TEAHUPOO, Tahiti (Monday, May 11, 2009) ‘ ” Dane Reynolds looked to be in command during his Round One heat of the Billabong Pro. Entering the third event of the season the second-year tour star was hoping to recover from his early exit at Bells Beach, in Australia. Americans have pinned their hopes on Reynolds taking charge this year, especially after his solid rookie season, but his fans were dealt a serious punch to the gut Saturday when the kid from Ventura, Ca, was overtaken late in his heat by European star, Aritz Aranburu, who dropped into the set of the heat with just a couple minutes remaining and slammed the door shut on Reynolds.
Compounding the loss was the fact that the new format being implemented by Billabong this year means Reynolds does not have the luxury of a second chance. Luke Egan, the former tour star turned contest director, elected to utilize the ASP’s new menu option for running events in a shorter span of time in order to make the most of good conditions. Thus, there is no elimination round in Tahiti this year. In the new format, everyone outside of the Top 16 surfs in Round One of the main event in man-on-man elimination heats. Winners advance straight to Round Two where the Top 16 are waiting for them.
Of course, the biggest name in Round One was Andy Irons, the former three time world champion decided to take a break from his ASP sabbatical and return to competition just for this event. “I always love surfing Teahupoo with one other guy out,” Irons said, after handily disposing of Brazilian Jihad Khodr and advancing into the next round. But his road may be a little tougher in Round Two, as he’ll be facing Australia’s renowned giant killer, Bede Durbidge.
However, should he keep going, Irons won’t have to worry about last year’s champion Bruno Santos, as the Brazilian was defeated Saturday by Aussie Kai Otton. But he may have to worry about his buddy Dustin Barca who advanced out of his first heat of his young rookie season. Barca grew up in Kauai along side Irons and has spent many a day dueling with Andy and Bruce waves that break similar to small Teahupoo, so don’t be surprised to see Barca breakout in Tahiti.
California’s Chris Ward, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. Ward got an interference call in the early going, inexplicably dropping in on Phil MacDonald, ending his run before he even got started, which is a shame considering how well he was surfing. Macca was certainly ripping, and looked sharp, but Ward would’ve taken their tube duel and advanced without the interference blunder. Compounding Ward’s pain for Amercian fans, Nathaniel Curran and Patrick Gudauskas (a late entry at Teahupoo) also fell early.
With Round One nearly completed there are already some great battles on tap in Round Two. Taylor Knox will be putting his backside tuberiding skills to the test against Kai Otton’s frontside. Fred Patacchia faces Josh Kerr. Timmy Reyes will have his hands very full with Kieren Perrow. Joel Parkinson, our current tour leader, will face trials winner Heiarii Williams, who certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly. Slater will try to take revenge out on Aritz Aranburu for eliminating his buddy Dane, while Dustin Barca will face Adriano de Souza. We still don’t know who Jordy Smith will be facing, as there are two more heats of Round One to be completed. Stay tuned…