Hawaii’s Andy Irons might have been beaten to the world title by Kelly Slater (Florida, USA) last month, but he hasn’t wasted a moment dwelling on it. Picking up where he left off at Pipeline last December, Irons was back on the winner’s stand today, taking out the Op Pro Hawaii final to get a jump on the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Series ratings. Tapping back into the competitive fire that has fueled him to three world titles and three Vans Triple Crown of Surfing titles, the year is not over as far as Andy’s concerned.
“The Triple Crown has its own niche in pro surfing – it’s huge,” said Irons. “It’s three of the most respected spots in the world and everyone knows who does well – you hear about it all year. Its an accomplishment in itself. I’ve followed it since I was eight years old. I live for it. It’s something every guy on tour, no matter where they’re from, wants to get.”
Irons surfed four times to claim the final, even eliminating his own brother in the quarter finals in what became a day of cut-throat competition. With smaller-than-normal Hawaiian winter conditions, four-man heats and a split peak situation called for all competitors to put friendships on the side as they hunted down the bigger and better-scoring rides. Waves ranged from four to seven feet today.
Aware of the diminishing conditions, Irons set to work early in the 35-minute final, setting a tough pace for fellow finalists Taj Burrow (Australia), Joel Centeio (Hawaii), and Mikael Picon (France). It was a couple of early scores of 7.5 and 5.5, each out of a maximum 10 points for a 13 point total, that saw Irons distance himself from the field. The win earned him $15,000. Second-placed Burrow (12.63 points) took home $8,000; Centeio (9.9 points) earned $6,000, and Picon (8.5 points) $4,000.
“It was tough out there,” Irons said. “Four-man heats in 20 minutes is so different, it’s more of a sprint. It’s a totally different strategy – getting your scores up quick, staying out of trouble. This is my first WQS (World Qualifying Series) event all year, so it can be kind of weird. But I fought through the WQS to get to the WCT (World Championship Tour) in the first place, so I know how to do it. It just takes a couple of heats to get into the rhythm. This is a hard spot. Things go hot and cold. I’ve lost in my first heat here before. It’s definitely a love/hate spot for me. But today I’m loving it.”
Picon, a two-time European champion, has been a standout in the event but was running out of gas in the final, losing the higher-scoring rides to his three opponents.
“We all know the best surfers in the world are here for this contest so it was definitely prestigious to make the final,” said Picon. “It has given me confidence because I didn’t have so many good results on tour this year. Plus the prestige of paddling out with Taj and Andy – they are my heroes.”
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing now moves seven miles north to Sunset Beach for stop number two – the men’s O’Neill World Cup of Surfing and the women’s Roxy Pro Hawaii.