Andy Irons Wins Op Pro Hawaii

Haleiwa, HAWAII – (Tuesday, November 21, 2006) – 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. It’s 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)

“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.

The Op Pro Hawaii was the first stop on the annual Vans Triple Crown of
Surfing Series that runs in its entirety from November 12 to December
20, on Oahu’s famous North Shore in Hawaii. The Op Pro Hawaii was a
6-star World Qualifying Series event for both men and women,
collectively offering $155,000 and critical points towards qualifying
for the elite World Championship Tour of 2007. The women’s division was
won by Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich last week. For a complete list of
today’s results, please go to: