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[i]Monday, 7 November, 2005
Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil

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Surfing fans all over the world were glued to their computer monitors or TV screens today watching the live broadcast of the Nova Schin Festival presented by Billabong in Brazil.

And knowing that if Andy Irons (HAW) were to lose and then finish behind Kelly Slater (USA) in the event, the 2005 Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour crown will go to Slater, it’s no doubt that all and sundry felt an anxiety rush as both surfers hit the water in their round three heats against rookie Brazilians. [/i]Throughout the previous rounds and the earlier heats of the day, the hungry locals, who revel in the smaller beach break conditions, caused many an upset and potentially could have easily derailed either or both Slater’s and Iron’s 2005 Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour title campaigns.

Both, however, lifted to win against their Brazilian rivals – Guilherme Ferriera and Heitor Alves – in the one metre (three foot) wind affected waves thus keeping the race and the anticipation alive.

Slater began his heat looking much more confident than on his previous encounter in this event. He began with a bang, busting large aerials mixed with some hooking carves in the pocket. He locked in two 8.5 scores in the first 10 minutes then went on to score a 9.0 in the very late stages to leave his opponent needing two good rides to catch up.

Slater claimed that he predicted his foe’s game plan and devised his own around it. Of those who lost throughout the day to the rookies, many waited patiently for larger waves, which didn’t arrive, and they were instantly behind the eight ball. Slater did the opposite.

“I felt pretty calm out there and I managed to predict his game plan,” said Slater. “He’s a bigger guy and I thought he would go for the bigger waves as he looked like he was struggling in the smaller waves the other day. I just wanted to get a start on him and luckily I got two 8.5s early and a 9.0 towards the end.”

Slater, like everyone in the event, acknowledged just how dangerous the rookies are due to the home “field” advantage plus the fact that there are 14 who progressed through to round three. He revealed that his guard must be up at all times.

“They [the rookies] don’t have a lot of pressure on them as they have nothing to lose. You always have to be conscious of that,” he said. “You have to put them on the back foot from the start. I don’t know of any time where a country has had 14 guys in this round – that’s almost half of the guys left in the event and they’re tough to beat, especially the goofy footers. I don’t expect Andy to lose today so I certainly can’t afford to let my guard down. I want to win this event regardless of whether Andy gets knocked out today or tomorrow. I just have to focus on that.”

Irons, meanwhile, indicated that he didn’t feel himself in his heat but from a spectator’s point of view he appeared to be on fire. While he didn’t get going till the halfway mark in the heat his radical snaps were well appreciated by the judges.

Irons also felt pressured as he couldn’t hear the scores and had a nervous finish after he witnessed Alves score a 9.0 on his last wave before the final bell. Not realising Alves needed two good rides to beat him Irons was jubilant when he learnt the result.

“In the first second Alves threw the tail on what I thought was a great ride,” said Irons. “Alves is on a roll right now as he had a good result last week in the WQS event here. I was pretty lost out there. We couldn’t hear a thing and I didn’t know how I was going. I thought it was much closer than what it was. I’m just happy that I won. The local guys are so hungry and the crowd’s behind them, they are so hard to beat.”

Irons also conceded that he may have made the wrong equipment choice, which had him somewhat confused in his tactical plan.

“It was really tough out there,” he said. “It was more like England out there than Brazil. I was trying to ride in the pocket but had trouble getting speed. I also think I made the wrong board choice and was in two minds as to whether or not to paddle in to get my other board. Tomorrow I’ll go back on to my old faithful board.”

Meanwhile, in earlier heats, South Africa’s Travis Logie demolished his opposition in Marcelo Nunes (BRA). The heat, one of the standouts of the event, saw both Logie and Nunes pick off some of the larger waves of the day with both landing some solid aerial manoeuvres. Logie though, had to fend of Nunes all the way.

“I had a really good score halfway through the heat and then he needed a 9.0,” said Logie. “He managed to lock away some good scores to catch up a bit but I then scored a really good one and put him out of reach. It’s actually very similar to the waves I get at home in Durban and it seemed to pulse during my heat so there were plenty of waves.”

Logie is in dire need of a big result in this event so he can requalify for the 2006 Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour, but his next challenge will be one of his toughest ever as he will come up against Slater in round four.

“It’s a good result for me already because it helps me jump up the ladder to requalify for next year,” said Logie. “But I’m surfing against Slater next so it’s going to be difficult to go further. I’m really looking forward to surfing against him as I’ve never surfed against him in man on man before. I’m so amped. I’m certainly hoping that he wins the title but I’m putting myself first out there [laughs]. I have to qualify! I’m not going to give him an inch.”

Showing why he is labelled as one of, if not the fastest surfer in the world, Australian Mick Fanning, despite him not being in the running for title race, indicated that he is still eager to rack up another event win to add to the two he has already bagged this year.

“It wasn’t too great in my heat. The rip was breaking up the waves and it deteriorated. I wasn’t too worried about surfing against the rookie. I’m like those guys now in that I’m not in the title race and have nothing to lose. I’m just going to surf my best and have a great time doing it. With those waves out there you just have to take off and see what happens. It’s hard to tell between good ones and bad ones.”

Results round three:

Heat 1: CJ Hobgood (USA) 12.00 def Diego Rosa (BRA) 8.17
Heat 2: Kirk Flintoff (AUS) 12.00 def Paulo Moura (BRA) 8.90
Heat 3: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 14.34 def Richard Lovett (AUS) 13.17
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.80 def Odirlei Coutinho (BRA) 11.46
Heat 5: Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.50 def Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.87
Heat 6: Cory Lopez (USA) 15.07 def Tom Curren (AUS) 11.60
Heat 7: Travis Logie (ZAF) 14.83 def Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 12.83
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.50 def Guilherme Ferreira (BRA) 8.44
Heat 9: Andy Irons (HAW) 15.34 def Heitor Alves (BRA) 14.00
Heat 10: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 16.33 def Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 10.43

Organisers will convene at first light tomorrow and will look to restart round three at 7am. The event, conditions pending, could potentially finish tomorrow evening local time (Tuesday, 8 November).

The remaining round three heats include:

Heat 11: Nathan Hedge (AUS) vs Pedro Henrique (BRA)
Heat 12: Jake Paterson (AUS) vs Guilherme Herdy (BRA)
Heat 13: Phil MacDonald (AUS) vs Flavio Costa (BRA)
Heat 14: Victor Ribas (BRA) vs Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 15: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs Yuri Sodre (BRA)
Heat 16: Fred Patacchia (HAW) vs Renan Rocha (BRA)

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