As reported on news.theage.com.au
World surfing champion Mick Fanning will again arrive early in Tahiti to familiarise himself with the notorious Teahupoo reef break ahead of next month’s Billabong Pro.
Last year Fanning ensured he had plenty of practice on the heaviest waves on the planet before starting his campaign to become the first non-American to win the event since fellow Australian Mark Occhilupo in 1999.
It paid dividends as Fanning advanced to the final, although he was defeated by American Damien Hobgood.
“I’ll go a few days early again – it’s a really good time there,” said Australian world No.3 Fanning, who finished a disappointing 33rd at Teahupoo in 2006.
“I love the place and the family I stay with are amazing.”
Fanning’s title defence has been thwarted by Kelly Slater’s victories in the first two events of the year, on the Gold Coast and Bells Beach, Victoria.
But with his recent marriage and a multitude of media obligations behind him, Fanning is eager to make up ground at Teahupoo.
“Kelly had an amazing start and I had a lot of things happening,” Fanning said.
“Really good things, but I have finally had some time to myself and I feel really excited about competing again.
“I’m looking forward to Tahiti. It’s always a great event.”
Hobgood’s defence was dealt a massive blow on April 14 when he fractured his shoulder in three places, suffered a gash to the head and shredded his back on the razor-sharp coral after being pile-driven into the deadly Teahupoo reef.
“I knew I was going over,” Hobgood said. “I got pushed straight onto the reef.
“I knew I had hit hard and hit my head.
“I was trying to stay conscious and not fight it but also not blackout.”
Hobgood returned home for medical attention and on the outside chance that his shoulder heals before the third event on the world tour starts, he is yet to withdraw from competition.
He could have close to a month to recover before his next heat, with the Billabong Pro waiting period stretching from May 8-18.
“I am still hoping to make Tahiti,” Hobgood said.
“If I can paddle, the injury is not in that critical of a spot, so if there is any way that I can surf I will be there.”