Andy Irons Makes Early Charge at Billabong Pipeline Masters

Reigning and 4X Billabong Pipeline Masters Champion Andy Irons (HAW) is not in contention to the win his fifth Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title after skipping the event at Sunset Beach to get married, but his performance in clean four foot (one metre plus) surf at Pipeline this morning proved he’s still the man to beat.

Irons posted the highest heat total of the day, 17.50 of 20.00, in Round 1 and will now advance to Round 4.

“It feels awesome to get out there,” Irons said. “After Haleiwa I flew home, missed Sunset, got married, and have just been waiting for this event for about a week now. It’s nice to finally get the ball rolling, and to start the heat off with an 8.33 and a 9.17 was a great start.”

If Irons can maintain his form and defend his title (he has won the event four out of the last five years), he will end his 2008 Foster’s ASP World Tour season with two wins to his credit – Irons took top honors in Chile earlier this year.

“It’s the last contest of the year and it was a pretty slow year for me,” Irons said. “ I had a bad start, an okay run and then a pretty bad ending. With this being that last event of the year I want to go out with a bang. This is one of my top three favorite events of the year. I’m just taking it one heat at a time and just keep my eyes on the conditions everyday.”

Adrian Buchan (AUS) emerged from the biggest barrel of the day to post the highest single wave score of the round, 9.63 out of 10.00. He advanced over 8X ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), Royden Bryson (ZAF) and Kalani Chapman (HAW) respectively – no one is eliminated from the event in Round 1.

“It was probably one of the bigger waves to come through,” Buchan said. “It opened up really nicely and had nice long barrel and then a turn after so I was just really stoked. It’s not real Pipe out there today, I’d like to have a heat against Kelly out here, man-on-man when it’s eight to 10 foot, but yeah, a win is a win and I’m stoked to make it straight through to the fourth round.”

Buchan fared well in the first two events of the Triple Crown and subsequently re-qualified for the 2008 ASP World Tour courtesy of his ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) rating. He also put himself in contention for the Triple Crown, now sitting in fourth place.

“I’m feeling really good – I felt really good in Haleiwa, and in Sunset as well,” Buchan said. “My job is kind of done as far as re-qualifying for next year so I’m just enjoying myself, being able to surf Pipe with a few other guys is truly a treat.”

2007 ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS), who with his maiden world title secured has also ‘done his job,’ finished 2nd to wildcard Laurie Towner (AUS) today. Despite narrowly losing to Towner, Fanning will advance straight to Round 4 courtesy of being one of the four top scoring 2nd place finishers today. Notably, this is the first Round 1 heat Fanning has lost all year. Fanning is currently rated 3rd in the race for the Triple Crown title.

“Winning an event here in Hawaii is always something you want to do,” Fanning said. “I really want to win the event here, I’ve been so close here so many times, but never really done it. The Triple Crown as well, I’m still in the running for that so there’s a couple of things going into the event, I want to have fun and enjoy it but still want to win the event.”

ASP World No. 6 Bede Durbidge (AUS) leads the Triple Crown race and is on track to keep it that way after winning his heat today.

“It was a tough heat with Freddy (Pattachia), Occy (Mark Occhilupo), and Danny (Wills) because they’re all on the borderline to requalify, and with it being the last event, everyone is going for it,” Durbidge said. “Occy was in the lead the entire heat and I was thinking it would be okay to lose to him going out. I still was wanting to sneak through if I could. I got lucky and was able to get a little one at the end and pull through.”

If an Australian were to claim the Triple Crown title this year, it would be the first time since Mike Rommesle (AUS) did so in 1997.

“It would be just amazing to win the Triple Crown, it’s been a dream of mine forever,” Durbidge said. “To prove yourself in Hawaii means a lot and you can gain a lot of respect off the other surfers as well. So we’ll see I’m on track.”

Making it through their heats despite interference calls were today Dean Morrison (AUS) and Neco Padaratz (BRA)

“The conditions today, being as they are, if you do get interference, it’s probably the best conditions you can have to try and pull it off, because there’s not that many waves,” Morrison said. “There was a lot of junk out there and if you do get the right one, you do just have to ride it and try for a good score.”

Another call on competition status will be made tomorrow morning at 7am.

Billabong Pro Round 1 Heat Results:

Heat 1: Andy Irons (HAW) 17.50, Cory Lopez (USA) 14.66, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.90, Tiago Pires (PRT) 4.03

Heat 2: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 12.60, Tim Reyes (USA) 9.73, Bobby Martinez (USA) 8.26, Leonardo Neves (BRA) 5.0

Heat 3: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.06, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 10.17, Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 8.43, Daniel Wills (AUS) 6.30

Heat 4: Gabe Kling (USA) 11.50, Luke Stedman (AUS) 11.34, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 5.90, Damien Hobgood (USA) 2.77

Heat 5: Laurie Towner (AUS) 11.57, Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.10, Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 8.00, Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 2.67

Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.96, Kelly Slater (USA) 6.36, Royden Bryson (ZAF) 4.60, Kalani Chapman (HAW) 2.80

Heat 7: Bruce Irons (HAW) 9.50, T.J. Barron (HAW) 7.30, Taj Burrow (AUS)6.17, Chris Ward (USA) 1.38

Heat 8: Neco Padaratz (BRA) 7.50, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 5.87, Sunny Garcia (HAW) 4.96, Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 3.94

Heat 9: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 8.84, Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 7.50, Michael Campbell (AUS) 4.87, Michael Lowe (AUS) 3.60

Heat 10: Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.73, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 7.93, Luke Munro (AUS) 3.80, Taylor Knox (USA) 2.80

Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.00, Victor Ribas (BRA) 8.86, Troy Brooks (AUS) 5.77, Kai Otton (AUS) 4.54

Heat 12: Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.67, Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 11.47, Dayyan Neve (AUS) 10.76, Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 8.87


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