Thursday, June 3, 2004 (Tavarua and Namotu Islands, Fiji) Damien Hobgood (FL, USA) today defeated reigning two-time world champion Andy Irons (Kauai, HAW) to win an incredible Quiksilver Pro final. The amazing day of surfing commenced with a Foster’s Expression Session, before the World Championship Tournament (WCT) ran right through the business end of its draw.

Solid 8ft (2.5m) surf was on offer at ‘Cloudbreak’, with even larger sets washing through the lineup. Huge barrels and clean, open wave faces provided the ideal stage for the world’s top rated surfers to perform on.

Remarkably, the 30-minute final managed to overshadow an already outstanding day, and tournament. The 2004 event pinnacle brought the best surfing out of both contestants, with scores reflecting this.

For Hobgood — the world #14 — today’s achievement marks his greatest since breaking into the WCT ranks back in 1999. Despite a solid reputation in waves of consequence and serious contest act, his previous best result was a runner-up finish to six-time world champion Kelly Slater in South Africa last year.

Against Irons today however, the 24-year-old overcame two initial wipeouts and frustration over a wave priority situation, to answer his opponent’s strong, early lead with a perfect 10-point ride. The Floridian dropped into a bomb of a set wave, stood tall in the belly of the beast, and seconds later emerged to the sound of raucous applause. From there, the match went berserk, as both made seemingly impossible barrels appear easy. But it was Hobgood’s additional near-perfect 9.9 which sealed his maiden career victory and pushed him into #5 position on the current ratings. His combined two-wave total of 19.9 is the highest ever posted in an ASP final.

“I couldn’t have planned this any better,” began a triumphant Hobgood. “I was so mad when Andy got dropped off by the Jet Ski ahead of me for priority. I was pretty furious, and then he caught that bomb, so I was twice as mad. The next wave was bigger though, so it played out perfect. I dropped in so determined to make it, and the thing just gaped open.

“All those waves are kind of just a blur,” he continued. “Only thing I remember is standing straight up in one of the pits. I knew Andy had sick waves. I mean, the guy drops 10’s like it’s nothing. Even when there was a minute left and I had him comboed, I was still telling myself it wasn’t over cause he’s that crazy.

“‘Cloudbreak’ just killed it for us today. Every heat got better, with 8ft standup pits, so I don’t think you could really ask for much more.”

For defending Quiksilver Pro champion Irons, a runner-up finish seemed out of the question given his performances all day. The Kauaian secured his second perfect 10 of the tournament in round four this morning, upped the ante during the quarterfinals to post an 18.8-point tally, and then locked in another 10 (his third in two days) against {{{CJ}}} Hobgood to reach the main decider.

Despite incredible 9.63 and 9.33 scores earned against twin brother Damien this afternoon, the 25-year-old still required a near-perfect combination of rides worth 19.91-points. Nonetheless, and following his runner-up finish during the Quiksilver Pro in Australia, and consecutive semifinal finishes the next two events, this result greatly increases his current ratings lead.

“So close but so far,” summed up Irons. “The kid surfed a perfect heat, and of anyone on tour, I think he really deserves a win at a spot like this. He surfed awesome and deserved it. I had two nines and was still comboed, so hat’s off. He may have won the battle at this one, but there’s a big war ahead. I’m nudging my way along, just trying to get consistent results. Two seconds and two thirds aren’t too bad, and I’m looking forward to the next event at J-Bay (South Africa).

“Maybe I used them up too quick,” he acknowledged, of his perfect scores. “I should have saved a couple of those 10’s for the final, but you don’t really plan your 10’s out, they kind of just happen.

“Ratings wise this is awesome,” he continued. “Guys are stepping it up, and you can tell they all want to win. Next contest we have to step it up even more, and maybe get two 10’s in a heat. That’s what it’s going to take.”

Equal third were 2001 world champ CJ Hobgood (FL, USA) and Tim Curran (CA, USA). Both received US$10,000 prizemoney for outstanding performances in Fiji.

CJ, winner of the previous WCT in Tahiti, held an early lead against Irons in the semifinals, but even with two amazing waves to his credit, wasn’t able to maintain. Irons locked in his third perfect 10 to gain control, and despite another epic tube ride, the Floridian failed to post the 9.61 score needed to advance. Still, he is now rated second.

