Thursday, September 2, 2004 (Hebara, Japan) The Quiksilver Pro in Japan got underway today, with round one of the Foster’s men’s ASP World Championship Tournament (WCT) completed, as well as four heats from the second elimination round. An increasing swell from Typhoon ‘Songda’ generated consistent 3-4ft (1-1.3m) waves for the world’s best surfers.

West Australian Taj Burrow set an early tournament pace with his first performance. Against Phil MacDonald (NSW, AUS) and Shane Beschen (CA, USA), a dynamic Burrow gave the crowd plenty to enjoy with his ever-progressive maneuvers, and was awarded the highest scores of the day for an 8.5 and 8.33 by the judges. Following a results slump the past three WCT’s, the 26-year-old is focused on a big finish in Japan.

“It was tricky as the waves were really weak and hard to ride, but thankfully Shane didn’t catch that wave near the start and I was able to get a good score,” explained Burrow. “I felt confident after that and then found another good one at the end. I’m definitely hoping to get on a roll here, as I need it. Being Japan is great too. We get treated like Kings while we’re here, so I’m really enjoying it.”

Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) won a tight exchange against Peterson Rosa (BRA) and local Japanese wildcard Norimasa Ohno. Rosa took control after catching two of the bigger lefthanders on offer – belting some strong backhand re-entries, but the Floridian answered back with the top score of 7.77 with a long righthander. Sitting in runner-up position on the current ratings, Slater is well aware of this events importance towards the 2004 world title.

“I didn’t have a really good heat, but got just enough to do what I needed,” stated Slater. “We’re happy to have surf, but it was pretty bad then on the lower tide.

“I honestly haven’t been too worried about the ratings,” he continued. “I’ve just been trying to get my whole life in perspective, and have it going along in a good way. When that happens, things like the ratings seem to sort themselves out. I have had a frustrating run this year though. I’ve felt like my surfing’s been there, but some of my choices haven’t been, and that’s all it takes sometimes.”

Reigning two-time world and defending event champion Andy Irons (HAW) comfortably advanced past Guilherme Herdy (BRA) and Japanese wildcard Naoto Takanashi. The Kauaian had not competed at Hebara Beach before, but this detail made no difference today. Following an incredible start to the year, Irons currently holds a commanding lead on the ratings with a massive 1,464-point advantage on Slater and the pursuing pack.

“Feels really good to get a win off straight away,” began Irons afterward. “I’ve had an amazing start to this year, real consistent, but coming here to Japan... it’s a different spot and I haven’t actually surfed here before. I’m just trying to get used to the break, as it’s a bit tricky. I’m stoked to be here though, as the people are so friendly and the food’s great.”

California’s Tim Curran again proved dangerous in Japan’s beach break conditions. The current ratings #24 won a WCT at nearby Torami Beach in 1999, and today utilized a similar light-footer approach to generate speed out of the crumbly waves. Against Bruce Irons (HAW) and Jake Paterson (West AUS), Curran was able to lock in a couple of strong backhand rides to advance.

“I haven’t been winning many heats this year, so it feels really good, especially against Bruce and Jake,” began Curran. “I love Japan and my boards seem to work really well here, so I’m trying my best. This venue is a lot like where I surf at home, so I think that’s why I’m usually able to do my best in these conditions.”

Brazilian Paulo Moura secured his round three berth, beating Mark Occhilupo (AUS) and Japanese wildcard Naohisa Ogawa. The current ratings #17 acknowledged training very hard for this event in Japan, and displayed his focus by selecting optimum waves to forge ahead.

“I’m really happy to win that heat as it’s the first step,” said Moura. “I just have to focus and try to do a better job next one.”

Occhilupo later faced Norimasa Ohno in what proved a tense round two clash for the 1999 world champion. Ohno held advantage for the first half of the battle, before the 38-year-old found some cleaner waves and locked in his needed scores.

“Tough heat,” admitted Occhilupo afterwards. “Norimasa was surfing really good and had the lead, but luckily I got a couple of lefts. Stoked to get through that as I was nervous, but I take my hat off to him. Hopefully in time one of these Japanese guys will make the WCT and I’m looking forward to seeing the day.”

Other round one standouts included Californian Pat O’Connell, Australian Lee Winkler - who posted the highest single score of 9-points, as well as Hawaii’s Kalani Robb.

2001 world champ {{{CJ}}} Hobgood (FL, USA) and twin brother Damien also reached round three. Damien, in particular, was in top form during his second heat, earning the day’s second highest tally with 16.5-points to eliminate Japanese wildcard Masatoshi Ohno.

Competition is expected to resume tomorrow morning at 7am (local time). You can follow the event live on www.quiksilver.com, and monitor swell activity for the region at: http://www.swellnet.com.au/events/quiksilverjapanforecast.htm

Quiksilver Pro Japan Round One (1st>Rnd3; 2nd, 3rd>Rnd2)
{{{H1}}}: Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 12.84; Taylor Knox (USA) 10.83; Tom Whitaker (AUS) 9.67
{{{H2}}}: Tim Curran (USA) 13.93; Bruce Irons (USA) 12.27; Jake Paterson (AUS) 8.0
{{{H3}}}: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 11.67; Kieren Perrow (AUS) 11.5; Luke Hitchings (AUS) 8.07
H4: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.83; Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 11.5; Shane Beschen (USA) 10.33
H5: Pat O’Connell (USA) 15.73; Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.27; Eric Rebiere (FRA) 6.5
H6: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 12.83; Armando Daltro (BRA) 10.46; Victor Ribas (BRA) 4.4
H7: Paulo Moura (BRA) 12.44; Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 7.24; Naohisa Ogawa (JPN) 6.9
H8: Andy Irons (HAW) 13.0; Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 7.56; Naoto Takanashi (JPN) 6.0
H9: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.94; Peterson Rosa (BRA) 13.5; Norimasa Ohno (JPN) 8.93
H10: Richard Lovett (AUS) 14.4; CJ Hobgood (USA) 12.83; Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) 12.43
H11: Chris Davidson (AUS) 14.6; Michael Lowe (AUS) 11.5; Toby Martin (AUS) 11.3
H12: Dean Morrison (AUS) 13.4; Neco Padaratz (BRA) 11.33; Beau Emerton (AUS) 6.4
H13: Trent Munro (AUS) 14.83; Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 12.67; Sunny Garcia (HAW) 4.17
H14: Lee Winkler (AUS) 15.5; Nathan Webster (AUS) 10.8; Cory Lopez (USA) 6.7
H15: Luke Egan (AUS) 13.33; Greg Emslie (ZAF) 10.5; Michael Campbell (AUS) 9.4
H16: Kalani Robb (HAW) 14.33; Daniel Wills (AUS) 13.77; Troy Brooks (AUS) 10.84

Round Two (1st>Rnd3; 2nd=33rd receives US$3,400)H1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 12.3 def. Naoto Takanashi (JPN) 9.17
H2: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 13.26 def. Norimasa Ohno (JPN) 11.67
H3: Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.5 def. Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) 11.66
H4: Jake Paterson (AUS) 13.9 def. Naohisa Ogawa (JPN) 12.16

For further information and photos go to:www.aspworldtour.com