Three-time ASP World Champion Andy Irons (HAW) was the first big seed to fall in the fourth event of 11 on the 2008 ASP World Tour. The current World No. 4 was eliminated by fellow Hawaiian Fred Patacchia in Round 3 of the Globe Pro Fiji today.
“It’s always a confidence boost to take out one of the Top 5 guys,” Patacchia said. “Andy is a three-time world champion and one of the greatest contest surfers in the world. I’m hoping that since I did take him out, I go at least as far as he would have gone; it’s always a bummer to get taken out by a guy who loses in the next round.”
Patacchia finished World No. 14 and claimed ASP Rookie of the Year honors in 2005, but almost didn’t requalify for the Dream Tour at the end of 2007 and has had a slow start to 2008. He pulled out of Snapper Rocks, Australia, finished equal 17th in Bells Beach, Australia and came last at Teahupoo, Tahiti last week.
“Missing the first event at Snapper was a bummer for me, I was injured,” Patacchia said. “It gives you a slow start to the year; it gives you a bad seed and you end up going up against high seeds for the rest of the year. Finally breaking through that 17th and 33rd result area is always nice. At least I’m going to get a ninth. I won’t be really happy with that though. I’m looking to go further and hopefully win my first ASP World Tour event.”
Reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) is looking to post his first win of the year and is on the right track after posting the highest heat total of the day – 16.90 out of 20.00. He earned a near perfect 9.97 in his heat against Artiz Aranburu (EUK) when he came out of one of the few barrels on offer at Cloudbreak this afternoon.
“They jipped me that .03,” Fanning said. “No, I’m joking. It was a really slow heat actually. There weren’t many scores until right there at the end. I’m just lucky the last 10 minutes went really well for me. I got a couple of sixes and then finished off with a really good one.”
Heat 8 of Round 3 was a nostalgic one for former ASP World Champions Kelly Slater (USA) and Mark Occhilupo (AUS). Occhilupo retired last year, but was surfing in the 2008 Globe Pro Fiji as a wildcard.
“It’s nice sufing against Oc,” Slater said. “This is probably his last event out here at Tavarua so part of you wants him to go further and win the event, but not when he’s in your bracket. I think I was a little off that heat because I was caught up in the moment surfing against him in one of his last events and thinking about that more than what I actually needed to do out there.”
Occhilupo lost to Slater in a slow heat after giving up priority and handing his opponent an opportunity to improve his lead.
“It was a struggle,” Slater said. “I started off good with a 7.3 but then it got really slow. At the end of the heat, he paddled for one and lost priority and then I took off on it for some reason and gave him priority back. Then a set came and he had his choice – he took the first one and the second one was better.”
Slater will meet defending Globe Pro Fiji champion Damien Hobgood (USA) in Round 4 now. Hobgood beat Ben Dunn (AUS) with a 9.17 and a 6.50. Hobgood didn’t surf the last event on tour due to a hurt shoulder.
“I was super stoked with that heat,” Hobgood said. “After you come off injury you always want to get a win to get the monkey off your back. I definitely felt kind of tight on the first couple of waves so I was trying to get the flow back. I was really stoked that I was able to build on every wave and loosen up and get more in a rhythm for my next heat.”
Hobgood received a bye into Round 3 after Luke Munro (AUS) hurt his knee and pulled out yesterday, so the two-time winner of the Globe Pro Fiji was excited that he was able to get back out there today.
“Obviously Luke pulling out helped because I made my heat,” Hobgood said. “But for me, not having surfed for awhile, I’d rather surf some heats to get a little rhythm and a little momentum going. That is why I was really stoked with that heat.”
Brazil’s Adriano de Souza made his heat over Michael Campbell (AUS) today and was very pleased to assure another equal 9th or better finish.
“I feel so good,” de Souza said. “I have never started the year like this before. I’m really happy to have worked so hard and now see results pay off. I have Freddy P. next. He is a giant out at Cloudbreak, he knows the spot. It’s going to be exciting and I will use all my tools to get through the heat.”
Event officials predict that it might be a few days before the final day of Globe Pro Fiji action runs but an official call will be made tomorrow morning at 7am.