World Title Showdown at Sunset Beach

Special to the Oahu Island News

This year’s ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) climax is nearing, as the Rip Curl Cup will very likely host the crowning of the 2002 world champion. The penultimate event, now in its 28th consecutive season, will showcase the world’s top 45 surfers, last year’s defending champion, as well as two other wildcards selected from the 32-man Rip Curl Cup Trials. The waiting period for the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset runs through December 7th and needs only four day to complete the competition.

Current ratings leader Andy Irons (Hawaii) commands a well-earned advantage going into the Rip Curl Cup, with a thousand points separating him from the nearest three Australian rivals still holding a mathematical chance of the crown. A victory or runner-up finish at Sunset would guarantee the Hawaiian’s maiden world title, though in reality the pressure is really on his opponents. Unless at least one of them reaches the four-man final and places highly in the Rip Curl Cup, there is no chance anyone can surpass Irons during the season ending Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters.

Irons, 24, won back-to-back victories at Bells Beach Australia and then Tahiti to take an early lead on the 2002 circuit. Current ratings #2 Luke Egan zoomed into contention at Trestles (USA), with a convincing WCT win in California backing up his 2nd placing to Irons in Tahiti. The Hawaiian then broke the 17th place hoodoo on the European leg, securing a runner-up finish in France, before taking out the following WCT in Spain for his envious position far in front.

Egan, 33, remains Australia’s best hope at the world title, but will require huge results at both Sunset and Pipeline to break Irons’ steely grip on the crown.

Equally crucial during the Rip Curl Cup and Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters will be the race to re-qualify in the WCT, with the top 27 final place getters ensuring their position among the elite ranks, while the top 15 (excluding ‘double’ qualifiers) on the
WQS join the field for 2003.

Defending Rip Curl Cup and Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion Myles Padaca (Hawaii) will again be a major threat during Sunset.

The format for the Rip Curl Cup, as well as the year’s final tournament, the Xbox Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters, has recently changed due to permit restrictions. Four man heats will now be held each round, including the finals, though a second ‘losers’ round will still be in place. Jet skis will not be used to help assist surfers back into the lineup following their rides.

For daily updates, status and other information check online at www.asp or call the Rip Curl Cup hotline at 638-5024.