2005 Quiksilver Pro France Final Report: Andy Irons Wins!

SURF: Offshore barrels in the morning turning to chunky, bouncy peaks in the afternoon.
EVENTS HELD: Round 4 to Finals
NATURE'S CALL: Hype machine goes loco in Brazil
PREDICTED: Never count out AI. Never.

After Wednesday afternoon's "fire drill/dress rehearsal" drama, nearly everyone at the Quiksilver Pro France expected today to be a coronation for Kelly Slater, everyone except Slates himself.

"I never really got my form going here," he said after getting combo-ed by Damien Hobgood in the Quarterfinals. "I never dominated a heat."

Domination. That's what we're used to from Kelly after seeing his otherworldly ripping in Tahiti, Fiji, South Africa, Japan and Trestles this year. But apart from a vignette belle after the close of Round 1 last Friday where he had, in his words, "My best session ever in France," the feeling just wasn't quite there.

Back from the brink – 3 time world champ Andy Irons
Andy Irons, on the other hand, was feeling it today. Big time. He's got his back square against the wall, but you know what, it's almost as if he likes it that way. As he changed into his wetsuit for his showdown heat against Bruce he was chatty and downright chipper.

Andy knows that if he wants to win a world title he basically cannot lose another heat this year. That's it – no mistakes, no retreat and no surrender. He served notice that today was an ON day in his Round 4 heat against Occy. The Occster was doing the full Raging Bull thing – pulling into big barrels and punctuating them with trademark butt drag cutties on the open face, but was never in the heat. That's because AI was busy going ballistic – pulling into an endless backhand tube and throwing down the turn of the event – a giant beyond vert backside hack over an ultra critical 10 foot face. Kelly, meanwhile, managed to get past Brazilian Paulo Moura but his total heat score was tellingly 4.73 points lower than Andy's. The quarters were then moved back up the beach to La Graviere where conditions looked promising at first but turned out to be hit or miss. The strategy there proved to be: find a couple solid waves early and then enjoy watching your opponent get nothing for the rest of the heat. That's what Damien did to Kelly. He got pitted on two waves at the start and sent Slates scrambling. Kelly gamely tried to fight his way back, but could never find rhythm with the inconsistent sets. Afterward, in the competitors area, he said, "I did everything wrong in that heat."

Damien Hobgood played the part of giant-killer
It was as if a giant balloon had been popped – the oxygen just disappeared. Everyone in the competitors' area was silent. The stage had been so perfectly set – the sun was shining, the champagne was on ice, the World Title trophy was ready and waiting in the ASP office and now…this. Nobody knew quite what to do, say, or even think. Kelly was quiet, understandably bummed. He didn't even realize that if Bruce would now beat Andy, he would still clinch the title. A set came in right at the horn before anyone knew which brother was wearing which jersey. Red took off, pulled in and came out of the longest tube of the entire event, and Kelly's legion of supporters started cheering – thinking it was Bruce on the wave. Then yellow got one right after that wasn't as deep and the hoots got louder – because it seemed that Bruce had gotten the better of the exchange. But then the scoring monitor lit up and, as a row of 10's flashed across the board, everyone realized that Andy was wearing red not Bruce. The ten was Andy's. It hindsight it was actually pretty funny. After crazy beginning, though, the heat was pretty much a dud with Andy getting a couple decent waves and Bruce getting skunked.Andy's already devastating form just got more lethal in his semi against Taj and, predictably, went even higher in the finals against Damien "The Kelly Killer" – Hobgood. AI had Damien nailed within 10 minutes."Hold off on popping the champagne," Andy said after it was over. "From now on I'm just gonna knuckle down and power it." The situation now: Andy has to make Quarters in Brazil – then has to place better than Kelly to stay alive. It's a tall order, but with the odds stacked against him, so was winning this event. On to Florianopolis. Title watch continues… HOW IT ALL BREAKS DOWN
(World title possibilities directly from the ASP’s Renato Hickel)With Andy’s win in France, these are the possibilities for the {{{Nova}}} Schin Brasil 2005:

* – If Andy finishes 5th, then Kelly clinches the title even with a 33rd.
* – With a 3rd place for Andy, Kelly needs a 5th or better.
* – With a 2nd place for Andy, Kelly needs a 3rd or better.
* – If both made into the final, Andy needs to win to keep his chances open for Hawaii, and Kelly will need to win to clinch the title in Brasil.

As Andy said, “Put that champagne on ice for a little longer, Kelly!”
(1st place advances to Finals; 2nd finishes =3rd)Heat # 1: Damien Hobgood def. Victor Ribas
Heat # 2: Andy Irons def. Taj BurrowQUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
(1st place advances to Semifinals; 2nd finishes =5th)Heat # 1: Victor Ribas def, Phil MacDonald
Heat # 2: Damien Hobgood def. Kelly Slater
Heat # 3: Andy Irons def. Bruce Irons
Heat # 4: Taj Burrow def. Nathan HedgeROUND 4 RESULTS:
(1st place advances to Quarters; 2nd finishes =9th)Heat # 1: Victor Ribas def. Dane Reynolds
Heat # 2: Phil MacDonald def. Luke Egan
Heat # 3: Damien Hobgood def. Luke Stedman
Heat # 4: Kelly Slater def. Paulo Moura
Heat # 5: Andy Irons def. Mark Occhilupo
Heat # 6: Bruce Irons def. Cory Lopez
Heat # 7: Taj Burrow def. Peterson Rosa
Heat # 8: Nathan Hedge def. Jake Paterson