“I think I’ve lost to Andy about five times in a row now,” admitted CJ afterward. “It hasn’t been because I’ve had a bad heat either. I’ll have a really good heat and he’ll just pull something crazy out of the bag. It sucks he keeps doing it at my expense (laughs). He keeps increasing his lead, and I’m disappointed, but on the other hand I’m stoked. We had really great waves today and it’s been a great event.”

For Curran, the result marks his best in five years, since last winning a WCT and finishing 1999 rated sixth in the world. The 26-year-old fell out of the top ranks for a couple of years, but returned last season and is now clearly back on track. Against Damien it was always just a matter of making the barrels he pulled into, but unfortunately didn’t on a number of occasions and required a score worth 9.27 points at conclusion.

“I’m stoked,” said Curran. “I’ve actually been training a bit at home, and I think that’s helped my confidence. My scores have been good the last couple of events, but I still lost. I think everything happens for a reason, and I’ve learned how to lose. It’s really nice to make some heats. I’ve got amazing sponsors, so I feel like I’m in a really good position right now and am happy.”

Finishing equal fifth in the Quiksilver Pro were 1999 event and world champion Mark Occhilupo, fellow Australian Gold Coasters Luke Egan and Dean Morrison, and Hawaiian wildcard Fred Patacchia.

Egan, the 2000 Quiksilver Pro Fiji winner, was a definite contender today, earning a near-perfect 9.77 tube ride in round four. Against Irons he again threw himself over the ledge and committed to the biggest barrels he could find, but even with an eight in his tally, still required a combination of rides worth 18.81 points to match his opponent’s massive advantage.

“Stoked with a fifth, as this is a keeper as far as I’m concerned,” said Egan of his result. “I was riding too short a board then and couldn’t paddle into the good ones properly, which probably cost me the heat.”

Patacchia gained his main event spot after placing runner-up in the Quiksilver Trials, and created the biggest upset of the tournament by eliminating Slater yesterday. He then overcame an in-form Lee Winkler (Coff’s Harbour, AUS) this morning, before being stopped by Curran.

West Australian Jake Paterson won the Foster’s Expression Session this morning, collecting US$2,000 for the amazing backhand barrel he emerged from. Hawaiian Sunny Garcia also earned a bonus for the powerful backhand re-entry he executed.

“It was pretty sick,” said Paterson on his tube. “Probably the best barrel I’ve had since I’ve been here and stoked to win a couple of grand bonus. The Foster’s Expression Sessions just let you go all out, which is great for everyone.”

Victor Ribas and Guilherme Herdy proved the most successful Brazilians in the 2004 Quiksilver Pro, both being eliminated this morning after great performances in Fiji.

Official Quiksilver Pro Results
1st Damien Hobgood (USA) 19.9 – US$30,000
2nd Andy Irons (HAW) 18.96 – US$16,000

Semifinals (1st>Final; 2nd=3rd receives US$10,000)
SF1: Andy Irons (HAW) 18.77 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 17.94
SF2: Damien Hobgood (USA) 17.1 def. Tim Curran (USA) 14.83

Quarterfinals (1st>Semifinals; 2nd=5th receives US$8,000)
QF1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.67 def. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 10.0
QF2: Andy Irons (HAW) 18.8 def. Luke Egan (AUS) 15.24
QF3: Tim Curran (USA) 16.77 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 14.17
QF4: Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.2 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 13.67

Round Four (1st>Quarterfinals; 2nd=9th receives US$5,000)
{{{H2}}}: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.5 def. Sunny Garcia (HAW) 8.34
{{{H3}}}: Luke Egan (AUS) 17.27 def. Jake Paterson (AUS) 9.66
H4: Andy Irons (HAW) 14.83 def. Victor Ribas (BRA) 11.4
H5: Fred Patacchia (HAW) 9.67 def. Lee Winkler (AUS) 9.6
H6: Tim Curran (USA) 16.06 def Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 13.27
H7: Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.83 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 7.6
H8: Dean Morrison (AUS) 12.67 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 9.16

Current ASP Ratings after WCT event#4/12
1. Andy Irons (HAW) 3,816
2. CJ Hobgood (USA) 2,964
3. Kelly Slater (USA) 2,820
4. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 2,796
5. Damien Hobgood (USA) 2,700

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