NOTES FROM THE BILLABONG PRO TAHITI: Slater picks up where he left off – again!

posted by / News / May 10, 2006

Surf: Flat to Six feet and wide open

Events Held: Men’s Round One

Nature’s Call: Don’t give up on me yet

Predicted: A three-day pit feast then hope there’s enough swell left in the tank

Pre-dawn Teahupo’o is a step back in time. The air is still. The only sounds are three-wave sets of crowing roosters every 10 to 15 seconds. The first hints of the new day slowly creep behind the mountains in the southeast. Even today, when there’s a few hundred people with Jet Skis, boats and bullhorns just amping to descend on the break as soon as conditions allow, 5:40 a.m. remains a tranquil affair. That is, until you make your way through the lagoon, around the “Danger” sign reef marker and out into the lineup – only to see the first real sets in more than a week. “We got a few west beauties on our hands this morning, boys!” says Nathan Hedge who, along with Phil MacDonald, beat everyone to the punch by 30 minutes. Boom! He flips around on a solid 5-footer, comes flying out with the spit, and confirms with another hoot. “Yooooooo!”

Just then, the sound technician in the main tower plays the opening morning ritual. “Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie where are you?!!!” bellows the loudspeaker to a bluesy guitar riff. “Yeah, Eddie! I’m waitin’ for you-hoo!” No matter the morning, it’s the same first song. I initially thought it might be a call out to the late Eddie Aikau – as if his Tahitian brothers were still here waiting for him. But Hedge corrected me: “It’s actually a mate of ours singing it,” he said. “His name’s Mark Pripick, and he died a couple of years ago. We were all mates with him, so the sound technician plays the tribute every morning. Always a good way to start the day here.”

It wasn’t a bad way to start the event, either. With exactly seven days left in the waiting period, contest director Luke Egan didn’t hesitate to jump on Teahupo’o’s first true signs of life. Yes, we watched surfers get heat totals of 2 and 3 points today. Yes, it wasn’t what you’d call “solid” Teahupo’o. But it was west and it was clean and it was sunny and the best surfers in the world finally came out of their hiding places for a day in the channel. 30 boats, 12 Jet Skis, a half dozen kayaks and one water weenie tied up to the 50-yard “buoy line” and swayed, bobbed and weaved with every pulse.

What to make of this first day of competition? Nothing too concrete yet, but we will pick a few favorites:

Bruce Irons. When he qualified for the WCT in 2004, all we could think of was the damage he’d do at Teahupo’o. That hasn’t quite happened yet, but his third tour of duty is bound to produce a big result. In the first heat of the morning, he casually sideslipped into a wide one for a nine – and didn’t even get his hair wet. If Bruce makes Pipe look easy, he makes Teahupo’o look even easier.

The Hobgood and Bobby Martinez show. If you’re wondering why rookie Bobby Martinez is already making a bid for one of the best rookie starts in years, you might want to look at his travel partners. Two of the most dialed and hard-working dudes on tour, {{{CJ}}} and Damien Hobgood, are passing on info accumulated after years of trial and error. “See that, right there, Bobby?” says Damien, pointing to Phil MacDonald as he paddled for a set, got stuck at the lip and pitched from the top. “He didn’t paddle hard enough. Even when you think you’re in it, you gotta paddle real hard here. Take control of the wave before the wave takes control of you.” Which is exactly what Bobby did. In the third heat of the day, surfing Teahupo’o only the second time in his life, he found a deep one, pumped and weaved from way back, and came flying out for an 8.67. He then found a west bowl, slotted himself and ripped into a searing roundhouse for a 7.5. Heat over for Bede Durbidge and Pedro Henrique. Two heats later, it was the master’s turn, getting his first heat time at Teahupo’o since nearly tearing off his shoulder in last year’s final. A 9, a 7 – no problem. Dam and Bobby exchanged a few inside jokes, packed their boards and headed back to “Mama’s” house for another game of 500. Watch for these two – along with brother CJ – to inside joke their way to big results here.


Joel Parkinson. Joel may have been doing a lot of fishing and mucking around at the beachbreak Papara lately, but it didn’t show in his morning heat. Some guys starved and others indulged, but Porko just stuffed himself, even finding an extra seven in his heat. His best wave, a soul arch no grab – prompted announcer Greg “{{{GT}}}” Tomlinson to wonder: “Is Gerry Lopez out there riding switchfoot?”

Kelly Slater Why is he the seven-time world champ? Because he hasn’t ridden a single wave since Bells and, a minute or two into his heat, lined up with the biggest set of the morning, free-fell into a rail-grab and emerged from the mist with an 8.67 on the board. Maybe he’ll keep this streak going and surf the entire year without a freesurf? Stranger things have happened. Andy Irons OK, so he got into a bit of a paddle battle with Manoa Drollet, got pulled over the falls with Manoa and racked up an interference in the process. Yes, he spewed a few minutes of venom, then paddled into the dry reef zone to cool off after his heat. But nobody loses in Round One and Andy’s been good-vibe yacht guy for the last week. But now Andy’s a little edgy. And we all know how he competes when he’s edgy.

Heat 1: 1. Bruce Irons (HAW) 14.50; 2. Danny Wills (AUS) 7.33; 3. Davey Weare (ZAF) 2.27
Heat 2: 1. Travis Logie (ZAF) 9.00; 2. Mikael Picon (FRA) 5.50; 3. Phil Macdonald (AUS) 5.50
Heat 3: 1. Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.17; 2. Taylor Knox (USA) 6.50; 3. Jarrad Howse (AUS) 1.00
Heat 4: 1. Bobby Martinez (USA) 16.17; 2. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 9.67; 3. Pedro Henrique (BRA) 7.83
Heat 5: 1. Damien Hobgood (USA); 2. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 2.00; 3. Yuri Sodre (BRA) 1.37
Heat 6: 1. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.00; 2. Hira Terinatoofa (PYF) 11.30; 3. Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 6.33
Heat 7: 1. Danny Fuller (HAW) 16.34; 2. Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.33; 3. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 3.67
Heat 8: 1. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.50; 2. Heiarii Williams (PYF) 2.00; 3. Paulo Moura (BRA) 0.00
Heat 9: 1. Manoa Drollet (PYF) 10.73; 2. Cory Lopez (USA) 10.07; 3. Andy Irons (HAW) 6.30
Heat 10: 1. Taj Burrow (AUS) 7.{{{57}}}; 2. Luke Stedman (AUS) 6.50; 3. Steven Pierson (PYF) 1.50
Heat 11: 1. Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 13.00; 2. Trent Munro (AUS) 11.83; 3. Roy Powers (HAW)9.60
Heat 12: 1. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 15.83; 2. Troy Brooks (AUS) 13.47; 3. Kevin Johnson (PYF) 6.50
Heat 13: 1. Chris Ward (USA) 14.50; 2. Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 9.{{{90}}}; Greg Emslie (ZAF) 7.16
Heat 14: 1. Tim Reyes (USA) 16.34; 2. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 13.16; 3. Jake Paterson (AUS) 8.90
Heat 15: 1. CJ Hobgood (USA) 16.16; 2. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 12.66; 3. Peterson Rosa (BRA) 4.00
Heat 16: 1. Mick Lowe 10 .33; 2. Victor Ribas (BRA) 10.17; 3. Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 9.83

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