Teahupoo, Tahiti (May 4th, 2003): Before a flotilla of boats packed withfamily and friends, local Tahitian junior surfer Alain Riou today defeatedHawaiian Conan Hayes to win the Air Tahiti Nui VZ Trials at the legendaryTeahupoo reef. Along with third placed Hira Terinatoofa (Tah), the pair havenow been awarded wildcards into the Billabong Pro Teahupoo – the 3rd eventon the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), World Championship Tour(WCT).
In a decreasing 1m swell, the break famous for its barrel rides failed toproduce the goods in contrast to previous days, but provided rippable wavesfor the talented pair. Both surfers overcame nervous starts to find theirhighest scoring rides midway through the 25 minute final, bur 19-year-oldRiou’s 7.10 point score – the highest of the final gave him the advantage.The Teahupoo surfer then backed with a 5.25 to take the lead from Hayes andclaim his inaugural victory at his home break.
“I have never surfed Teahupoo that small before, it was bumpy as well,” saidRiou, who is a strong contender on the ASP Australasian Junior Circuit.”Competing in Australia has helped me heaps. Anything can happen atTeahupoo, so I am not worried about the top guys. Right now the feeling isunbelievable to win at home.”
Hayes, who is renowned as a Teahupoo surfer was also awarded a wildcard intothe 2002 Billabong Pro after qualifying through last years trials. The27-year-old who was forced to compete with an injured knee last yearfinished equal 17th in the 2002 WCT event.
“I had two hundred people cheering against me out there so I am glad Alainwon,” joked Hayes after congratulating Riou. “I’m all good with the Tahitianpeople. We are both through to the main event and that what counts.”
Terinatoofa was forced to compete against legend Tahitian surfer Vetea”Poto” David in a “surf off” for the third Billabong Pro wildcard after bothfinished equal third in the trials. The former Billabong Pro wildcardentrant also caused the elimination of yesterday’s standout Bruce Irons(Haw) in round four.
“I was scared because we both need it so it was very tough because the waveswere inconsistent,” said Terinatoofa. “For me it was the toughest of thewhole contest. The one with Bruce (Irons) was also very hard.”
Hawaii’s Keala Kennelly, who along with fellow Kauaian surfer Andy Irons isheading into the Billabong Pro Teahupoo Tahiti event as defending eventchampion, arrived fresh from her recent WCT win in Fiji. The 24-year-old isregarded as the one to beat at Teahupoo and is currently ranked equal firston the ASP world rankings with five-times world champion Layne Beachley(Aus).
“I’m stoked, last year I was tied for equal last heading into this event andnow I’m tied for equal first. I’m definitely feeling a lot more confident,”said Kennelly. “Teahupoo is my favorite break in the world. I always lookforward to it.
“I think Kauai is pretty proud right now. I was so stoked when I heard Andyhad won Bells. We used to win contests together when we were kids. He wouldalways win the boys and I would win the girls. We were always sharing thewinner’s podium, so to do it on the highest level is just a dream cometrue.”
The waiting period for the Billabong Pro Teahupoo contest, featuring theworld’s top 45 men and 17 women, is from May 6th through to the 18th. A newswell is predicted later in the week.
Internet users will be able to watch all the surfing action live from roundone of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo. Both the men and women’ WCT tournamentswill be filmed from the all-important boat angle situated in the channellooking directly into the barrel. A stabilizing camera lens and a microwavesystem will create a spectacular webcasting experience from one of theworld’ most remote surfing locations. Simply log ontohttp://www.BillabongPro.com and enjoy the show.