EVENTS HELD: Round Three heats 5-16, Round Four heats 1-4, the Snapple Best Damn Airshow
SURF: California Dreamy: hot, glassy and overhead
NATURE’S CALL: I like it when you treat me rough
PREDICTED: A new tour leader“So, Brucie, are you gonna beat your brother today or what?” Chris Ward paddles through the jungle of Lowers dawn-patrollers and gives his friend the standard bro shake. The lineup chatter suddenly falls silent at Ward’s blunt inquiry, as if EF Hutton is about to give some sound investment advice. With all eyes on him, Bruce draws out a long, knowing smile and says, “We’ll see….”We should have known that cool, confident smile was a sure bet. It’s a smile that said there’d be no “Irons title conspiracies” in the works, that the most important heat so far in the ’03 Boost Mobile Pro would live up to its billing. Round Three, Heat No. {{{Eight}}}. The event’s highest seed, Andy Irons, versus the event’s lowest seed, Bruce Irons. A 9:30 a.m. start time in hot-and-heavy Indian Summer conditions as Tropical Depression Kevin puts a southeast spin on the swell, offering the odd overhead set with endless possibilities.The entire Irons camp — Mom, Dad, cousins, friends — are seated together in the VIP area, courteously dealing with the hovering {{{Fox}}} {{{Sports}}} Net boom mics and KISS FM’s Poorman, who’s asking Mom, Danielle, to pick her favorite kid on live radio. Of course, she says she loves them both, and Poorman moves on to his next interview subject, Kelly Slater — the six-time world champ who’s a mere {{{600}}} points behind Andy and closing. . .fast. “So, we assume you’re rooting for Bruce in this one,” says Poorman. “Yeah,” says Kelly to the greater LA basin. “I guess you could say that.”

After a few-minute wait, Bruce starts the fight with a medium right and falls on his second turn. Shortly after, big-brother Andy catches an overhead right and tries to end it there: one huge, knee-tweaking arc (described in the peanut gallery as “open-heart surgery”) plus two follow-up slams that nets a 9.17. Big hoots from the Irons clan, but the hoots get even louder when Bruce answers with an ultra-smooth wraparound carve/combo platter worth a high seven. From there on, the exchanges play out in classic big bro/little bro fashion. Andy, probably remembering all the days he bullied his way to victory over his brother, tries to clobber every section in sight. Bruce, on the other hand, gets crafty: working the angles, jabbing away and locking down two respectable scores. A long, mid heat lull works to Bruce’s favor since Andy — who swung and missed on two consecutive waves — finds himself needing a 6.33 with less than a minute remaining. Bruce has priority, but he gives the last, chest-high bump to Andy, as if to say: “Let’s see you try.” One slash-top, a float, a straight-up hit, another slash…the wave goes on forever but it’s a small one and he doesn’t mix it up with anything too risky. Still, the spectators — Bruce included — think Andy will get the score. “And the last wave of Andy’s,” says announcer John Shimooka. “Comes in at a 6.0! It’s not enough! Bruce Irons takes down the world champ — his brother!”Andy looks sick to his stomach as he takes off his leash in the cobblestones. But, like a good world champion, he signs an autograph, does a quick TV interview, then disappears into the board room and privately lets off steam in the form of four-letter words and crunched fiberglass.His brother, on the other hand, is flashing Gene Simmons tongues and being uncharacteristically verbose on the beach. “I thought he had the score,” he says. “From behind, it looked like he had it for sure. But I beat him and the pressure’s off.”Does Bruce feel guilty since Andy’s ratings lead is now in jeopardy? “Not even,” he says. “Besides, he’s already won a world title. I’m just a wildcard with nothing to lose.”