Irons barrels into world surfing title race
In chilly waves in Chile, Kaua'i's Andy Irons turned up the heat in his campaign for another surfing world championship.
"I didn't go anywhere," Irons said after winning the Rip Curl Pro Search contest. "I was always right there in the world title race. I just had one bad contest (in April) ... It's game on."
Irons defeated Florida's Damien Hobgood in the final of yesterday's contest for his first victory of the year. The final day of the event was completed in 3- to 4-foot waves at Arica, Chile.
Irons' two best waves received scores of 9.17 and 7.67 for a total of 16.84. Hobgood's two-wave total was 8.67.
"There weren't too many waves," Irons said. "I caught whatever came in. If anything came my way, I was going for it."
Irons led throughout the 35-minute heat, and secured the win with his 9.17 barrel ride with less than six minutes remaining.
"It was a battle," Irons said. "I was hitting the reef and getting worked, but I tried to play it smart and catch the inside waves. Damien is an amazing competitor. He has beaten me before ... so I knew I had my work cut out for me. Those inside waves paid off for me and I got that (9.17) and sealed the deal."
Hobgood said Irons "put the pressure on early. He's such a good surfer, I maybe was thinking too hard out there. I never really got anything going and he kept building. I never really had a chance."
Earlier in the day, Irons defeated Australia's Mick Fanning in the semifinals, 16.33 to 15.33. Fanning is currently ranked No. 1 on the 2007 World Championship Tour.
"We can't let Mick run away with the title yet," Irons said. "He has such a good lead and he's surfing so consistently — I don't think he's gotten worse than a third (place). I'm coming from behind, but I like it. It's less pressure on me and more pressure on them."
Irons, who received $30,000 for the victory, moved up from No. 7 to No. 3 after yesterday's results.
Irons won the world championship in 2002, '03 and '04.
The Rip Curl Pro Search was the fourth of 10 events on the 2007 tour. Fanning is ranked No. 1 with 3,984 points, Hobgood is No. 2 with 3,374, and Irons is No. 3 with 3,189.
Among other Hawai'i surfers, Bruce Irons is No. 13, Pancho Sullivan is No. 21, and Fred Patacchia Jr. is No. 23.
The next event is the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, July 11 to 22.