L’Hawaiano Andy Irons vince il titolo mondiale ASP 2002.
Andy, 24 anni, approdato alla finale con un punteggio in classifica ormai irrangiunginile, vince il titolo di campione del mondo ASP 2002, circondato dalla famiglia e dagli amici, oltreche’ dai media. Il suo avversario numero uno nel circuito, Luke Egan (Aus) cede invece ai quarti di finale del Rip Curl Pro, a Sunset Beach.
Wayne “Rabbit” Batholomew Irons, the 1998 ASP World Junior Champion, clinched his first WCT event the same year at Huntington Beach, California. He then secured another major victory two years later, again in California, but it was in 2002 the Hawaiian combined his ability with consistency. At the years second tournament, The Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, Australia, he defeated 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia (Haw) for a ratings lead he never lost. From there he won the following tournament in Tahiti, his favorite venue at the infamous break of Teahupoo during the Billabong Pro. After a series of 17th place results, he broke the pattern with a runner-up finish at the Quiksilver Pro France, before claiming another title the following WCT in Spain, at the Billabong Pro.
Coming into Hawaii the stage was already set for his seemingly inevitable crowning, though main rival Egan was never going to hand it to him freely. The Australian required a third place or higher finish at Sunset, and if achieved, the showdown would continue on into next weeks Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters. It wasn’t to be.
Despite losing his own quarterfinal match due to an interference call, Irons anxiously watched the following 35-minute decider. As the crowd grew around him and time elapsed, Egan needed a 7.7 score. Within the final 10-seconds he caught a good ride and surfed it great, but the wave didn’t offer enough and the announcers read out a 6.3. The siren sounded, cheers and screams were let loose, and Irons climbed on to the top of a truck and raised his arms. The race was over.
Moments later, after his Kauai boys had carried him to the podium to the applause of all around, he joined the stage with ASP President/CEO Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew, who coincidently won his 1978 world title the same year Irons was born. Egan then walked over to congratulate the Hawaiian who was showered in champagne, before the following was said:
“It’s really a pleasure for me to be able to give world titles away,” said Bartholomew. “Andy’s had a great year so far. He’s won three WCT events and still has Pipe to go. Please join me in congratulating the new ASP 2002 men’s world champion – Andy Irons!”
“It’s been an unreal ride and I can’t believe it.”
-2002 ASP World Champion Andy Irons “There’s a lot of emotions running through me right now,” began Irons. “It’s just been an incredible year and I never thought I’d put one together like this. It’s been an unreal ride and I can’t believe it. I just want to thank all my friends for their support, as they’re the best friends in the world. I want to thank my mom and dad for coming down… I have a lot of people to thank. All my sponsors of course, and I want to thank everyone for showing up today and my girlfriend Lisa. I’m just really thankful right now.
“Winning Bells was a dream come true in itself,” he continued. “Then Teahupoo right after that just topped off an incredible month. I’ve felt really good this year. I didn’t make the stupid mistakes I used to. I’ve gotten a little older and hopefully I’ve learned from those mistakes. I’ll probably make more mistakes, but as long as I keep learning from them, hopefully I’ll keep winning contests and living the dream.
“I’ve just got to say Luke’s always been one of my favorite surfers,” he added, of Egan. “I’m always down just to watch his heats cause I love the way he surfs. I know he’s going to win one. The guy ages and just gets sweeter every year. He’s surfing better than ever and is incredible. I really take my hat off and have a lot of respect for him.”
Irons’ father Phil, who has watched and nurtured both his famous sons’ surfing careers, made the following comment after the emotional climax was achieved.
“It was due,” began the elder Irons. “He was focused the whole way. It’s something the kid worked for since he was little. To do it here at home… I got on a flight this morning at 6am from Kauai to be here. He’s set for life now. It’s overwhelming.”
Egan, who has pushed Irons all the way, offered the following praise for the new world champion.
“He’s been the most complete surfer all year by far,” conceded Egan. “I know I was right next to him, and from what I saw he ripped at Teahupoo, he ripped in Fiji, and then when it was tiny he was also one of the best surfers and that’s what it takes to be world champ. He highly deserves what he got today.”