Off, But Not Ready To Hit The Panic Button Yet

Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).
Foster’s Men’s World Tour.
Women’s ASP World Championship Tour.Billabong Pro Tahiti Men’s May 5-17th
Billabong Pro Tahiti Girl’s May 5-15th

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THE South Pacific swell has continued to be elusive this morning in Teahupoo withthe Billabong Pro Tahiti having to again be postponed for day nine of the waitingperiod. Hoping against hope that this afternoon ‘ s projected swell would comein early, there was a sizeable gathering of surfers and officials mustered inanticipation at first light, but the smallest conditions yet were far fromsatisfactory to consider finally rolling into the event.

All options were discussed at length, but with the all-important quadrella of thesurfers, the Head Judge, the Contest Director and Billabong all amicably andcalmly agreeing to call a lay day and wait for the swell to kick in thisafternoon. The forecast swell will hopefully allow the boys to blow away thecobwebs before getting down to business tomorrow.

All spirits are up because the six days of nasty inclement weather have finallybeen pushed aside with a typically beautiful sunny day here in the tropics. Evenbetter, we ‘ re now awaiting the forecast of four days of swell. Checking thesatellite maps and forecasts at dawn, Contest Director Chris O ‘ Callaghan andShea Lopez reached an early decision between themselves.

” We obviously want to go, but we can ‘ t – we can ‘ t make chicken saladout of the messy chop suey we ‘ ve got out there this morning today, ” saidO ‘ Callaghan resorting to metaphors.

With all confident of swell, discussion shifted to talking of previousexperiences. Lopez recalled the first time the tour came to Teahupoo in 1997 for aQS event. Nobody knew what to expect of the wave for next to nobody, beyond localguru Veatea ‘ Poto ‘ David and his Tahitian mates, had surfed the place. Onthe final day of the event, conditions were very stormy making both surfing andlogistics exceptionally difficult.

With those considerations, the event was moved west to Big Pass, but thenconditions were assessed as far less than desirable there as well. Proceedingseventually moved back to Teahupoo where the event was finished in dangerous andradically onshore 4-6 ‘ + ‘ waves ‘ . It was also pelting rain, “Sideways! ” said Lopez, so strong was the wind.

Because of the shocking weather, the judging panel was forced to work from theboats in the channel, and obviously without power for computers, the scores wentdown on the old form of paper judging sheets on a clipboard. Everything wassoaked. It was a nightmare.

” If we can survive that, we can have a contest in anything! ” grinned Sheafinally this morning. Head Judge Perry Hatchett agreed.

” I average 22 events a year, and I have every possible scenario in my head, inblack and white. I ‘ m not ready to push the panic button yet, ” declaredHatchett.

As usual, Narrabeen ‘ s Nathan ‘ Hog ‘ Hedge was the first one out therethis morning in complete darkness. The Hog was last year ‘ s story of the eventwhen he dislocated his shoulder after being skittled and rolled on a pitchinginside wave face before being smashed into the reef, seven minutes into the finalagainst Florida ‘ s CJ Hobgood.

Paddling out stoked that he was going to see our first clear sunrise against blueskies in over a week, Hog was to be disappointed an hour later when a large cloudcame from behind the huge mountains behind us to block the sun ‘ s visualascent. The only human out, he had a good time anyway, returning to shore fullysatisfied.

” The crowd was good – just me and a few dolphins, ” smiled Hedge. ” Ididn ‘ t quite get to see that first sunrise, but it was placid and calm outthere, like a little aquarium. The waves were only very ssmall, but still morepowerful than any other wave for its size. I got a couple of little head-dips, soI ‘ m happy ” .

It was infact so small that East Coast USA judge Jeff Klugel had trouble checkingthe waves from shore through binoculars. It was low tide too, and when it ‘ ssmall, Teahupoo needs the high to be a full-on proposition.

” The reef is obscuring the waves, ” declared Klugel.

Passing up another day of the Billabong Pro Tahiti waiting period, the Foster ‘s Men’s Top 45 know that they will be out there amongst it tomorrow no matterwhat. With just four days left in the waiting period, all are obviously keen toget on with the job.

” A lot of the surfers have got different eyes on this morning. They know thatthey have to work tomorrow! ” observed Billabong ‘ s Event Production ManagerBushy Mitchell.

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

Billabong Pro Live Webcast: via www.billabongpro.comand 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.

(From Paul Sargeant)