Nova Schin Festival – Round 3

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Monday, November 8, 2004 (Imbituba, Santa Catarina, Brazil) Hawaiian Andy Irons today clinched his third consecutive Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour (WCT) crown. Following the shock elimination of contender Joel Parkinson (AUS) in round three of the {{{Nova}}} Schin Festival 2004, the Kauaian's massive ratings lead became untouchable. Round four of the Foster's men's ASP World Championship Tournament (WCT) was also decided, with the US$260,000 event expected to climax tomorrow.

Good 4-5ft (1.5m) right and lefthand peaks were again on offer at Praia da Vila. A beautiful sunny day greeted thousands of spectators who lined the beach.

Irons began the day by avenging his round one loss to local wildcard Raphael Becker (BRA). The 26-year-old was in blistering form, posting a brilliant 9.1 score for a critical backhand re-entry and huge airdrop floater to advance. Then the waiting game intensified, as Parkinson's third round heat neared. None expected the current ratings runner-up to lose against Brazilian wildcard Tanio Barreto, but all eyes remained on Andy as the heat unfolded, and ultimately captured his emotions as the 2004 world title was sealed.

Having won WCT events this year in South Africa and more recently France, combined with two runner-ups and another three semifinal berths, Irons' incredible consistency paid huge dividends today. Only the third male surfer to win three consecutive ASP world titles, he joins an illustrious group including four-time winner Mark Richards (AUS) and six-time champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA).

"This is so different than last year," said Irons, once the media onslaught began. "Going into the final of Pipeline against Kelly was the full showdown, but this year in Brazil I just had to watch 'Parko', and thought for sure he was going to make that heat. This is beyond any dream. I never thought I'd get three world titles. I was so stoked just getting one, and if my career had ended that day I would have been totally fine with it. To be able to defend it last year against Kelly was just amazing. This year I just had the best year ever, really. It felt like the pressure wasn't as heavy, and I had a lot of fun.

"Parko is insane," he added, in praise. "He missed two events with the birth of his child, so who knows what would have happened if he had of been there? Hopefully this just gives him more momentum into next year. I know he's going to be a title contender for a long time to come, and I just hope I'm able to meet the challenge."

For Parkinson, the prospects of overtaking Irons for this year's crown remained a serious long shot, but the determined 23-year-old went down fighting. Against Barreto he picked off some good waves, but made a couple costly mistakes and lacked the scores his opponent was able to post. Ultimately, the Australian required another ride worth 8.46-points.

"I just didn't have it in that heat," acknowledged Parkinson. "I wobbled around and kind of lagged. I'm a bit disappointed with myself, and feel like I've let down a lot of people. Not that I had that weight on my shoulders, but I just feel like I had reasons to do it, and in a way, seems like I let down Australia.

"Yeah, I missed two events, but wouldn't change Evie for anything in the world," he added, of the birth of his daughter earlier this year. "It would be a different situation if I had another two events now, for sure. There are 12 more events next year and I'll just have to do it then. I knew I wasn't in a good position, but miracles have happened and I expected one to win. I'm disappointed with myself not being able to make the finals here, as I would have liked to do that. I want to congratulate Andy though. He's had an awesome year and a lot of results."

For wildcard Barreto, today proved monumental. Not only did he stop Parkinson, the giant-killer then won a dramatic fourth round heat against local hero Neco Padaratz. The lead swung during the pair's final rides, but the underdog locked in a needed 6.77 final ride as the seconds elapsed.

"I surfed in this event last year, and had nothing to lose as a wildcard," explained Barreto, of his success. "Imbituba beach is my favorite point in Santa Catarina. I was so relaxed with all my friends here supporting me. I'm so happy."

Following Andy's world title presentation and local media conference, he paddled out against Tom Whitaker (AUS) for their round four clash. The Kauaian initially led, but after his opponent posted the heat's best 7.5 score, virtually nothing else broke and the current ratings #26 became the first to beat the newly crowned champ.

"I was talking to the boys about maybe being be the first guy to beat the world champ, but you never go out confident against Andy," explained Whitaker. "I just had a go, and came out thumbs up. It was a slow heat, but luckily I had that one good wave and then my prayers were answered as I wanted it to go flat (laughs)."

