Saturday, September 4, 2004 (Hebara, Japan) Defending Quiksilver Pro champion Andy Irons (Haw) today showed perfect form to reach this year’s final day. With competition back at Hebara, rounds three and four of the Foster’s men’s ASP World Championship Tournament (WCT) were completed. An incredible Foster’s Expression Session, as well as a Quiksilver Fashion show, added to the entertainment on offer. The US$260,000 event is expected to climax tomorrow.

Typhoon ‘Songda’ continued its gift of swell, with 4ft (1.3m) waves at Hebara beach. Unfortunately weather worsened overnight and sporadic light rain set in, yet thousands of spectators still made their way down to soak up the action.

Irons – the reigning two-time world champion and current ratings leader – executed a series of critical maneuvers all the way to the beach, prompting judges to award the maximum score. Combined with another good ride, the 26-year-old dominated opponent Pat O’Connell (CA, USA) to set up a rematch with last year’s fellow finalist in Japan, world #5 Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, AUS). After returning to the beach, the Kauaian was completely mobbed by uncharacteristically raucous Japanese admirers.

“It’s wild,” explained Iron, of the beach scene. “Really cool to see people so stoked on surfing. I’ve never seen them so psyched, but it’s good to see. I love it.

“That wave wedged up really nicely and was just the perfect speed for doing turns,” he explained of the 10. “I couldn’t ask for a better one out there. So yeah, a rematch with ‘Parko’ should be exciting. He got me at Bells Beach this year, but hopefully the waves stick around tomorrow.”

Parkinson collected the highest combined scores of the tournament so far for 18.07-points today. Against fellow Australian Nathan Webster (Narrabeen), ‘Parko’ opened his account with an 8.67, before upping the ante with a brilliant 9.4 ride. He then took out West Australian Jake Paterson, ensuring the epic clash with Irons.

“The ocean just went my way,” said Parkinson. “I sat there at {{{Malibu}}} yesterday and watched the best waves I’ve ever seen in Japan, but wasn’t able to go out. I was pretty frustrated, but at least waves came to me today and I made it.”

Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) also charged into the quarterfinals. Against long-time sparring partner and former world #2 Shane Beschen (CA, USA) this morning, the Floridian landed a two aerial reverse 360 maneuvers to advance, and then did enough to eliminate Phil MacDonald (AUS) the following round. He goes head-to-head with Kalani Robb (HAW) tomorrow.

“I haven’t felt totally on with my surfing yet, but I had a good win over Phil then and my board is good well,” said Slater. “I’m just hoping the waves are similar tomorrow. I’m just watching the guys on my side of the draw to figure out what I have to expect.”

2001 world champion {{{CJ}}} Hobgood (FL, USA) also progressed to the final day. The current ratings #3 won a nail-biting third round heat over Bruce Irons (HAW), and then eliminated an in-form Danny Wills (Byron Bay, AUS) this afternoon. Wills had earned a near-perfect 9.77 barrel ride earlier, but couldn’t buy a wave against Hobgood.

“Danny got a crazy barrel this morning, so I was hoping he would have used all that up,” said Hobgood. “I was lucky to get a few waves under my belt before the ocean went flat. That was the difference, and there wasn’t much he could do.

CJ will now face twin brother and current ratings #6 Damien Hobgood tomorrow, after he accounted for Dean Morrison (Gold Coast, AUS) in round four. Amazingly, the dynamic pair has never competed against each other in a man-on-man heat, despite traveling together for years on tour.

“I can’t wait to surf a heat with him,” offered CJ. “We’ve almost met up a few times, but then one of us has always been eliminated first. Should be great, but I don’t want to jinx myself by saying too much at this stage (laughs).”

Darren O’Rafferty continued his great run by eliminating fellow Australian Luke Egan in round four. Having beaten 1999 world champion Mark Occhilupo yesterday, the current ratings #40 has already equaled his best ever finish, and faces good mate and traveling partner Chris Davidson next. ‘Davo’ secured his best result of the season by defeating Cory Lopez (FL, USA) today.

“It was amazing surfing against Occy and Luke, as those guys have been my heroes since I was a grommet,” said O’Rafferty. “The waves aren’t perfect, but to beat them for the first time ever... I can’t believe it. Quarterfinals are my best result too, so I can’t wait. ‘Davo’ is my traveling partner, so it should be interesting.”

The Foster’s Expression Session showcased a handful of the world’s best pushing their own limits this afternoon, to the disbelief of the massive crowd. CJ Hobgood landed the best aerial to pocket an additional US$2,000, while Slater collected a cool grand for the best overall ride.

“The atmosphere was so fun, but I think I was the only guy to actually land an aerial,” laughed Hobgood. “We all get jazzed up to go out there and surf, and stoked Foster’s put up the money. It’s basically a fun free-surf, which is the reason we all love surfing in the first place.”

“It’s nice to make a bit of added pocket change for having a fun surf with your friends,” added Slater.

A minute’s silence was also witnessed this morning in respect to Liam Fitzgerald - son of legendary Australian surfer Terry - who tragically died last week in Sydney.

Competition is expected to conclude tomorrow. You can follow the event live on www.quiksilver.com

Quiksilver Pro Japan Round Three (1st>Rnd4; 2nd=17th receives US$4,225)
H5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.07 def. Nathan Webster (AUS) 12.0
H6: Jake Paterson (AUS) 13.23 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 7.9
H7: Pat O’Connell (USA) 14.0 def. Paulo Moura (BRA) 11.83
H8: Andy Irons (HAW) 13.0 def. Armando Daltro (BRA) 10.83
H9: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.66 def. Shane Beschen (USA) 11.96
H10: Phil MacDonald (AUS) 15.5 def. Richard Lovett (AUS) 11.34 H11: Trent Munro (AUS) 11.66 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 10.8
H12: Kalani Robb (HAW) 10.0 def. Michael Lowe (AUS) 6.66
H13: CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.83 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 13.5
H14: Daniel Wills (AUS) 16.94 def. Tim Curran (USA) 13.0
H15: Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.93 def. Beau Emerton (AUS) 10.66
H16: Dean Morrison (AUS) 15.33 def. Michael Campbell (AUS) 12.66

Round Four (1st>Quarterfinals; 2nd=9th receives US$5,000)
{{{H1}}}: Chris Davidson (AUS) 13.37 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 8.84
{{{H2}}}: Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 12.86 def. Luke Egan (AUS) 11.34
{{{H3}}}: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.83 def. Jake Paterson (AUS) 9.17
H4: Andy Irons (HAW) 17.17 def. Pat O’Connell (USA) 10.0
H5: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.83 def. Phil MacDonald (AUS) 12.1
H6: Kalani Robb (HAW) 13.0 def. Trent Munro (AUS) 9.23
H7: CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.33 def. Danny Wills (AUS) 3.4
H8: Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.17 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 4.77

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