2005 BILLABONG PRO TAHITI: ROUND THREE COMPLETE

posted by / News / May 16, 2005

ITS RAINING TENS AT THE BILLABONG PRO TAHITI


Teahupo’o has again lived up to its awesome reputation as the wave of waves, the fearsome reef combining with ever increasing deep ocean swells to give us another unforgettable day in the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Against all adversity, with everything from power failures to torrential downpours thrown into the mix, we witnessed a stunning day of surfing here at Teahupoo as the third round of the prime Billabong event was completed in picture perfect 4-10’ waves in weather conditions that were eons from perfect.

It rained so much here this afternoon that you could been excused for bursting into song, for you may as well have been standing under the shower. The screaming we’re referring to was the regular commotion that came not just from the drenched spectators in the channel, or the hoarse commentators, but from the Foster’s Men’s World Tour surfers themselves as they hurtled from barrel after unbelievable barrel. Man, what an experience for all!

As the weather worsened all day, and the contest machine continued on against the odds, the waves just got better and better, and the surfers got deeper and deeper. The judges awarded four perfect 10-point rides, the stars being Cory Lopez (USA), Kalani Robb (HAW), Paulo Moura (BRZ), and Tom Whitaker AUS). Now there is an indication of the talent spread right across our surfing world! There were also eighteen of nine-plus rides scored today.

Even more exciting was the number of last minute exchanges as surfers risked life and limb chasing points on the whimsical beat of the ocean swells. In these kinds of conditions, the surfers’ fortunes can be switched in the milli-seconds it takes a wave to pitch.

A surfer leading by something as high as nine points is still not safe because at any moment his opponent could reap a perfect ten. It was suspenseful competitive stuff all day long

We started out this morning at 8.19am after a radically severe change in the weather caused logistical and climatic chaos and a delay to the hoped kick-off time of 8.00am. It was amazing that organisers managed to get the show on the road at all.

After tranquil but still treacherous 6-8’ conditions in the early free-surf session, blustery onshore winds rose to chop the lineup to shreds just after 7am, and brought turmoil to the Billabong tower on the reef as torrential showers pelted in horizontally over computer, public address and webcast technical equipment.


After battening down the proverbial hatches and getting heat one rolling, we were first up treated to the typical mastery of Kelly Slater (USA) as he comfortably scooted by Oxnard’s Tim Curran (USA), the six-times world champion somehow managing a high 9+ barrel in completely messed up conditions.

ASP Tour Manager Renato Hickel commented after the competition today that only Slater could have done what he did on that conservatively assessed nine pointer, and that, but for it being the third wave of the day ridden, it would have been awarded a ten. Judges have to be traditionally cautious early in the day as they establish appraisal parameters.

“Slater took off under a storm tossed eight foot slab and somehow found a barrel that he ran through like nobody else could have. It was incredible!” testified Hickel.

Next came San Clemente’s Chris Ward (USA), pitched against rising legend Bruce Irons (HAW), the pair opting to ride short boards, so messy were the waves. Ward revealed yesterday that he was restricted by a sprained ankle, but you wouldn’t have thought so today as the unpredictable natural footer threw his board around with class and commitment today, albeit without length of ride. It wasn’t enough, and ‘Bruce brilliance’ shone.

By mid-morning, the wind had dropped and was swinging. For the balance of the day it span the compass, but for the most part it was favourable, persistently ESE, which is mostly offshore in its aspect, during the later afternoon. The wind was combining with the waves to offer the most potential to the Foster’s freaks.

You’ll see in the results (below) that the Carlsbad Carver Taylor Knox (USA) lost his heat three to Cory Lopez. Taylor Knox is a ‘ten’ surfer, but he and heats don’t mix. He scored a 9.8 against Cory today, but still lost. He got a 9.6 in round one at Woolamai (Philip Island, ex Bells), and still lost, then a 9.0 in round two, and lost again. Something has to change there.

On the other hand, Cory Lopez doesn’t appear to need to change too much at all, as far as competitive formulas go. He finally got his first WCT ten point ride today. It would be considered a comical calamity by all that have witnessed his surfing, in small and big stuff, that the nine year long WCT spirit should take such a lengthy time to score his first top shelf ten. He was finally rewarded today.

“You’ve got to fight and hang on in the guts of those waves. I was hoping for the best, I kind of almost wrote myself off at first, because I was paddling so deep and eating it. That’s what I thought when I got to the bottom of that wave (the 10 pointer).”

“I pumped high, and kept hoping for it, and I could feel it breathing on me, and the whitewash started hitting my board a little bit, but the wave was a good wave, and it let me come out!”

