BILLABONG PRO TAHITI: FINAL DAY

posted by / News / May 13, 2006

Surf: 3 feet and toothless
Events Held: Men’s Quarters to the the final horn
Nature’s Call: Shoulda held me yesterday
Predicted: A whole lot celebrating homies in Santa Bruta


The party in the Teahupo’o channel started at about 8 a.m. this morning. Raimana World, the Cascade, the Chayan and about 25 other vessels, all tied up to the same anchorline, and most sporting an assortment of supermodels, ukulele-strumming, monoi-oiled lovelies and endless cases of Hinanos. It’s probably still going on right now, hours after rookie Bobby Martinez blew past the entire field of the world’s best today and made it loud and clear to his new tourmates: if they didn’t hear him already, they better hear him now. Because Bobby, like the party in Tahiti, is just getting started.

Going into this event, the layman would have looked at the young Santa Barbaran’s impressive start to the year and said, “Great, so he has a great backhand. No way he’s going to repeat that at spots like Teahupo’o and Cloudbreak.” But to those in the know, who’ve seen his supernatural tube sense in Indo and at a hollow left reef near his Santa Barbara home, they predicted he was going to surprise a lot of people. Which, of course, he did. “He has that weird, Hobgood thing going in barrels,” said Taj Burrow, who spent the day marveling on him in the channel. “Like, he’s controlling it and shaping it around him. It’s freaky.”

It was freaky. Finding 9.8s on almondy in-betweeners that somehow openened up to six-second tube odysseys. Razor-sharp roundhouses under puffs of spit. And his boxing training is paying off with a super shuffle that bends and adjusts to every warble behind the curtain. “My friend bet me {{{100}}} bucks that Bobby would win this event,” said semifinalist Kelly Slater. “I couldn’t have picked a better bet to lose.”

But before we get too caught up in Bobby gushes (maybe we already have), how about a quick rundown on the road to Martinez’s first career victory, and the first Californian WCT victory in six years.

The day started with contest director Luke Egan, staring from the channel in his red zodiac wondering what happened to the “6-foot pulse.” It was basically a smaller, weaker version of yesterday, making it more like Chop-ehhhh than Chop-oooooh. But with a bleak forecast on the horizon, he had to push the button. While past events here have been more like rock concerts – fans in the channel screaming for every set wave, this was more like a chess match. Possibly boring to the average surf fan, but fascinating if you’re into strategy, positioning, wave selection and technical, off-the-chart surfing.

You saw it the quarters, when Bruce Irons watched Slater give up priority on a bad one and leave Bruce out there with 17 minutes to find a 6 something.

The wave never came.

“As soon as he did that, I thought, ‘Heat over,’” says Bruce. “But then I just sat. Fastest 17 minutes of my life.”

You saw it in the semis, when Kelly fell on a floater, landed flat on his board and reaggravated a rib injury he incurred in the Bells final. Clearly wincing in pain with every paddle, he still put up a fight against Freddy P. Flipping around on just about everything and trying to pigdog a 6. But then, toward the end, Freddy found his 7 something and put an end to Slater’s magic 2006 run. “No mercy!” screamed Freddy as he scrambled back out to grab another one.

For Slater, the injury – likely some torn cartilage in the rib cage – will probably prevent him from surfing in Fiji. “That’ll give me five weeks to heal,” he says. “So I should be good by Mexico. Besides, if you were to tell me my first four events were two firsts, a third and a bypass, I’d take that any day.”

And, with Raimana World rocking, Fuller, Barka and Healey pumping out the full Ambassadors of Aloha vibe (“We love you, Tahiti!”), you saw it in the final. For the first 29 minutes of the full-circle duel between old NSSA sparring partners Martinez and Patacchia, Kelly called it the “worst final I’ve ever seen.” No waves, nothing higher than a 3, and all attention back in the channel, where Fuller told everyone he just wanted to win his heat so chicks would dig him.

But then, with 11 minutes remaining, it happened. Bobby sticks his arm in one, camps out for a few seconds, and gets an 8. Freddy counters with an 8 of his own while Bobby backs it up with another 8.


Bobby and Fred, back outside, two minutes to go. Bobby has priority, Fred needs a 8.1, a final wave comes in and…Bobby gives it to him. Quick chandelier tube, fins-out hack to boom! a big frontside air. The Ambassadors of Aloha go crazy. The entire channel cracks another round of Hinanos.

A long, uncomfortable silence, then: “Red, your last wave comes in at a 7.9. White, Bobby Martinez, you are the winner.”

The thick-mustached Martinez raises up both arms, heads straight to the media boat, and calls up his dad, Bob Sr., wishing him a happy birthday and telling him the big news.


Meanwhile, Freddy just hugs his friend and tells him some inside joke. “I thought I had a chance to get it,” said Freddy, referring to that last score. But you know what? It’s a tuberiding contest. And if I’m gonna lose to someone, Bobby would be my first pick.”

He’s our first pick, too. Three events in, and frontrunner Kelly’s already looking in the rearview mirror. “Bobby Martinez: world title contender,” said Slater as we did the ratings calculations during the final. “I like the sound of that.”

RESULTS
Bobby Martinez
Fred Patacchia Jr.
Taylor Knox, Kelly Slater
5. Dean Morrison, Hira Terinatoofa, Bruce Irons, Danny Fuller

RATINGS AFTER BILLABONG PRO TAHITI 1. Kelly Slater (USA) 5276
2. Bobby Martinez (USA) 2676
3. Taylor Knox (USA) 2208
4. Andy Irons (HAW) 2064
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 2042
5. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 2042
7. Damien Hobgood (USA) 1742
7. Bruce Irons (HAW) 1742
9. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 1667
10. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 1610

Note: Special thanks to the Billabong Pro Tahiti crew, Robert “Bushy” Mitchell, Chris O’Callaghan, Luke Egan and all the local families who open up their homes and hearts and make everyone feel so welcome. They’ve all kept paradise, paradise.

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