Upon returning to the beach, Irons' was showered in beer by Parkinson and fellow Australian Nathan Hedge. Uncharacteristically happy despite the loss, he acknowledged his mind was elsewhere and ready to celebrate.

"I guess there was just too much going on today," reasoned Irons. "Tom surfed well, but I'm just glad it's all over. Now I can hang out and let the festivities begin. I'll be having a big dinner tonight with my brother and girlfriend, and go out and party with Parko and the boys. I'll probably be hung-over in the morning, but that'll be the best hangover ever."

Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) overcame Brazil's reigning world junior champ Adriano de Souza and later Darren O'Rafferty (AUS) today. The defending Nova Schin Festival winner appears in top form, and clearly out to win his first WCT event this season.

"There were really good waves to be had, you just had to pick them right," said Slater. "Conditions reminded me a lot of last year, which feels good."

Slater faces West Australian Taj Burrow in a highly anticipated quarterfinal, after he eliminated Aussies Toby Martin and Kieren Perrow from the Nova Schin Festival.

"It was a bizarre day with Andy winning his title like that," offered Burrow. "A couple of the best guys are out of the event now, obviously Andy and Parko, so it's opened up for the rest of us and I'm pretty excited."

Renan Rocha (BRA), who finished equal third last year at Imbituba as a wildcard, took out last WCT winner Luke Egan (AUS) this morning. Despite plenty of waves prior to the match, the ocean didn't co-operate during and neither posted any major scores. He then eliminated another Australian in Richie Lovett this afternoon, advancing to meet fellow Brazilian wildcard and former WCT star Fabio Gouveia in tomorrow's first quarterfinal.

"I was looking forward to getting the wildcard for this event to surf against the best guys in the world," said Rocha. "To surf here at home is a pleasure, and makes me feel comfortable. To beat Luke was like a dream. He's been one of the best surfers in the world for a decade already, so I'm very happy, and now Richie. Last year I made the semifinals, so I hope to keep going and get a better result than that."

Round 3 Heat Results
(Winner advances to Round 4, 2nd place = 17th place)

Heat # 1: Renan Rocha def. Luke Egan
Heat # 2: Richard Lovett def. Bruce Irons
Heat # 3: Paulo Moura def. Trent Munro
Heat # 4: Fabio Gouveia def. {{{CJ}}} Hobgood
Heat # 5: Armando Daltro def. Michael Lowe
Heat # 6: Peterson Rosa def. Marcelo Nunes
Heat # 7: Tom Whitaker def. Raoni Monteiro
Heat # 8: Andy Irons* def. Raphael Becker
Heat # 9: Kelly Slater def. Adriano de Souza
Heat #10: Darren O’Rafferty def. Tim Curran
Heat #11: Taj Burrow def. Toby Martin
Heat #12: Kieren Perrow def. Phillip MacDonald
Heat #13: Tanio Barreto def. Joel Parkinson
Heat #14: Neco Padaratz def. Kalani Robb
Heat #15: Nathan Hedge def. Beau Emerton
Heat #16: Cory Lopez def. Michael Campbell

* – Denotes NEW 3-time World Champion!

Round 4 Heat Results
(Winner advances to Quaterfinals, 2nd place = 9th place)

Heat #1: Renan Rocha def. Richard Lovett
Heat #2: Fabio Gouveia def. Paulo Moura
Heat #3: Peterson Rosa def. Armando Daltro
Heat #4: Tom Whitaker def. Andy Irons*
Heat #5: Kelly Slater def. Darren O’Rafferty
Heat #6: Taj Burrow def. Kieren Perrow
Heat #7: Tanio Barreto def. Neco Padaratz
Heat #8: Nathan Hedge def. Cory Lopez

Upcoming Quarterfinal Heats

Quarter #1: Renan Rocha vs. Fabio Gouveia
Quarter #2: Peterson Rosa vs. Tom Whitaker
Quarter #3: Kelly Slater vs. Taj Burrow
Quarter #4: Tanio Barreto vs. Nathan Hedge

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