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Saturday, December 4, 2004



[ SURFING ]


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CAROL CUNNINGHAM / CUNNINGHAM PHOTOS
Andy Irons found some shade in the final round of the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing yesterday at Sunset Beach.


Irons completes his
crown at Sunset

An O’Neill World Cup title gives
the Kauai surfer wins in each of
the Triple Crown events

It was the last jewel Andy Irons was missing from his crown, so it figured that he wanted it badly.

And the current three-time world champion from Hanalei, Kauai, seized it yesterday, winning the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach for the first time.

The World Cup represented the second jewel of the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing in Hawaii, and it had been the only event of the three in the series that Irons hadn't won before.

"Oh, I was 'fiending' for," a win at this event, said the 26-year-old Irons, who also earned $15,000 with the result. He placed second at the World Cup just last year.

"To have a win in each one is very special. It would be awesome to do it all in one year, but I'll take whatever I can get -- it's a big accomplishment."

Irons added this World Cup title to the Hawaiian Pro win he scored in 2001 and the Pipeline Masters titles he earned in 2002-03, to become only the second surfer to win all three Triple Crown events over a career since the series started in 1983. (Australia's Gary Elkerton is the other, but no one has won all three in a single year.)

He's also the two-time defending Triple Crown champion -- a distinction that goes to the best overall performer in all three events -- and has now shot himself back into contention for the award again this year after suffering an early-round loss in the Hawaiian Pro almost two weeks ago.

Australia's Phillip MacDonald leads in the series standings with 1,764 points, with record five-time Triple Crown winner Sunny Garcia (1,632) of Hawaii in second after winning the Hawaiian Pro but losing in his fifth-round heat early yesterday. Irons remains in contention with 1,488.

"I'm glad to have a good showing, to come to Hawaii at the end of the year and do well," Irons said. Even with already having locked up a third straight world title this year, "by no means am I going to kick back until next year."


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ASSOCIATED PRESS
Kauai's Andy Irons, left, celebrated his victory yesterday alongside second-place finisher Mark Occhilupo, Hawaii's Frederick Patacchia (third) and Joel Parkinson (fourth).


The World Cup started with 144 surfers. On the last of four days of competition yesterday, wave faces ranged from 6 to 10 feet.

Irons' top two waves in the 35-minute, four-man final scored 16.17 points (out of 20 maximum). Australia's Mark Occhilupo, the 1999 world champ, finished in second place with 13.80. Haleiwa's Fred Patacchia Jr. (12.87) took third, and current world No. 2 and 2002 World Cup winner Joel Parkinson (10.50) of Australia fourth.

At the primarily right-breaking Sunset, Irons' top ride amazingly came on a left at the midpoint of the heat, on which he disappeared into the barrel for several seconds before re-emerging and receiving an 8.67. A 7.50 he notched about a minute later on a right provided his final tally.

"This was less-than-perfect Sunset; I got scores on lefts here, which is not what you usually do," Irons said. "But I saw Fred get some good (lefts) in the (semifinal) heat before. I think (the judges) thought I was a little deeper than I was, but I'll take it and run with it."

While there's still the Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters (waiting period Dec. 8-20) left to go in the Triple Crown and World Championship Tour, the World Cup also represented the season-ender for the World Qualifying Series, an international tour that surfers use to qualify for the elite WCT.

Brazil's Neco Padaratz won the WQS for the second straight year, but with his strong result yesterday, Patacchia was another -- and the only from Hawaii -- who ensured his qualification to the 2005 WCT.

"The pressure is just so lifted off me," said the 22-year-old Patacchia, who has been trying to qualify for the past four years and did so for the first time. Knowing qualification was certain "after making the quarters, I felt a lot better, more comfortable, and I think that's why I made the finals."

Also among those qualifying for next year's WCT was California's Tim Reyes, also 22, who posted the highest heat score (18.07) of the World Cup in the quarterfinals before going down in the semis, and was also awarded the Triple Crown Rookie of the Year award.

"Just a lot of hard work, and it paid off at the end of the year. And I'm really psyched for next year," Reyes said.



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