Kaua‘i wave riders hope for share of Euro tour
Reigning world champion Andy Irons holds poll position going into Europe as the World Championship Tour (WCT) begins its European leg next week with the men’s Quicksilver Pro and Women’s Roxy Pro taking place in the southwest of France from Sept. 30 to Oct. 11.
Both tournaments will play pivotal roles in the race for respective world titles as the 2003 season moves towards a dramatic climax in each division.
Irons will be striving to recreate some of the magic he produced in 2002 when he finished runner-up to Brazilian Neco Padaratz at the Quicksilver Pro France before getting revenge at the Billabong Pro at Mundaka, Euskadi-Spain for a ratings stranglehold enroute to clinching his maiden crown.
Six-time world champion Kelly Slater of Florida will be biting at his heels this year, making Irons’ task anything but one-sided.
“I’m super psyched and motivated for the events in Europe,” explained Irons, while packing his bags for the trip. “I’ve been going to the gym all week and have a whole quiver of new boards to take over. Last year things worked out really well for me there, so hopefully I can do it again.
“Kelly (Slater) knows Europe really well and has been competing there for years,” Irons added, of his main ratings rival. “But I’m looking at Taj (Burrow) as the guy to beat. He’s surfing great and is gnarly over there.”
West Australian Burrow is now third on the ratings and well within striking distance, following his second runner-up placing of the season at the last WCT held in California.
Richie Lovett (Manly, Aus.), winner of the Boost Mobile Pro presented by Quiksilver at Lower Trestles earlier this month, will be another hoping to carry the momentum further. The stylish natural footer has enjoyed plenty of success in Europe on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) in recent years, and seems primed to do likewise on the ‘CT with his newly found confidence.
Keala Kennelly of Kaua‘i hopes to clinch her maiden crown in France at the Roxy Pro France since this is the women’s first meet in months following the cancellation of the Portuguese tournament.
“I’m really excited,” said Kennelly, from Honolulu International Airport prior to departing. “We haven’t had a WCT event for months, but it’s been fun holding down the No. 1 spot for so long. Everyone should experience this, as even when I’ve had a bad day I just have to remind myself of the ratings. I’m really motivated to do well so I can keep smiling! Last year I made the semifinals there and we had good surf… I’m feeling really confident.”