so it was pretty nerve-racking out there.
“I was mainly trying to hold Pancho off the wave,” said Irons of his 9.75 ride. “I thought it was going to close out, but I didn’t want him to get it. As I was dropping in I saw the thing start to barrel, so I just went for it and the backwash kept it open, so I was lucky.
“I’m trying not to pay attention to the ratings and just surf heat to heat,” he added of the title pressure and his rivals. “I don’t want to listen to all that’s going on. Hopefully my scores shook them up a bit, but those guys are cold as ice, so they don’t really flinch on much.”
Defending Rip Curl Cup winner Myles Padaca (Haw), a wildcard in this year’s tournament, then defeated current ratings runner-up Luke Egan and fellow Australian Michael Campbell.
Neco Padaratz (Brz) emerged from a great Sunset tube toward the end of his clash to defeat Rip Curl Cup Trials runner-up Bruce Irons (Haw) and current #3 Taj Burrow (Aus).
Current ratings #4 Michael Lowe (Aus), who is still mathematically in contention for this year’s world title, lost the first heat of the day. Fellow countryman Richie Lovett got the better of him and Marcelo Nunes (Brz), adding to the drama of today’s round two, since if the three Australian contenders were to lose then, Irons would automatically clinch the crown.