Rip Curl Pro – Bells Beach, 2003

Official Results of the Rip Curl Pro (1st>Semifinals; 2nd finishes=5th, receives US$8,000)

  • 1st Andy Irons (Haw) 17.57 – US$30,000
  • 2nd Joel Parkinson (Aus) 15.4 – US$16,000

Current Top 10 Ratings After Rip Curl Pro

  • 1. Andy Irons (Haw) – 1,800
  • =2. Joel Parkinson (Aus); Mark Occhilupo (Aus) – 1,764
  • 4. Mick Fanning (Aus) – 1,752
  • 5. Dean Morrison (Aus) – 1,680
  • 6. CJ Hobgood (USA) – 1,476
  • =7. Kieren Perrow (Aus); Neco Padaratz (Brz) – 1,332
  • =9. Taj Burrow (Aus); Shea Lopez (USA) – 1,212

Irons Claims Back-To-Back Bells

April 25, 2003 (Johanna, VIC, Australia) Defending Rip Curl Pro and reigning world champion Andy Irons (Haw) today claimed his second consecutive winner’s Bell Trophy. The 31st anniversary US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) began with semifinals this morning at Johanna, before climaxing with the grand finale and crowning of this year’s champion.

Clean 4ft (1.3m) right-handers were on offer, though a strong rip current was still running through the lineup. The large beach crowd, including Rip Curl Co-Founders Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer, cheered on the surfing action. A minute’s silence was witnessed prior to the final for ANZAC day, and then a testimonial for Australian surfing personality Marc Prpic, who recently passed away, took place as the finalists paddled out.

The 35-minute decider between the world #1 and last year’s runner-up Joel Parkinson (Aus) proved a dramatic exchange. Irons first, and near-perfect 9.8 ride set the pace, following a series of critical forehand carves, floaters, layback snaps and even a clean tube through the inside section. The 24-year-old then collected a couple of solid backup scores through the middle of the bout, but it was a final 7.77 ride that provided the ideal bookend for his outstanding performance and sealed his 7th WCT victory.

Interestingly, Irons is the first to claim consecutive Bells titles since ’96, when fellow Hawaiian Sunny Garcia – whom he beat here last year – earned his second of three titles. Having arrived late to this year’s event following a lost passport delay, the world champ’s win today was yet another huge achievement, bringing with it US$30,000 prizemoney and the current ratings top spot.

“It’s just amazing,” exclaimed Irons. “I guess lightning strikes twice. I knew Parko was going to be really hard to beat out there, but luckily that first wave came and I scored. I didn’t count Parko out until the horn went though. If he needed a 9.9, or even a 10, I knew he could possibly get it, as the kid’s so talented.

“I’m stoked the way things went last year, as that was amazing, but as far as world titles go, I’m not getting ahead of myself,” he added. “I just want to enjoy this win right now. Going into Teahupoo (Tah) and Fiji – I really like that leg (of the tour), but I’m so happy now.”

Parkinson, who last year won the first and then final WCT of the season to finish runner-up to Irons, was determined to get one up on the Hawaiian. The 22-year-old showed his fighting ANZAC spirit to reach the Rip Curl Pro’s pinnacle heat, but following his opponent’s first wave, odds were already stacked against him.

Somehow he managed to escape from one deep barrel, but afterwards realized he’d buckled his surfboard and was forced to grab another from his father Brian on the beach. Plenty of time remained, however, and he even held the lead momentarily following two average rides. Once the Hawaiian posted a 7.67 though, the Australian was chasing a combination of scores. He collected a great 8.5 ride to narrow the gap, but ultimately required another 9.08 when time elapsed.

“What can you say?” began Parkinson of his opponents start. “I saw that wave come and I knew he was going to go to town on it. Sure enough he did with a 9.8, and then I broke my board, so I thought everything was going to go his way. I tried to fight back and never say die, but sometimes you’re just too far behind the eight ball.

“As I came out the barrel I felt the tail flex and looked down and it was just like a banana board,” he explained of his equipment. “No excuses though. I’m stoked to be in a good position again at the start of the year. Hopefully I can get a better result toward the end of the year (laughs), but I’m happy.”

Finishing equal third were 2001 Rip Curl Pro Champion Mick Fanning (Aus) and 2001 world champion CJ Hobgood (USA). Both collected US$10,000 and a huge ratings boost with 876-points respectively.

Fanning, who secured his second consecutive semifinal berth from two WCT starts this year, was unable to match the wave selection and scores of Irons in the day’s first clash. The 2002 ASP ‘Rookie of the Year’ never appeared in rhythm, either falling off on inside maneuvers, or his waves would fade out. Nonetheless, the 21-year-old holds fourth position on the current ratings and is well primed for another great season on tour.

“I felt alright, but just didn’t get any good waves,” said Fanning. “Every one I caught wouldn’t line up through the inside, or I’d fall off. I guess it just wasn’t my day.

“Pretty stoked with my start to the year,” he added. “I wanted a good start this year and hopefully I’ll keep carrying on. I’d be stoked to get a few more results and hopefully make a final one day (laughs).”

Hobgood, 23, actually held the lead toward the end of his match with Parkinson, but the Australian fought back with a great ride within the final 5-minutes. The Floridian then had another opportunity with priority, as a good set wave appeared on the final minute. His first backhand re-entry hinted the required 5.33 score was imminent, but he fell soon after, and was unable to catch another ride.

“I blew it a couple of times out there,” admitted Hobgood. “I had priority and took off on a stupid wave, and then he got a 7.5, so that was my first mistake. Then I had that last wave, but… stuff happens. All the respect in the world for Joel, but I could have had the heat.

“I’m stoked with the result, but it doesn’t matter where you’re at, you’ve got take advantage of opportunities,” he added. “You’re not going to win world titles with Andy and Joel in the final. They finished one and two last year, so with me finishing third today, I blew an opportunity.”

The Rip Curl Pro would not be possible without the combined efforts of the different groups involved in the event’s staging – Surfing Victoria; The Victorian Government Department of Tourism, Sport & The Commonwealth Games; The Surf Coast Shire Council; and the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) – plus the supporting sponsorship of Lifesavers, Ansell, Coca-Cola, Vodka Cruiser, Falls Creek, Fudge & Tooheys Extra Dry.

Satellite and mobile communications from Johanna provided by Telstra Country Wide in Geelong.

Semifinals (1st>Final; 2nd finishes=3rd, receives US$10,000)

  • SF1: Andy Irons (Haw) 17.44 def. Mick Fanning (Aus) 10.83
  • SF2: Joel Parkinson (Aus) 13.9 def. CJ Hobgood (USA) 13.57