Tuesday, March 2, 2004 (Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Australia) The Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile got underway today, kicking off the 2004 Foster's Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) men's World Championship Tour (WCT) in great waves. No surfers were eliminated from the US$260,000 event, but winners secured spots directly into round three, while second and third place getters will now have to battle out the dreaded ‘losers’ second round when competition resumes.

Clean 3-4 ft (1-1.3m) barrels were on offer throughout the day. Ideal offshore conditions and waves peeling along the shallow sandbank provided the perfect backdrop, as spectators soaked up an amazing surfing show.

Reigning two-time world champion Andy Irons (Kauai, Haw) put aside nerves and a slow start to ultimately collect a near-perfect 9.8 en-route to his opening victory. Against highly touted Californian wildcard Dane Reynolds (USA) and former world #3 Luke Egan (Gold Coast, Aus), the Kauaian overcame initial jitters and a commanding lead by Reynolds to pick off the wave of the day. The 25-year-old emerged from a fantastic barrel and lay down some committed carves, reminding all why he's been leading the charge the past two seasons.

“I was a ball of nerves, for sure” admitted Irons, of the heat’s start. “Just the first contest of the year… I get really over-amped and over-excited. I had to take a few deep breaths and just let it all settle, but it's always really hard at the beginning when you’re trying to find the groove.

“That’s just how it is, with only two waves counting you’re never really out of it,” he explained, of the initial situation turning following his epic ride. “The other guys were sitting deeper than me and kind of held each other off that good wave, which swung wide, right to me. I dropped into it and knew it was going to be a real hollow barrel, so I just stayed tight and tried not to get too deep so I would make it. I came through, and it felt amazing. I did not want to be in the 33rd place round (laughs).”

2001 world champion {{{CJ}}} Hobgood (USA) generated the perfect confidence boosting result. Returning to competition for the first time in eight months, following a dirt bike accident last year in which he broke two bones in his left foot, the goofy-footer dominated his match over former ASP Australasian Junior Circuit champion Luke Munro (Currumbin, Aus) and six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA). Hobgood showed no signs of disadvantage as he belted the long righthanders mercilessly on his backhand, and while Munro did collect the best single score for an 8.67, he ultimately required another wave worth 6.23-points.

“I can't even describe what I’m feeling right now,” began Hobgood. “The last time I surfed a contest was August 3rd, so it's been eight months since I even surfed a heat. To comeback and pull out a win…I’m just so happy to be a surfer again. To make that heat…I wanted to cry out there (laughs). I’m so happy.

“I figured he was going to comeback, and that makes the win so much sweeter,” he added, of Slater finishing third. “It all came down to wave selection and mine might have been a bit better. I’m just taking it heat by heat, but I’m definitely feeling better everyday with my surfing. I sat on a couch for four months, so I have a fire under me now which most of the other guys hopefully don’t have.”

Slater – the world #2 following last year’s dramatic title showdown – will now face Californian wildcard Reynolds in a highly anticipated do-or-die round two clash.

“It should be interesting,” reasoned Slater. “We both ride Al Merrick surfboards and are sponsored by Quiksilver. Dane’s 12 years younger than me. He’s got a lot of talent and just has to get the experience now, and he’ll be really hard to beat.”

West Australian Taj Burrow was able to stop a rampaging Quiksilver Trials winner Shaun Gossmann (Aus), in their heat with Kalani Robb (Haw). The world #3 had to overcome Gossmann’s amazing first ride – a seemingly endless barrel which shot him to the front of the Torquay ‘Time-Tunnel’ race and earned a 9.{{{57}}} score. Burrow locked in one good wave, and then executed a series of great maneuvers on his last ride for an 8.6 and narrow lead. His opponent only required another score worth 5.86-points, but was unable to find it before the heat ended.

“That was a hard one to deal with, hearing him get a 9.57 at the start,” acknowledged Burrow. “We could hear the commentators saying he was still in the barrel, and Kalani and I didn’t even realize he’d caught a wave. All I could do was try and fight back, and I got a couple. He wasn’t able to get his second wave, so yeah, I nailed it.

“I love it here,” continued the 2001 event winner. “I had a great contest last year, and Mick Fanning and I had an amazing heat. I was bummed to lose that, but those local guys surf incredibly. I also feel confident here, and just hope to take it a bit further than the quarterfinals this year. I’m probably taking this season as seriously as I’m ever going to get. I figure it’s now or never, so I’ve just got to put my head down and go for it.”

Brazilian Peterson Rosa led his nation’s charge in the Quiksilver pro presented by Boost Mobile. The 29-year-old got his campaign on track with a brilliant performance, earning a combined total of 17.33-points today against Cory Lopez (FL, USA) and France’s newcomer Eric Rebiere. Rosa locked in an 8.83 and another 8.5 for the convincing win.