There’s greatness in that skinny square-shouldered frame of a man. Whether it’s fishing, or charging any wave, the lad just goes. Last week he jumped out of a boat into the water, and dove 15ft down, wearing a full south-wester, to wrestle a harpooned 50lb+ Mahi Mahi to the surface because the line to the spear broke in the battle between big man and big fish.

Look at the portrait of him in the surfer’s profiles section on the ASP web site www.aspworldtour.com . Look at those eyes, and the determination they categorically state. Why hasn’t Cory Lopez got an ‘official’ ten before?

“I guess it’s because I pulled in too deep, too often,” smiled Lopez back on a boat after his win over Taylor Knox.

The second perfect ten of the day – the official tens (there were many unofficial ones), was from Kalani Robb (HAW) in his heat against Mark Occhilupo (AUS) in heat 12, the elder charging like a grommet, but the 28 year old grommet Hawaiian ruling in the end with majestic runs whilst Occhilupo failed to find the open specimens.

There were three virgin tens out of four in round three this strange but awesome day. The journalists who dared to ask Kalani Robb (HAW) if what we saw today, a ridiculously deep run on a dark evil wave, was his first 10, didn’t do themselves any favours, though Robb humoured them. He was asked the question more than once.


“Of course I’ve had 10’s before!” said K-Robb later, after agreeing with the rest of the journalists that it was his first ten, too nonchalant to detail that it wasn’t. For the record, he’s had multiple tens, including in Hawaii, Reunion and G-land in Java.

Point is, Robb is such a good surfer, regularly a deserving member of the top 16, but if he could surf more consistently to the standards he is capable of, the journalists might remember more readily. It’s been a long time between 10’s.

The virgins, besides Lopez, were Tom Whitaker (AUS) and Brazilian Paulo Moura. It was a day of Brazilian celebration as Moura racked up a 9.4 opener then crowned it with a 10 against a surfer he respects so much in Mick Fanning. The Brazilian is not alone in his appraisal there, but hats off to him.

He become a national hero back at home where surfing is the giant South American country’s second biggest ranking sport, Globo {{{Sports}}} TV’s crew here at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, so excited with his achievement that they went live to 55 million people.

“I was a little bit nervous in the beginning of my heat, because I was against Mick Fanning, such a good and respected surfer, but the waves were really good, and I want so much to do good here” said Moura

“After my first wave got a 9.4 I said to myself ‘just relax, enjoy, and surf well. Get barrels and your time will come’. The next wave came to me and it was a good big one. I looked at it and decided I was going no matter what, because I felt so confident.”

“It was a super late take-off, and I pulled into the barrel and it opened for me good, so big, so long – for sure one of my best moments I ever had in Teahupoo, not to mention the first 10-point wave of my career.”

“Back on the outside I knew Mick Fanning is an excellent surfer and could come back at any time, even though I had 19.4. A wave didn’t come for him until a few minutes from the end, and he got a nine point something, and he was back in the game but I had priority, so I could hold the heat.”

“When the last wave of the heat came, in the last minute, I went again and got a 9.2, and I was so excited. For sure, I thank God for this moment. I have taken another step towards coming to the final of this contest,” concluded Moura. That last line might be considered by some to be teetering on arrogance, but this young Brazilian is anything but that. He is humble, respectful and worthy.


North-east Brazil’s unique and sincere surfing personality Marcelo Nunes also charged through his heat earlier today taking out Daniel Wills (AUS). The final 10 of the day came from Australia’s Tom Whitaker who took on another of Brazil’s finest in Percy ‘Neco’ Padaratz. Whitaker opened with a 10!

“He was in that barrel for so long it was ridiculous, just weaving his way through it, dropping and rising and just flowing with it. Kind of masterful actually,” observed surfing icon Herbie Fletcher, summarising Whitaker’s inherent skills after watching his 10 from the channel. Whitaker however had trouble following through.

“I had made up my mind before the heat that I was going to sit out there and wait for the good sets, hoping to snag the medium-sized ones that seemed to be peeling down the reef best, and that’s where I sat after the ten, but nothing came. Nothing! I needed a three to improve my backup!” said Whitaker.

“Neco was sitting a little inside picking off the western bowls, just pulling into those short runs and getting the points. I was getting really frustrated, but I stuck to my guns, and eventually, with only minutes left, what I was waiting for arrived, and I got an 8+ to seal the deal. It was nerve-racking though,” said Whitaker.

