Pictured: Andy Irons (HAW), 32, past three-time ASP World Champion, collected his 20th elite tour victory today, besting C.J. Hobgood (USA), 31, to claim the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Credit: © ASP / ROBERTSON
TEAHUPOO, Taiarapu/Tahiti (Friday, September 3, 2010) - Andy Irons (HAW), 32, past three-time ASP World Champion, has won the Billabong Pro Tahiti, besting C.J. Hobgood (USA), 31, in an explosive Final clash in three-to-four foot (1.5 metre) waves at Teahupoo.
The fifth stop on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Tahiti culminated in climactic fashion today, on the final day of the waiting period.
The emphatic victory marks Irons' 20th at the elite level of competition, and the Hawaiian was emotional when regarding his first win in over three years (won Rip Curl Pro Search Chile 2007).
"I did it!" Irons exclaimed. "I surf because I have to put my jersey on some time. I took a lot of losses, but I put in the hard work too. I dedicate this win 100% to my wife, Lindy, she is everything to me and without her, I'd be nothing. I really, really like competing because I love to win and I feel on top of the world today. I surf because I love to win. I love this feeling."
Irons, who bested reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS), 29, lethal rookie Patrick Gudauskas (USA), 24, and past nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 38, en route to the Final, opened up with a massive, freefall wipeout before utilizing his unparalleled backhand tube-riding skills to net a 14.67 out of a possible 20 and collect the win.
"He (Hobgood) paddled me inside and caught the first wave," Irons said. "The next wave was better and I just fell out of the sky. I thought my board was going to break. It has two buckles on it already. I just went after it out there. C.J. is so dangerous here. I knew he would be getting tens or twos, and I was lucky it was twos today."
With today's victory, Irons moves from No. 18 to No. 7 on the ASP World Title Race rankings, a monumental feat that sees the powerful Hawaiian well inside the ASP Top 10.
"I feel like I'm back," Irons said. "I have to thank ASP for giving me the wildcard back here. My whole dream was to come back and just win one contest, and I've done that now. I want more. And to win at Teahupoo, it's my favourite wave in the world. It's a very special win."
Hobgood, one of the premiere tuberiders in the world, was unable to find his way out of multiple barrels in the Final bout against Irons and was reflective in terms Runner-Up finish in Tahiti.
"I had good waves that I could have got the score on and I tried a little harder than I had to," Hobgood said. "My highest score was only an 8 through every heat leading up to this one and I hadn't had a breakout performance. No one to blame but myself. I'm stoked all the same though. After the heat, I told Andy 'there's a lot of people pulling for you, including myself.' It's emotional and you take what you can from it."
Today's finish at the Billabong Pro Tahiti vaults the past ASP World Champion (2001) from No. 22 to No. 15 in the hunt for the 2010 ASP World Title heading into the next tour stop in Southern California.
"I've been in four finals out here and I don't remember the years I got second," Hobgood said. "Still, it's a huge result for me, and I had the opportunity out there. I finally got the monkey off my back this season and I hope I can build on this moving forward."
Jeremy Flores (FRA), 22, posted the best result of his young career, finishing Equal 3rd at the Billabong Pro Tahiti before going down to Hobgood in the Semifinals. The result jumps the young natural-footer from 24th to 19th on the ASP World Title Race rankings, an excellent position heading into Lower Trestles and home to Europe.
"I had priority the last five minutes and a set came that was my chance, but it wasn't the wave I needed," Flores said. "The barrel was really small inside. C.J. (Hobgood) is an excellent surfer and he's very smart. He surfed a smart heat. Still though, it's great for me, and I'm excited for the next event."
Kelly Slater (USA), 38, past nine-time ASP World Champion, looked the form surfer of the day, scoring the event's first and only Perfect 10 in the Quarterfinals for an incredible freefall layback barrel.
"It's been a while (since getting a 10)," Slater said. "That was probably the best wave of the day. I looked at the first one, and I was surprised Ace (Adrian Buchan) went on the first one. The second one usually sucks out more and is more hollow. I was a little bit far back when I was paddling, and when I turned around to go, the wind was pushing me back. So I really had to overcompensate once I got to the bottom and finally set my edge. It was a good one though."
Despite the Semifinal loss to Irons, Slater moves from 3rd to 2nd on the ASP World Title Race rankings, a mere 250 points behind frontrunner Jordy Smith (ZAF), 22.
"I'm up there pretty close," Slater said. "Going all the way to J-Bay and getting 17th makes me wish I had stayed home. You lose confidence and waste time on planes. That's the way it goes - you have good events and bad events. This one has been pretty good though. The waves haven't been good, but we've seen a lot of cool things. We've seen the young guys really step up and we've seen Andy (Irons) come back and put one together."
Highlights from the Billabong Pro Tahiti will be available via http://www.billabongpro.com/tahiti10/
The next stop on the 2010 ASP World Tour will be the Hurley Pro Trestles in Southern California from September 12 - 18, 2010.
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
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1 - Andy Irons (HAW) 14.67
2 - C.J. Hobgood (USA) 8.33
SF 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.00 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.93
SF 2: Andy Irons (HAW) 13.57 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.26
QF 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.53 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 6.23
QF 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.80 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.33
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.67 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.77
QF 4: Andy Irons (HAW) 16.44 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 11.00
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.50 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 9.67
Heat 2: Tiago Pires (PRT) 14.83 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.83
Heat 3: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 10.00 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 1.10
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.00 def. Manoa Drollet (PYF) 5.37
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.70 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 8.43
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.67 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 8.83
Heat 7: Andy Irons (HAW) 14.17 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.07
Heat 8: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 17.00 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.66
1 - Jordy Smith (ZAF) 30,250 pts
2 - Kelly Slater (USA) 30,000 pts
3 - Taj Burrow (AUS) 25,250 pts
4 - Dane Reynolds (USA) 23,750 pts
5 - Adriano de Souza (BRA) 23,250 pts