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Andy Irons stirring things up at World Tour surfing contest in Tahiti

May 12, 2009 |  9:05 am

Andy Irons in action at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo in Tahiti. 

The top storyline at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo in Tahiti is whether Kelly Slater will bounce back after a surprisingly slow start on the ASP World Tour. The nine-time world surfing champion, after two contests, is ranked No. 24 in the world and will need a stronger finish at Teahupoo to enhance his chances of claiming a tenth title and retiring on a round number.

But also in the Teahupoo lineup is Andy Irons, who is on a yearlong sabbatical but plans to compete in four of 10 World Tour contests this year. The three-time world champion, who had clearly become burned out in the years after winning his last title in 2004 (Slater knows the feeling), is showing flashes of his former brilliance on the barreling left-handers at Teahupoo.

The Kauai surfer (pictured) trounced Brazil's Jihad Khodr in the first round and faces Australia's Bede Durbidge in the next round. As with Slater, any heat featuring Irons is worth watching. Competition may resume later today (Wednesday morning in Tahiti.) Meanwhile, below is an ASP video featuring first-round highlights:

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Andy Irons in action at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo in Tahiti. Credit: Kirstin Scholtz/ASP for Getty Images