Besides the ten pointers, there were of course heaps of brilliant highlights. Our world champ was one of them. He stepped forward today. He himself admits that he falters through the first three rounds of every event. The light end of the draw is his nemesis, the local wildcards these days always a handful, sometimes even for a world champion.

Respected local Hira Teriinatoofa took a long but somewhat messy barrel as first blow in his showdown with Irons. He got a very respectable score, but Irons’ opener was like that line out of the movie Crocodile Dundee when Paul Hogan says “That’s not a knife…this is a knife!” as he pulls out a 12”+ David Bowie style unit to overshadow his attempted assailants tiny flick knife.

“This is a barrel!” is what Irons would have been entitled to declare after his first ride. It was big and bad, but he flushed out of it clean. He surfed his heat, as a world champion might be expected to, and remains an obvious serious threat in this classic event.

Considering conditions, and disregarding the fact that mere mortals would have mostly been unworthy or incapable out there in today’s conditions, we were lucky to escape with only cuts and bruises. There was some skin lost.

Lopez took off way too late and hit the reef, head slammed and got a couple of bruises, but after his butt-butting a jet ski yesterday, Damien Hobgood was the story of perseverance today. Admitting to enduring pain after his mishap yesterday, he survived an even more ridiculously steep drop than Lopez’s today, and incurred a head hammering from the lip as he tried to pull in, disappeared, then re-appeared surging over/through the foam ball, then ate it and hit the reef to skin his right hand and knee.


The Hobgoods are a special breed, with defending Billabong Pro Tahiti champion {{{CJ}}} marching onwards into round four as well after his victory over Lee Winkler in heat four today. Joel Parkinson (AUS), Fred Patacchia (AUS), Nathan Hedge (AUS)…oh honestly there’s too many highlights to mention.

From what we saw today, this is anyone’s event. A book could be written about what went down today, making other sports of far broader renown seem insignificant ploys.

The draw for tomorrow’s round four, the first step to our crowning of this year’s Billabong Pro Tahiti champion here at treacherous/terrifying/terrific Teahupoo is incredible. The top half of the draw, in particular, bears more gold than Fort Knox. Let’s pray that Mother Ocean talks Sister {{{Sky}}} into being as clean as she was today?

Tomorrow’s swell and predictions have Teahupoo fielding strong SW groundswell peaking around 6-8′, generally light E’ly winds and poss thunderstorms, with the chance of a few rogue sets slightly bigger than today’s late afternoon charge by the swell.

Billabong’s Event Production manager Bushy Mitchell daily pursues the quaint habit of personally seeking out every worker on the event team and shaking their hand to say ‘thank you’ to all for their individual efforts each respective day. His crew and the surfers today, would have been more deserving of hugs.

The Billabong Pro Tahiti delivered by Air Tahiti Nui is proudly supported by Von Zipper, Bose, Kustom and The Tahitian Surfing Federation.

Billabong Pro Live Webcast: via www.BillabongPro.com and www.ASPWorldTour.com each day of the event utilizing live coverage in English, French and Portuguese, with the event websites being translated into these three languages plus, Japanese and Spanish. Various camera angles, highlights and replays, weather and scoring information, direct viewer interaction, celebrity guests, interviews and more are a part of the daily webcast program.

ROUND 3 RESULTS:

{{{H1}}}: Kelly Slater def Tim Curran
{{{H2}}}: Bruce Irons def Chris Ward
{{{H3}}}: Cory Lopez def Taylor Knox
H4: CJ Hobgood def Lee Winkler
H5: Taj Burrow def Victor Ribas
H6: Marcelo Nunes def Daniel Wills
H7: Dean Morrison def Michael Lowe
H8: Andy Irons def Hira Teriinatoofa
H9: Joel Parkinson def Shea Lopez
H10: Fred Patacchia def Darren O’Rafferty
H11: Damien Hobgood def Travis Logie
H12: Kalani Robb def Mark Occhilupo
H13: Trent Munro def Raoni Monteiro
H14: Nathan Hedge def Peterson Rosa
H15: Paulo Moura def Mick Fanning
H16: Tom Whitaker def Neco Padaratz

UPCOMING ROUND 4 HEATS:

H1: Kelly Slater V Bruce Irons
H2: Corey Lopez V CJ Hobgood
H3: Taj Burrow V Marcelo Nunes
H4: Dean Morrison V Andy Irons
H5: Joel Parkinson V Fredrick Patacchia
H6: Damien Hobgood V Kalani Robb
H7: Trent Munro V Nathan Hedge
H8: Paulo Moura V Tom Whitaker

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