BELLS BEACH, Australia (Thursday, Apr. 12, 2007) – Taj Burrow (AUS) is elated that his name will be etched alongside the who's who of professional surfing after eliminating Andy Irons (HAW) in the 35th Annual Rip Curl Pro presented by Snickers at Bells Beach today.
"It just feels too good to be true, I'm just so happy," Burrow said. "This is my pick of any contest that I would like to win, so it just feels unbelievable. I'm so happy to get my name on the trophy with all of the other guys' that have won the event. I've put a bit more work into this year so it's good that I'm seeing some results."
Burrow came from behind to beat Irons with just two minutes left on the clock when he scored a 9.00 point ride in the dying minutes of the heat.
"I knew I had to ride it well because it was such a good wave," Burrow said. "I was trying not to think about finishing the wave and everything around me or how many people were watching and how much pressure was on me. I just rode the thing to the end. Halfway through it I knew I had the score so I just started thrashing it around a little more and trying to put more into each of my turns. I just had that feeling where I went 'Yes, I just nailed it!' in the last few seconds and it felt unbelievable."
Burrow featured in the Rip Curl Pro final in 2004, but finished runner-up to Joel Parkinson (AUS). He hasn't won a Foster's ASP World Tour victory since winning in Brazil in 2004.
"It feels unreal just to ring that thing finally," Burrow said. "Having rung the little one, the big one's a lot louder."
Burrow now sits equal 1st with Mick Fanning (AUS) on the Foster's ASP World Tour ratings with a win and a 3rd place result each. Both Australians are out to earn their maiden world titles in 2007.
"It's early days and there are a lot of hungry guys out there for it, but I'm just stoked to have such a good start to the year," Burrow said. "It's unreal, it feels like a little changing of the guards, so I'm stoked to be a part of it."
Irons, who was the Rip Curl Pro Champion in 2002 and 2003 as well as runner-up to Trent Munro (AUS) in 2005, led for much of the final, but without a solid scoreline to buffer Burrow's charge, was left defenseless and unable to answer back in the dying seconds of the heat.
"You never have it in the bag, especially in a final with a guy like Taj," Irons said. "I knew there was another set coming in, I just wasn't sure if it was a good one. There were two waves in my set but I don't think that I would have got a 9.00 on my wave. I think Taj surfed well and smart in the end so he nailed it."
The three-time world champion's Rip Curl Pro Final berth was especially important after finishing last in the first event of the year on the Gold Coast. Despite finishing second today, Irons was pleased to share the podium and Bell ringing responsibilities with Burrow.
"I'm stoked for him," Irons said. "I've got two runner-ups and two wins at Bells and that's not bad. Everyone writes you off as soon you I get a bad result so it feels good to show that I am still here and I'm not going anywhere."
Irons, who is chasing his fourth world title this year was first to acknowledge that the Australians, Burrow and Fanning in particular, are anxious to make a charge.
"They're hungry, they're really hungry," Irons said. "The last Aussie world champ was Occy in '99 so I'm sure that they are definitely going to have a big push this year. They've have always been up there, it is just a matter of putting the whole year together. There's only been two events so will see how they do when it comes to the 10th event."
Irons eliminated Fanning, who won the Rip Curl Pro as a wildcard in 2001, in the Semifinals. Fanning's Round 3 wave and heat totals were the highest of the event.
"In the bigger picture a 1st and a 3rd for the first two events of the year is pretty good – I'm pretty happy with that," Fanning said. "I really wanted to make that final and ring another Bell but Andy got that one 9.00 and sort of put me out of the picture a little bit."
Tom Whitaker (AUS), currently rated 8th in the world also earned an equal 3rd result at the Rip Curl Pro. Whitaker finished in the Top 10 on last year's Foster's ASP World Tour ratings but still manages to sneak under the radar most of the time.
"This is a great result; I really wanted to try and take the Bell home but TB was flaring," Whitaker said. "It was super close I think, I couldn't hear too much but I believe I only needed a 0.10 or 0.20. A lot of the epic waves didn't come through but there were lots of medium sized ones where we were trying to push it a bit more just to get the scores since the waves weren't awesome. Plenty of fun waves out there though, Bells always chucks up some really fun ones."
Whitaker earned his semifinal berth at the expense of eight-time world champion and defending Rip Curl Pro Champion Kelly Slater (USA) who now sits equal 4th in the ratings.
"I just need to sit down and think about where my head was at," Slater said after his loss to Whitaker. "I generally don't get that rattled in heats but I felt a little physically weak – I'm getting healthy again and I felt a little jittery. I fell on three or four different waves out there. There was one where I fell on my third turn and had I made that it could have been a different story. Tom played a good heat and he played the conditions just right."
Finishing equal 5th in the Rip Curl Pro were Slater, Royden Bryson (ZAF), Damien Hobgood (USA) and Joel Parkinson (AUS).
Teahupoo, Tahiti is the next stop on the Foster's ASP World Tour. The world's Top 45 surfers will reconvene there in early May.
Rip Curl Pro Final Results:
Final: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.83 def. Andy Irons (HAW) 14.73
Rip Curl Pro Semifinal Results; 1st advances to Final, 2nd finishes equal 3rd
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.30 def. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 15.13
Heat 2: Andy Irons (HAW) 16.90 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.17
Rip Curl Pro Quarterfinal Results; 1st advances to Semifinals, 2nd finishes equal 5th
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.07 def. Royden Bryson (ZAF) 11.40
Heat 2: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 16.33 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.34
Heat 3: Andy Irons (USA) 17.17 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.10
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.46 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.16
Rip Curl Pro Round 4 Results; 1st advances to Quarterfinals, 2nd finishes equal 9th
Heat 1: Royden Bryson (ZAF) 16.50 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.10
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.24 def. Danny Wills (AUS) 11.50
Heat 3: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 14.34 def. Leonardo Neves (BRA) 11.06
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.34 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 15.43
Heat 5: Andy Irons (HAW) 8.94 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 4.70
Heat 6: Damien Hobgood (USA) 15.07 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 11.17
Heat 7: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.87 def. Mick Campbell (AUS) 15.17
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.44 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 12.17
Foster's ASP World Tour Top 10 after Stop No. 2, the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach
1. Mick Fanning 3536 points
1. Taj Burrow 3536 points
3. Bede Durbidge 1632 points
4. Kelly Slater 1608 points
5. Joel Parkinson 1464 points
6. Michael Campbell 1332 points
6. Ben Dunn 1332 points
8. Tom Whitaker 1286 points
9. Andy Irons 1257 points
10. Bruce Irons 1200 points
10. Daniel Wills 1200 points
10. Travis Logie 1200 points