NOTES FROM THE BILLABONG PRO TAHITI: DAY NINE

posted by / News / May 12, 2006

Surf: 3 to 5 feet and begging you to stay in there longer
Events Held: Men’s Round Three, Round Four Heats 1-6
Nature’s Call: Keep squeezing me – there’s still a little juice left
Predicted: A technical tube duel to the finish

One of the most prominent boats you’ll notice in the channel during the Billabong Pro Tahiti is Raimana {{{Van}}} Bastolaer’s craft. About 25 feet long with a crow’s nest and a bow emblazoned with Red Bull logos, its name couldn’t be more appropriate: “Raimana World.”


Because for most of the operating hours during this pivotal day at Teahupo’o, everyone’s favorite Tahitian ambassador stood watch in his crow’s nest, calling out sets for his friends and having a near perfect success ratio in the process. Only one problem: two of Raimana’s good friends happen to be Kelly Slater and Andy Irons. It was easy when he directed tube-threaders like Fred Patacchia and Bobby Martinez through their heats. But when it came to the two Titans, Raimana World eventually had to become Slater World or Irons World – and it couldn’t be both.

So, all day long we waited to see which way the momentum would permanently shift. Kelly squeaks through a scorcher with 19-year-old Hearii Williams in Round Three; Andy puts the lockdown on Manoa Drollet in Round Three and says, “Payback’s a bitch.” Kelly talks about yesterday’s dive adventure in the Tuamotus, where he swam through a “wall of sharks.” Andy recounts his afternoon session up the coast at a spot that was “kind of like Sunset.” Kelly plays “Limbo” on ukulele with a harem of Haumana beauties; Andy has motivational speaker Dustin Barca and wildcard Danny Fuller aboard, cracking Hinanos, smoking cigs, beating top seeds like Taj Burrow and “spreading the aloha vibe worldwide.”

It was still a complete toss-up until late in the afternoon, when contest director Luke Egan plowed ahead with Round Four. First up: Kelly, who switched his tuberiding hat to backside shred hat and easily dusted Danny Wills in onshore, crumbly runners. Then it was Andy’s turn against the dude who beat him here last year, Dean Morrison. But as soon as you felt the wind switch back to offshore, watched Andy drop in on the first sizeable set in a couple hours and kick-stall forward grab in the tube for a solid 7, you knew this heat was destined to be his. Even when Morrison found a long, open pigdogger for an 8.5. Even when – with 30 seconds to go – Morrison stretched into yet another drainer – you saw an even bigger one rearing up behind it with Andy in position and Raimana screaming from the crow’s nest: “Thees one Anday, Thees one! Go! Go!”

Sketchy drop, equally sketchy foamball dance for a few seconds then, when he knew he would be breaking free, Irons rose, came flying out with a sawed-off shotgun salute and blew holes into everyone and everything in firing range. He got the instant hugs and congratulations, but then Kai Garcia reminded him: “It’s not over – wait til the scores, wait til the scores.”

“Dean Morrison, your last wave comes in at an 8.27. Andy Irons: your last wave comes in at a 9.5.”

More cheers for Andy, backslaps, then…what did they just say? “White, Dean Morrison, you are the winner.”

Noooo! Turns out Andy needed a 9.6 to beat him. The expression of victory instantly erased off Andy’s face, he shook Dingo’s hand and rode off on a rescue sled, head buried. At that moment, Raimana World officially became Slater World.

It’s too bad, because both Slater and Irons were just starting to find their true form. After Andy’s chaotic start, he was finally starting to feel that competitive mojo that makes him unbeatable. Not to take anything away from Dingo’s heroic steal, but Andy’s last wave should have given him the heat. It was called from the crow’s nest and written in the stars.

But math has a funny way of changing fate in surf contests sometimes – hopefully Andy doesn’t walk the plank over it.

At the same time, Kelly shouldn’t start celebrating his third straight victory just yet. There’s no reason why Slater World can’t shift to Bruce Irons Country (his quarterfinal heat tomorrow) or Freddy P Land or the House of Hira in the span of a two-wave set. Bruce today was so seamless you almost didn’t notice him, out pigdogging Chris Ward and then Timmy Reyes as if he were half asleep. Local hero Hira Terinatoofa did some more damage today, starving Joel Parkinson in Round Three and outgunning Cory Lopez in Round Four.

And Freddy? The Haleiwa kid literally kicked and screamed himself out of a tube when he thought he was being “lowballed” against Damien Hobgood. That one got him a 9.7 and, as Barca yelled, “Just breathe, Freddy!” from the channel, he followed up with perhaps the deepest tube of the day for a 9.9 and the lead. Now, that’s what you call anger management.


On the other side of the draw, Bobby Martinez looks unbeatable but has equally invincible {{{CJ}}} Hobgood in the last heat of Round Four. Taylor Knox surfed his best heat in years against Mick Lowe tonight and Danny Fuller continues to freak people out with his aloha vibe and his 6’1” quad.

Who’s world is it going to be tomorrow? Stay tuned, ’cause this land’s still up for grabs.

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