Billabong Pro Teahupoo: Upsets On Epic Day Two

Tahitian wildcards Vetea ‘Poto’ David and Heimata Carroll today caused major upsets in the 2002 Billabong Pro Teahupoo. The World Championship Tournament (WCT) remained on hold for three hours this morning as organizers were again forced to wait for many of the top-rated contestants’ surfboards to arrive, but once they had, remaining round one heats and the first six of the second ‘losers’ round were contested in spectacular conditions.

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A swell increase overnight resulted in perfect, yet treacherous 10-12 ft (3-4m) surf. Those with equipment made the most of their practice session early, clocking up plenty of ‘white knuckle’ tube time, while boats in the lineup struggled to avoid carnage on the inside section. One capsized before competition began, together with a photographer shooting from his jet ski. Another did likewise around midday, while a massive 18ft (6m) monster of a wave claimed another vessel late this afternoon.

David, a two-time trials winner and integral part of the jet ski water safety team at Teahupoo, eliminated 1999 world champion and tournament winner Mark Occhilupo (Aus). Despite losing to current ratings leader Andy Irons (Haw) in round one this morning, the 32 year old showed his knowledge of the intense reef break to advance during the final stages of the anticipated clash with ‘Occy’. Requiring a 7.26 to regain his initial lead, the Tahitian charged a final wave for 8.75-points as his opponent held priority but opted not to go. The Australian later stating his ongoing back problem was a factor, as it again resurfaced prior to Tahiti.

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“Occy’s a great surfer and I’m still one of his fans,” said David afterward. “He’s ‘old school’ just like me (laughs). At the end I asked him if he was going, but he didn’t look or say anything. I had to go needing a 7.26 with 30-seconds. I charged it and stayed low in the barrel to try and get the score.

“It’s the second time I’ve won the trials so I knew I’d come up against the ratings’ leaders,” he continued, of his opponents today. “I was all excited as it’s once a year and I’m really trying to get a result for myself and the Tahitian people. I have nothing to prove. I was in the top 44 before (1986-’97) and am just happy to surf against these guys, the ‘new school’, and be part of it. As well as doing water safety and helping out the surfers. I love it.”

Carroll, who received his wildcard as the highest Tahitian non-finalist in the trials by placing equal third, also defeated Occhilupo today in their opening heat with world #5 Jake Paterson (Aus). The 20 year old posted a near-perfect 9.75, and from there only needed a small score. He earned 4.4 on his final ride, advancing straight into round three.

“It’s good for me to surf against those guys,” began Carroll. “Occy was the world champion and they are the best surfers. I surfed for two weeks before the contest in those two big swells to train myself. Today is perfect and it can’t be better. Thank God.”

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Irons, who took out the last WCT in Australia a month ago, had defeated ‘Poto’ and Nathan Webster (Aus) this morning to advance straight into round three. Having won at Teahupoo in 1997 when the tournament was a World Qualifying Series (WQS) event, and then the Trials division in 2000, the 23 year old Hawaiian has long been regarded as one of the best here and he again proved why today.

“I’ve been trying hard not to worry about the pressure as I put enough on myself,” reasoned Irons, of leading the ratings. “I was playing it safe and going for depth on the medium sized ones. Full competition tactics and it paid off. I’m not going to go for some ego trip big wave and get smashed for nothing. I’m here for the contest. If it comes down to it I’ll go, but contests here really prove who wants it and who doesn’t.”

Victor Ribas (Brz) out-scored current world #3 Joel Parkinson (Aus) in what proved a slow heat for od rides. The Brazilian now faces 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia (Haw), who dominated his clash against WCT newcomer Darren O’Rafferty (Aus).

“I was pretty scared as it was a dangerous situation today,” began Ribas. “I tried to stay relaxed and was able to find two good waves. I called home earlier and spoke with my wife and told her I didn’t want to risk my body. I didn’t care if others would say anything, I was going to do the best I could and everything worked out. I’m happy to get through.”

Wildcard entrant Conan Hayes (Haw) eliminated current world #4 Danny Wills in another round two upset. Having lost earlier today against defending Billabong Pro Teahupoo champion Cory Lopez (USA) in their heat with Flavio Padaratz (Brz), the Hawaiian come on strong, despite an injured knee, when it matter most. No stranger to Teahupoo, the 27 year old finished runner-up in the 1998 tournament, and then placed second to ‘Poto’ in the Trials to earn his main event spot.

