Three-time World Champion Andy Irons was ushered out of the Billabong Pro Mundaka, and likely the 2007 Foster’s ASP World Tour title race, by Basque wildcard Hodei Callazo yesterday. The loss is Iron’s third exit at the hands of wildcard this year.
Round 2 of the Billabong Pro Mundaka was held in three foot (one metere) waves at the back-up site of Bakio where Callazo overcame Irons 9.83 to 8.23 in Heat 2 – the lowest scoring heat of the day. Callazo, a local surfer, was given wildcard berths into the event in 2003, 2004 and 2006 as well, but his elimination of the Current World No. 5 today is by far his best result.
“The feeling is great, I don’t know really how to describe it,” Callazo said. “Andy is the best surfer that I’ve ever beaten.”
Callazo gave local crowds something to cheer about when he went head to head with reigning and 8X World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) in a close heat last year, but his victory today had his supporters on their feet.
“I felt really good, even before that heat,” Callazo said. “Everyone was cheering me on and supporting me. I just try to forget who is in my heat and enjoy surfing. The next heat I plan to do the same thing, I don’t care who it is. I just want to enjoy myself and do the best I can.”
Irons’ 33rd place finish today is his second of the season and when added to the equal 17th places he posted in California and France, virtually removes him from Foster’s ASP World Tour title contention. Irons was World Champion in 2002, 2003 and 2004 and runner-up to reigning and 8X World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) in 2005 and 2006.
Taj Burrow (AUS) kept his title hopes alive with a convincing victory over wildcard Manoa Drollet (PYF) in the first heat of the day. The current World No. 3 has had to contest Round 2 in seven of eight events this year. With the exception of an equal 33rd finish at Lower Trestles in California, Burrow has advanced from the early elimination round each time.
“I feel good for sure and I’ve got a good board for these conditions,” Burrow said. “The waves are good for doing airs and stuff like that and I like fooling around in little waves. Hopefully I can just get on a little roll and get some confidence going. I’m aiming to win this contest so I plan to just take it heat by heat.”
Burrow has won two events this year, and along with Slater, is the closest title contender current ratings leader Mick Fanning (AUS) has. Fanning won the Foster’s ASP World Tour event in France last week while Burrow lost to Joel Parkinson (AUS) in the Quarterfinals.
“It was frustrating to lose in France and see how fun the little waves were and how good Mick was surfing,” Burrow said. “I so badly wanted to be amongst them and win another event. Unfortunately I missed out, so this one I’m just hungry to win. I’ve got nothing to lose so I’m just going to give it my best shot.”
Portugese wildcard Tiago Pires beat Hawaii’s Pancho Sullivan, who is rated 6th on the Foster’s ASP World Tour, in Heat 3. Pires, who has already qualified for the elite tour next year, opened his account with an 8.50 and led the entire heat.
“I’m really happy about that heat,” Pires said. “It’s always great to beat one of the top guys. It was a little bit stressful because I haven’t been competing in any World Tour events for a couple of years now. I’m just trying to concentrate on being calm as much as possible. It went well because I got a good start from the beginning and when it came to the end I was pretty confident with my surfing.”
Rookie Gabe Kling (USA) won his heat against Dean Morrison (AUS) today. Kling posted the event’s highest wave score, a 9.60 out of 10.00, and the day’s highest heat total 16.77 out of 20.00 to come out on top in his first Foster’s ASP World Tour man-on-man heat.
“It’s my first win really,” Kling said. “I won a first round heat in Tahiti but that was the first man-on-man heat I’ve ever won.”
With the exception of at 17th in Tahiti, the Floridian has posted last place finishes at every event before this one. He will not requalify via the World Tour, but is in strong contention to do so via the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) where he currently sits 16th. The top 16 surfers on the WQS earn World Tour berths the following year.
Fourteen-year veteran Victor Ribas (BRA) was among the Brazilians to advance today. Sitting 39th on the World Tour, and without a WQS safety net rating to fall back on, Ribas knows he needs to perform exceptionally for the remainder of the season. Ribas beat Bruce Irons (HAW).
“The heat wasn’t a very strong heat,” Ribas said. “In the beginning of the heat I had a little bit of an advantage leading, but then I was having some trouble improving my low score with only eight minutes left in the heat. I finally got another 6.0 and all Bruce needed was a 5.0 something. I think that I deserved to win that heat because I’ve been focusing a lot for the event. I knew I needed to get a good result here if I want to continue to surf on the World Championship Tour. I plan on staying focused in my heat with Tom Whitaker next.”
Five of the six Brazilians relegated to Round 2 won their heats today.
South Africans Greg Emslie and Ricky Basnett won the last two heats of the day. Emslie beat Troy Brooks (AUS) with a wave he caught in the last 30 seconds of the heat.
“It’s been pretty tough out there,” Emslie said. “If you get two turns in on a wave you’re pretty lucky. You never know when the waves are going to close out so I just did one quick turn and then gave my second turn everything I had. I’m just really happy I got that last one.”
Emslie comes into the Billabong Pro Mundaka fresh from a runner-up finish in France last week. The result was the best of Emslie’s eight-year career, not to mention the best result a South African had posted in 20 years.
“It’s kind of a bummer that this event came so soon after the France one because I didn’t really have time to enjoy my 2nd place finish before this one started. I’m stoked with the win today, so I’m going to go home, try to get to sleep early and not think about what I might have to do tomorrow. Hopefully we get some good Mundaka tomorrow though!”
Heat 1 of Round 3 was slated to feature reigning Billabong Pro Mundaka Champion Bobby Martinez (USA) and injury replacement surfer Trent Munro (AUS). Unfortunately, Munro has withdrawn from the event citing family reasons. Martinez will earn a bye and a call on the commencement of Round 3 Heat 2 will be made at 8am in Mundaka tomorrow.