“I had fun,” said a modest Rosa. “I came here two weeks early this year to train. I love it here, and feel like it’s my second home. It’s far from Brazil, but the wave is very similar to my home point break, and I have a lot of good friends here. I feel comfortable and relaxed this year. I’ve trained very hard to get my mind stronger. Last year I did bad, finishing 26th, and I want to do better this season. The job has begun.”

Fellow countryman Victor Ribas and Guilherme Herdy also secured big wins, both posting 9-point rides to beat ‘Coolangatta Kids’ Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning, respectively. WCT newcomer Raoni Monteiro was another Brazilian to win his opening round clash with some great barrels and smooth surfing.

“I’m so stoked,” exclaimed Ribas, after he defeated ‘Parko’ and WCT replacement surfer Troy Brooks (Aus). “This year I’ve had to begin the tour without a sponsor, so my prizemoney will have to pay for all the costs. To beat Joel Parkinson (2002 Quiksilver Pro champ) here is very difficult. I was lucky to get the right waves, and I hope this news helps me get a sponsor soon (laughs). I only arrived yesterday and was very tired, but did well and am really happy to advance straight into the third round.”

Defending Quiksilver Pro champion Dean Morrison (Aus) picked up exactly where he left things in 2003, winning the opening heat of this year’s tournament. The Snapper local locked in the best wave of the heat at the outset – a 7.83 – to edge out WCT ‘Rookie’ and former Pipeline Master Bruce Irons (Haw), as well as Paulo Moura (Brz).

“I guess cause I surf out here all the time I just feel comfortable,” reasoned Morrison. “I was pretty happy to get some good waves, especially at the start. It kind of went flat after that and I don’t think anyone got a good score for about 16-minutes. It’s just good to be at home and watch all the boys, as I’m sure they’ll put on a great show.”

1999 world champion Mark Occhilupo, who finished runner-up to Morrison last year, posted the day’s highest combined heat score of 17.57-points this afternoon. Against fellow Australians Nathan Webster and Darren O’Rafferty, the 37-year-old earned a 9.07 one ride, and then backed this up with another 8.5 to seal victory. Webster actually positioned himself perfectly for the heat’s best barrel ride and 9.63-points – an incredible act since he’s been out of the water the past six months with a broken leg – but never found the additional 7.94 score he was needing.

“That was incredible,” said Occhilupo, of Webster’s tube. “I was right in his way while he was sitting in it. So good to see, and there was no way I wanted to hassle him after he missed so much surfing time last year. It was a good heat and just shows he’s back. That was the first time I rode this board, but it felt good. I’m psyched.”

The Torquay ‘Time Tunnel’ award is again being offered during the Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile, with AUD$5,000 up for gabs to whichever lucky surfer emerges from the longest tube during the competition. With epic waves expected throughout the tournament, the bar is definitely going to be raised with ridiculously long barrel rides already unfolding.

Quiksilver Pro presented by Boost Mobile Round One

(1st>Rnd3; 2nd, 3rd>Rnd2)

{{{H1}}}: Dean Morrison (Aus) 14.33; Bruce Irons (Haw) 9.4; Paulo Moura (Brz) 8.33

{{{H2}}}: Peterson Rosa (Brz) 17.33; Cory Lopez (USA) 14.67; Eric Rebiere (Fra) 8.53

{{{H3}}}: Raoni Monteiro (Brz) 14.17; Trent Munro (Aus) 12.6; Michael Lowe (Aus) 4.83

H4: Nathan Hedge (Aus) 15.0; Greg Emslie (SAfr) 14.07; Taylor Knox (USA) 12.1

H5: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 15.83; Beau Emerton (Aus) 11.17; Marcelo Nunes (Brz) 8.57

H6: Victor Ribas (Brz) 16.07; Joel Parkinson (Aus) 15.96; Troy Brooks (Aus) 11.76

H7: Guilherme Herdy (Brz) 16.5; Mick Fanning (Aus) 14.43; Luke Hitchings (Aus) 6.0

H8: Andy Irons (Haw) 17.13; Dane Reynolds (USA) 11.33; Luke Egan (Aus) 7.33

H9: CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.9; Luke Munro (Aus) 14.17; Kelly Slater (USA) 13.76

H10: Taj Burrow (Aus) 15.43; Shaun Gossmann (Aus) 14.24; Kalani Robb (Haw) 5.8

H11: Jake Paterson (Aus) 15.27; Neco Padaratz (Brz) 13.56; Shane Beschen (USA) 13.06

H12: Chris Davidson (Aus) 14.67; Phil MacDonald (Aus) 13.47; Pat O'Connell (USA) 13.17

H13: Lee Winkler (Aus) 14.83; Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.2; Michael Campbell (Aus) 7.96

H14: Tom Whitaker (Aus) 13.6; Daniel Wills (Aus) 13.5; Armando Daltro (Brz) 10.67

H15: Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 17.57; Nathan Webster (Aus) 14.73; Darren O'Rafferty (Aus) 11.86

H16: Richie Lovett (Aus) 14.77; Toby Martin (Aus) 13.16; Tim Curran (USA) 9.3

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