Mundaka, Euskadi, Spain (Thursday, October 17) Current ratings leader Andy Irons (Haw) today defeated Neco Padaratz (Brz) to win the Billabong Pro Mundaka. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) relocated to nearby Bakio beach at midday and commenced with quarterfinal heats, followed by the semis, before climaxing with the grand finale and crowning of the 2002 champion and EuroSIMA Grand Slam winner.
Waves were 2-3 ft (0.6-1m) at Bakio, though the swell outlook for Mundaka did not appear promising for the remainder of the waiting period. Organizers, together with those surfers left in contention, opted to utilize what they had of offer. While rainsqualls were present during competition today, the major thunder and lightning storm waited until just after the final to erupt.
Irons, 24, entered his fourth WCT final of 2002 extremely eager to avenge the loss suffered to Padaratz during the last one in France 11 days ago. The Hawaiian had already won back-to-back tournaments earlier in the year for a commanding ratings lead, but today shot further ahead and pocketed another US$30,000 prizemoney, as well as the US$5,000 bonus for achieving the highest combined European points over recent events in Portugal, France and now Spain.
Against the Brazilian during the 30-minute final Irons created a strong lead from the outset, with five of his six rides highlighting a desire to win. His second score of 8.75 was the best of the match, and overall he secured a three-wave total of 22.75-points. On one he even executed a trademark forehand carving reverse 360 in the difficult conditions.
“Oh my God,” said Irons, as he exited the water. “I’m just on top of the world right now. I knew in these kinds of waves Neco’s such a tough competitor to beat, so I had to wait for the better waves and just try and link my ones all the way through and get the bigger turns off. I’m so happy and stoked. He got me in the last one in the final five minutes, so payback is good.
“It’s definitely in the back of my head,” he admitted, of the ratings race now. “I’m not going to count any chickens before they hatch. I’m going to wait until Pipeline (Haw) for the last heat and just hope it all keeps going so well. It’s been an incredible year and I never thought one would come together like this for me. I just thank my lucky stars.
“Wow, I didn’t know,” he added, when told of the EuroSIMA bonus. “That’s unreal. It’s been a long two-weeks. We started off in perfect lefts ad ended up here. It’s not world class, but it’s definitely worthy and I’m really stoked. When you win it’s all good.”
Padaratz, who beat the Hawaiian last WCT, felt the opposite emotion today. The 26-year-old suffered a slow start to his final campaign, but came back in the second half to post an 8.5 and ultimately only require another 7.51 to catch his rival. Having missed three tournaments earlier this year due to a herniated disc in his lower back, he turned his world around during the European leg to jump from 43rd all the way into 18th position on the current ratings.
“It’s good and all the respect to him,” said Padaratz afterward. “It was fun and good to be out there. I’m happy with my waves and the points I gained here. Another final is really good for me and I’m stoked.
“Looking forward to the next event,” he continued, of the upcoming WCT in Saquarema, Brazil. “I’ve been there a few times and it’s such a good wave. Brazil is home and hopefully I can get my back better. I’m still walking and want to be around for a few more years yet.”
Equal third today were Australians Taj Burrow and Kieren Perrow. Both received US$10,000 and a big ratings boost for their best results of 2002.
Burrow, who confidently secured his semifinal berth, was stopped by an in-form Irons. The Hawaiian picked off the best single score of the day for a 9.0, together with another 8.25, leaving the West Australian searching for a combination of rides worth 10.26-points.
“Apparently he got a really good inside double-up and nailed it,” conceded Burrow. “He’s surfing really good and deserves every bit of it. I was pretty bummed, as I really wanted to do well in these conditions. I was confident with my board and myself, but Andy’s confident himself and got some points now. I’ll be stoked with a third later, but not yet (laughs).”
Perrow continued a fantastic maiden WCT campaign, securing his best result to date. Against Padaratz the 22-year-old landed an impressive aerial maneuver toward the end, but ultimately lacked the distance and number of turns on waves his opponent was able to secure.
“I was a bit scrappy at the start and Neco got that great wave and surfed it really well,” said Perrow, of the Brazilian’s 8.5 ride. “I was watching from behind and he cracked it three or four times, so he deserved to get a score. It was a good heat, but I wasn’t really having much luck. I was catching too many small ones.
“I’m stoked,” he continued, of the semifinal finish. “I really wanted to get a good result here as I’d had three 17th’s in a row, so I’m glad to come out of that run. Going to Brazil I’m excited, as it’s on the way home and I’m looking forward to Hawaii, too. Hopefully I can solidify and reach my goal of wanting to be in the top 10.”
Finishing equal fifth in the Billabong Pro Mundaka were Michael Lowe (Aus), Flavio Padaratz (Brz), Luke Egan (Aus) and Beau Emerton (Aus). All lost their respective quarterfinal matches when competition commenced today.
Current ratings runner-up Egan, who held a comfortable lead against Neco Padaratz for the first half of their 25-minute decider, watched his lead evaporate as the Brazilian secured the heat’s best single ride of 8.25-points. The Australia ultimately needed another 7.41 to advance.
“He caught a couple halfway out that I didn’t see, but they must have been good scores,” reasoned Egan, of his opponents’ winning waves. “It’s a bummer for the end of the contest to be in this surf… I would have much rather been at Mundaka.”
Lowe, rated #3, was unable to answer the surfing of Burrow in the first quarterfinal, after the natural footer posted two 8.5’s with his fast aerial maneuvers for a convincing victory.
Emerton, who was beaten by fellow Australian Perrow today, was awarded the best barrel of the 2002 Billabong Pro Mundaka for his perfect 10-point ride during round one. The 27-year-old called for a minutes’ silence on stage this afternoon during the presentation ceremony, in remembrance of those lives lost during the recent tragedy in Bali.
Official results of the 2002 Billabong Pro Mundaka
- 1st Andy Irons (Haw) 22.75 – US$30,000
- 2nd Neco Padaratz (Brz) 21.75 – US$16,000
Semifinals (1st > final; 2nd=3rd receives US$10,000)
- SF1: Andy Irons (Haw) 17.25 def. Taj Burrow (Aus) 13.7
- SF2: Neco Padaratz (Brz) 14.5 def. Kieren Perrow (Aus) 13.25
Quarterfinals (1st > semifinals; 2nd=5th receives US$8,000)
- QF1: Taj Burrow (Aus) 17.0 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 11.9
- QF2: Andy Irons (Haw) 16.25 def. Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 12.15
- QF3: Neco Padaratz (Brz) 14.9 def. Luke Egan (Aus) 13.75
- QF4: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 13.15 def. Beau Emerton (Aus) 11.95
Ratings after Billabong Pro Mundaka 2002; WCT #9 (www.aspworldtour.com)
- 1 Andy Irons (Haw) 7,052-points
- 2 Luke Egan (Aus) 6,066
- 3 Michael Lowe (Aus) 5,632
- 4 Joel Parkinson (Aus) 5,444
- 5 Daniel Wills (Aus) 5,362
- 6 Taj Burrow (Aus) 5,172
- 7 Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 5,152
- 8 Kalani Robb (Haw) 5,106
- =9 CJ Hobgood (USA), Shea Lopez (USA) 5,048
- 11 Kieren Perrow (Aus) 5,028
- 12 Mick Fanning (Aus) 5,020
- 13 Damien Hobgood (USA) 4,972
- 14 Cory Lopez (USA) 4,956
- =15 Nathan Hedge (Aus), Kelly Slater (USA) 4,508