An actual victory dance. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane
The final day of the Billabong Pro Tahiti behaved a whole lot like a shy kid who casually — and out of the blue — says the funniest thing you’ve ever heard. It was mostly quiet, but we saw outbursts of awesome. And by the time the quarterfinals were born, all eight of the remaining surfers had a worthy shot at supremacy. It became a matter of whom that fanatical spaz of a sea would invite to his birthday party.
It was going to take a miracle to beat John John Florence. He’s won the hearts of everyone from teenyboppers in Missouri to Mark Occhilupo, and he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to win Teahupo’o. JJF sewed himself a perfect 10 (Occy called it a 15) in his quarterfinal heat against Ace Buchan, but Ace reacted with two high 9s and that was literally the end of the road for John. And a miracle for Ace.
In his post-heat interview, Ace was very composed and confident. He claimed to have found his rhythm and went on to beat Mick Fanning in the semifinals. Meanwhile, Kelly Slater was nonchalantly sending dudes packing on the other side of the draw. He’d comboed Freddy P. in the quarters and gave Kai Otton the same treatment in the semis. He did not, however, claim to have found his rhythm. The final would be many things, but it would not be a drum circle.
In that last heat of the event, Ace opened up to the tune of a 9.67. And for once, Kelly Slater was unlucky. Ace happened into the best waves of the final and surfed them perfectly while Kelly made gold out of the scraps. Midway through the heat, Ace had priority and paddled for a wave Slater was going for. Slates then backed off, and Ace decided not go some seconds later. By ASP rules, priority should have gone to Kelly. It did not. He disliked the taste of misfortune as he splashed water and raised his arms at the judges. Ace got another 9. Kelly had a jog at it towards the end of the heat, but it was not enough. Ace strutted off with his second ever World Tour win and an eight-man leapfrog to 10th place in the ratings. And as unpleasant as that bizarre bout with bad luck was, Kelly now sits leisurely in 1st. Mark Occhilupo won best commentator ever and everyone else got very barreled. —Brendan Buckley