Former Champs Charge Early at Billabong Pro J-Bay
Top seeds and former Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay champions Joel Parkinson (AUS), Mick Fanning (AUS) and Andy Irons (USA) each advanced to Round 3 today. Heats 1 through 9 of the Billabong Pro, the 5th event of 10 on the 2007 Foster’s ASP World Tour, were run before unfavorable winds saw the event called off for the day.
Parkinson, who won the event as a wildcard in 1999, asserted his intention to vie for a 2007 title with his commanding Round 1 performance. The current World No. 5 claimed both the highest heat total and single wave score of the day. He posted 16.83 out of 20.00 points after nabbing an early 9.33 to send Pancho Sullivan (HAW)and Trent Munro (AUS) to Round 2.
“A good set was coming but I didn’t know how many waves were in it," Parkinson said. “I barely scratched into the first one and it was really good but as soon as I went over, the other was better, so it was a bit of a laugh really. There were only two waves in the set and the second one was better, if I had the inside, I would have had the first one and Pancho would have got the second one. I was pretty lucky."
Current World No. 1 Fanning posted a series of solid scores to easily advance over French rookie Jeremy Flores (FRA) and local wildcard Shaun Payne (ZAF). “It’s pretty inconsistent out there," Fanning said. “I just wanted to get one good wave one off the back and consolidate, get that and just control the heat from there."
Fanning has had a stellar start to the year, and as the defending and 2002 event champion, is a favorite in Jeffreys Bay. His 2007 World Title campaign is well and truly on track. “The first few events are out the way now and its just time to start building towards the end of the year," Fanning said. “Everything is feeling good, boards are good, so I’m just trying to keep it rolling."
World No. 3 Irons advanced through the last heat of the day by bettering Michael Campbell (AUS) and wildcard Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF) in their low-scoring heat. Irons won last week’s Foster’s ASP World Tour event in Chile to move to World No. 3 and put himself in title contention - this after starting the year with an equal 33rd (last place) finish.
“I get two throwaways, so I can get another 33rd and still be alright - people don’t understand that," Irons said. “I want to hush the critics and all the people who are saying, ‘He’s over it’ and that I’m not hungry. I’m as hungry as ever and I want to do well in every contest. Just because I started with a bad result doesn’t mean it will haunt me for the rest of the year."
Unfavourable winds forced Billabong Pro JBay officials to call off competition early in the afternoon, but not before Heat 10 competitors Kelly Slater (USA), Chris Ward (USA) and Warick Wright (ZAF) donned jerseys and paddled out. They were called back in and will surf first when competition resumes.
Rumours surrounding a Slater retirement have been in heavy circulation since the reigning world champ bowed out of competition in Chile. He has made no official statements to support such speculation. His presence in JBay is a bonus for both fans and title contenders alike.
“You’ve got to have Kelly there," Irons said. “He is an 8X World Champion and to have him leave halfway through the year would be disrespectful to the rest of the guys on tour. I think it is great that he is staying on tour, but don’t let him fool you. I’m sure he wants to amp up the hype by saying he is going to retire and this and that, but he is as hungry as ever.
He has had a couple of bad results, but I started with a 33rd, and I am 3rd now, if he gets a couple of good results he could be back in the Top 3 in no time." Another call on competition status will be made today at 7am.
Round 1 Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay Results:
Heat 1: Luke Stedman (AUS) (12.33), Shaun Cansdell (AUS) (12.33), Tom Whitaker (AUS) (8.07)
Heat 2: Daniel Wills (AUS) (16.50), Mark Occhilupo (AUS) (11.93), Raoni Monteiro (BRA) (9.63)
Heat 3: Bobby Martinez (USA) (14.93), Phillip Macdonald (AUS) (10.74), Troy Brooks (AUS) (9.13)
Heat 4: Bede Durbidge (AUS) (10.50), Fredrick Pattachia (HAW) (9.73), Gabe Kling (USA) (2.93)
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) (16.83), Pancho Sullivan (HAW) (13.83), Trent Munro (AUS) (6.83)
Heat 6: CJ Hobgood (USA) (12.33), Neco Padaratz (BRA) (12.17), Taj Burrow (AUS) (11.93)
Heat 7: Luke Munro (AUS) (13.34), Ben Dunn (AUS) (11.27), Damien Hobgood (USA) (11.17)
Heat 8: Mick Fanning (AUS) (16.00), Jeremy Flores (FRA) (9.27), Shaun Payne (ZAF) (7.26)
Heat 9: Andy Irons (HAW) (11.20), Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF) (8.07), Michael Campbell (AUS) (5.66)
Remaining Round 1 Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay Match-Ups:
Heat 10: Kelly Slater (USA), Chris Ward (USA), Warwick Wright (ZAF)
Heat 11: Travis Logie (ZAF), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA)
Heat 12: Dean Morrison (AUS), Ricky Bassnett (ZAF), Dayyan Neve (AUS)
Heat 13: Bruce Irons (HAW), Leonardo Neves (BRA), Victor Ribas (BRA)
Heat 14: Cory Lopez (USA), Adriano de Souza (BRA), Michael Lowe (AUS)
Heat 15: Kai Otton (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS), Royden Bryson (ZAF)
Heat 16: Taylor Knox (USA), Bernardo Miranda (BRA), Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Photos: Cestari/ASP Covered Images