“I got some waves and came out, and that’s what counts here,” began Hayes. “I wish my knee was intact, as I see all my friends free-surfing and I can’t, but I feel pretty comfortable at this wave and then to go and advance rounds, I’m really happy.”

Damien Hobgood (USA) and Beau Emerton (Aus) both secured the 2002 Billabong Pro’s only 10-point rides this morning. Hobgood, 22, did so in the days’ opening heat against South Africans Paul Canning and Greg Emslie. While Canning had set the pace with a fantastic 9.25 ride, the American picked off his own mental tube for the first perfect score.

“It’s perfect and you really can’t ask for more, except maybe not as big sets,” laughed Hobgood, after securing the first perfect ride of the tournament. “That wave was a set, but it wasn’t drawing as much water of the reef. I took off deep and it looked like it was going to closeout. I knew once I made it past the west bowl, where it bends, that I was good.”

Emerton, 27, secured his in an extremely tough round one heat against Garcia and Shane Powell (Aus). The goofy-footer disappeared for a long, deep tube ride, and while fellow countryman Powell displayed one of the bravest attempts on his last ride, a wave he claimed nearly killed him, it was his good mate that advanced straight into round three. Having only received his surfboards an hour before, the result was even more dramatic.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Emerton. “I’ve been watching all these guys get barreled all week, so I think I deserved it. There was no way I thought I was going to make it that far, but I shut my eyes and gave it a dig. When I came out it was the best feeling in the world. Having all the boys cheering for me was unreal.”

New Zealand’s sole representative on the WCT, Maz Quinn, also collected an impressive 9.5 score and won his opening match with Australians Michael Lowe and Luke Hitchings.

“Everyone was paddling for that one but I had the inside position,” said Quinn of his top score. “I just put my head down and went. At one point I closed my eyes cause it spat (spray inside the tube), and then opened them and kept going. That was probably the one of best barrels I’ve ever had.”

Official results of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo Round One
H10: Luke Egan (Aus) 15.0; Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 11.4; Richard Lovett
(Aus) 6.5
H11: Beau Emerton (Aus) 16.25; Shane Powell (Aus) 15.35; Sunny Garcia (Haw)
15.05
H12: Heimata Carroll (Tah) 14.15; Jake Paterson (Aus) 13.25; Mark Occhilupo
(Aus) 6.1
H13: Andy Irons (Haw) 17.0; Vetea David (Tah) 14.8; Nathan Webster (Aus) 5.4
H14: Cory Lopez (USA) 14.4; Conan Hayes (Haw) 7.0, Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 4.4
H15: Maz Quinn (NZ) 16.0; Michael Lowe (Aus) 15.75; Luke Hitchings (Aus)
11.5
H16: Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.5; Paul Canning (SAfr) 14.4; Greg Emslie (SAfr)
8.5

Round Two
H1: Vetea David (Tah) 15.75 def. Mark Occhilupo (Aus) 14.35
H2: Conan Hayes (Haw) 14.9 def. Danny Wills (Aus) 9.25
H3: CJ Hobgood (USA) 15.25 def. Phillip MacDonald (Aus) 10.5
H4: Victor Ribas (Brz) 15.15 def. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 12.0
H5: Sunny Garcia (Haw) 17.35 def. Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 7.25
H6: Richard Lovett (Aus) 9.75 def. Marcelo Nunes (Brz) 6.75

Don’t Miss The Slide Show Video! Scroll back to the top and click the link under the Vid Icon. 14.9 def. Danny Wills (Aus) 9.25
H3: CJ Hobgood (USA) 15.25 def. Phillip MacDonald (Aus) 10.5
H4: Victor Ribas (Brz) 15.15 def. Joel Parkinson (Aus) 12.0
H5: Sunny Garcia (Haw) 17.35 def. Darren O’Rafferty (Aus) 7.25
H6: Richard Lovett (Aus) 9.75 def. Marcelo Nunes (Brz) 6.75

Don’t Miss The Slide Show Video! Scroll back to the top and click the link under the Vid Icon.