IRONS WINS HIS THIRD QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE AND KEEPS 2005 WORLD TITLE HOPES ALIVE
Showing the form of a true champion and with his fists punching the air, Andy Irons kept his Foster's ASP Men's World Tour crown hopes alive by claiming victory in the Quiksilver Pro France presented by Samsung.
Taking place in two to 2.5 metre (six to eight foot) conditions at La Graviere, and with the early elimination of Kelly Slater (USA) in the quarter finals, Irons put the pedal to metal to defeat Damien Hobgood (USA) in the 35 minute battle royale, defeating him 17.00 out of 20 to 12.83.
Irons went straight to work from the onset of the final, notching up small scores but really drove it home after 12 minutes, scoring a 7.67 on a strong left breaking wave. Hobgood meanwhile had yet to catch a wave.
Irons then paddled straight back into the lineup and launched into a huge backhand attack hitting the lip numerous times to notch up a 9.33. Hobgood was still yet to score and was well and truly behind the eight ball.
Hobgood tried to peg Irons back with a 7.50 for a deep tube with 19 minutes remaining but it was too late as the Irons stagecoach had run away.
"I love this event!" shouted Irons who danced on the podium while tipping Foster's all over the huge crowd gathered in front. "I can't believe that I've won here again. I want to move here! I love the people I love the food and I love the waves! I'm just so stoked and Kelly is going to have to wait to pop the champagne cork for a little longer."
Irons paid tribute to the thousands of fans who lined the beach and cheered him every step of the way and was pleased with the tactic he used to defeat Hobgood who he knew would be looking for the tube.
"The French are such diehard fans," he said. "They were on the beach when it was raining. It was such a unique vibe and it really pumps you up to get a really good score. I saw it was a little crumbly out there and I knew that Damien would be looking for the barrel and luckily he only got that one. On my waves I just did as many turns as I could and it paid off. Bring on Brazil!"
Hobgood, who was the form surfer going into the final was obviously disappointed with his finals performance and was unavailable for comment.
It was a tremendous day of surfing all round as conditions early morning were nothing short of perfect at La Nord, located 500 hundred metres south of the finals stage at La Graviere, with organisers opting to move to La Graviere after round four.
In his earlier round four heat, Irons defeated Mark Occhilupo (AUS) in what was a truly memorable showdown. With both scoring deep tube after deep tube, Irons claimed that he will remember that heat as his favourite of all time.
Occhilupo even invited Irons to catch a wave with him after the heat and they "high-fived" as they rode to the shore.
Although hanging on by his fingertips, Irons is still in the running for his fourth Foster's ASP Men's World Tour Crown and another situation like today in the next event will see Irons breathing down Slater's neck come the grand finale at Pipeline, Hawaii.
Heading through the Quiksilver Pro France finishing gates in equal third place was tour stalwart Victor Ribas (BRA) and Australian Taj Burrow.
For Ribas, it was his best result for the year and a much needed placing that will move him up the ratings and help him maintain his place on the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour. The flyweight Brazilian was very proud of his result and will gain extra confidence for the next event in front of his fellow countrymen.
"The conditions were very tough out there," said the quietly spoken Ribas. "It was very different at high tide with the wind and it was very bumpy. Unfortunately I couldn't find the good waves today but I'm very happy to be up there with all the good surfers like Damien and Andy. I'm stoked with my third placing because it will help me a lot. Surfing is my life and not to be on the WCT would be devastating for me. Everybody is going to be stoked in Brazil for sure and I can't wait to get there to surf in front of all the support."
Taj Burrow, who scored his second event third placing in succession, was disappointed as expected, but like Ribas is eager to get to Brazil as he won there last year. In losing to Irons he struggled to find quality waves and was washed around by the current and the backwash. He also admitted that his tactics may have been wrong.
"It was so big and thick and back washy out there," said Burrow. "It was so hard to control your board. I didn't even see Andy out there at all and then I heard from the announcers that he had a big score. I was just trying to jag a few lefts like I did in my last heat but it was just so hard to stay on my board. I'm still happy with the result but obviously I would have loved to be in the final. I've got some momentum going into Brazil and hopefully I can win there again like last year."
As stated the day was truly memorable with some of the deepest tubes ridden since Fiji and Tahiti earlier this year.
The ratings have now changed somewhat after the mixed results this week with Phil Macdonald (AUS) now jumping into third on 5870 points behind Slater, 7896 and Irons 7128, with Mick Fanning (AUS) 5838 and Trent Munro (AUS) 5618, now in fourth and fifth.
Twins CJ, 4873 points, and Damien Hobgood 4851, now sit in seventh and eight, while Nathan Hedge (AUS) 4770, and Cory Lopez (USA) 4770, are sitting in equal ninth to make up the top 10.
For the full rankings go to www.aspworldtour.com
Results round four:
Heat 1: Victor Ribas (BRA) 13.93 def Dane Reynolds (USA) 13.50
Heat 2: Phil MacDonald (AUS) 14.66 def Luke Egan (AUS) 13.34
Heat 3: Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.83 def Luke Stedman (AUS) 10.24
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.00 def Paulo Moura (BRA) 7.27
Heat 5: Andy Irons (HAW) 18.73 def Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 16.77
Heat 6: Bruce Irons (HAW) 16.73 def Cory Lopez (USA) 6.07
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.33 def Peterson Rosa (BRA) 13.00
Heat 8: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 12.67 def Jake Paterson (AUS) 12.33
Results quarter finals:
Quarter final 1: Ribas 10.50 def Macdonald 10.10
Quarter final 2: Hobgood 18.00 def Slater 13.50
Quarter final 3: Andy Irons 15.83 def Bruce Irons 11.00
Quarter final 4: Burrow 15.17 def Hedge 8.50
Results semi finals:
Semi final 1: Hobgood 10.57 def Ribas 8.70
Semi final 2: Irons 15.67 def Burrow 11.00
Irons 17.00 def Hobgood 12.83
Quiksilver Pro France, presented by Samsung with Evian results are at www.quiksilver.com/france05 and www.aspworldtour.com