Three Teahupoo Champs Stamp Their Authority

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

Catch it LIVE on www.aspworldtour.com and www.billabongpro.com

THREE acclaimed and accomplished surfers that have previously reaped the esteemthat goes with a win in the Billabong Pro Tahiti wasted no time in stamping theirauthority on the opening round of the 2005 edition of the event today. Six-timesworld champion and twice Teahupoo victor Kelly Slater (USA) produced a typicallystellar performance to set the pace for fellow former winners and warriors CJHobgood (USA) and Andy Irons (HAW).

All three excelled with controlled and critical surfing in overhead waves thatfinally whet the wave-starved appetites of the Foster ‘ s Men ‘ s World TourTop 45 after nine days of being on standby. All and sundry were stoked to finallybe enabled to get on with the job at hand, a relief reflected in an excellent dayof surfing.

The terrific trio of Slater, Hobgood and Irons were top seeds in heats six, sevenand eight, and at various stages of each respective exchange the champions hadtheir two combatants on the run needing combination scores. The leading marginseventually narrowed in each heat, but their undeniable brilliance gave each ofthem comfortable wins.

Early, sometimes sparse conditions, improved progressively throughout the dayexcept for a brief period of light onshore winds late morning, a late glass-off onthe rising swell giving the Foster ‘ s Top 45 just a tempting measure of theconditions that are surely to bless us as we march towards the culmination of theevent. Predictions hold for the swell to gradually build over the remaining threedays of the waiting period.

This morning ‘ s action started at 8.30am and set consistency was an immediateconcern, but with four days remaining in the waiting period for three and one-halfdays of competition, there were no options. Slater ‘ s heat with Aussie duo DeanMorrison and rookie Kirk Flintoff was initially one that looked like it would bestarved of waves.

” At first I thought it looked like we were going to get skunked and might noteven get to catch a wave, ” said Slater after his heat, which was almostwave-less for the opening half of its 30-minute duration.

Dean Morrison started a run of action with just 13 minutes remaining, emergingfrom a nice clean backhand pit before carving to dry reef. After having fallen onhis first wave early in the heat, Slater stroked into the wave behind Morrison andlet his magic loose, capping two insane floaters with a fully committed closeoutre-entry on almost dry reef.

On the very next wave, young Flintoff slotted perfectly into a spiralling pitalong the reef, though the wave offered little after the cover-up.

” My first scorer was an 8.77, but then, paddling back out watching Flintoff ‘s barrel, I thought he would get better than the 8.5 he was scored, ” said Slater.

” He got such a nice barrel, but I guess it didn ‘ t have much of a wall on itafter he came out and he couldn ‘ t get any manoeuvres off. When I heard hisscores I figured I would only need, in a typical heat out here today, maybe a six,but those guys were getting some pretty good waves. Kirk surfed really well. Hewas really in tune with it ” .

Morrison received only a 7.0 for his opening barrel to that triple wave exchange.Critically, if that wave had been surfed on it ‘ s own, where barrels had beenextremely rare to that point, and without Slater and Flintoff ‘ s followingwaves, he might have scored an 8.5. As the heat progressed though Slater put hisfoes at a distance, racking up first an 8.0 then an 8.3 to throw away the eightpointer and march onto round three.

Defending Billabong Pro Tahiti champion CJ Hobgood paddled out nexthinking his heat would be all about maneuvers, but the 25 year-old 2001 World Champion ended upfinding barrels that lesser mortals would not have realized even existed.

” I got a couple of waves from up the top of the reef and I just wanted to fit inas many turns as I could because I know those backhanders can get them in a littletighter than I can on my forehand, ” said CJ.

” All of a sudden these couple of waves came in and I started thinking ‘ Wow,maybe I can get barrelled out here right now. I was stoked ” .

CJ went on to emerge from several incredibly tight runs behind the curtaineventually counting an 8.6 and 8.03 in his scoreline. One he failed to escapecould have been even higher in the points department.

” I would have been stoked to have come out of that one! ” said Hobgood. “The whole time in there I was like petting the kitten, moving my hands to keepscooting along because the wave was so small. ”

” There was about three times on that wave when I thought ‘ go for the doggydoor (exit through the front of the wave ‘ s cascading curtain), because itwasn ‘ t that big of a wave, and I thought I could punch through, but I didn ‘t. ”

” Coming to the end though, I could see the reef below, and thought I might beable to come out, but I couldn ‘ t, ” said Hobgood lamenting his failurethere, despite moving straight through to round three.

Rather than feeling comfortable leaving his nearest opposition in Australia ‘ sPhil Macdonald needing a 9.2, and Renan Rocha comboed, the Hobgood admitted tofeeling stressed throughout the exchange.

” Macca only needed a 9.2, ” said CJ. ” We ‘ re in the middle of theocean here in Tahiti and so at any time a four foot wave, or one bigger than anythat have come through all day, could come in, and that ‘ s a 9.5 easy. I washunting Macca and keeping an eye on him ” .

Air Tahiti Nui Von Zipper Trials seed Manoa Drollet tried to engage both AndyIrons and Sunny Garcia in a bit of positional hassle early in the following heateight. He paddled Irons up the point before the reigning World Champion decided hewasn ‘ t going to play games and caught a wave on his belly back to the morelogical take-off zone.

Drollet then tried his hand with Sunny, but soon tired of that before moving rightup to surf four right-handers at the top of the point. It was strange behaviorfrom the very respected and accomplished local.

Riding a 6 ‘ 1 ” groveller shaped by Gold Coast shaper ‘ JS ‘ with anultra concave from nose to tail, Andy Irons soon settled down to the job,obviously stirred on by his World Champion peers. When he let loose on his veryfirst wave he raised hoots of exclamation and appreciation from the packed channelthat resembled Waterworld all day long.

Andy ‘ s opener was penned an 8.4 for several blinding face manuevrers. Webcastcommentator BJ termed Andy ‘ s second bottom to top turn combination ” anabsolute thing of beauty ” . Fair comment, though Andy took the compliment onthat wave, and his eventual leaving Drollet hunting 8.41, and Garcia comboed, withhumility.

” I was pretty lucky on my first wave. It opened up and I got a couple of turnsin, ” commented the three-times world champion, before adding, ” I ‘ mjust looking forward to the swell, because right now it ‘ s pretty slow andsmall out there ” .

Andy ‘ s Billabong stable-mate Joel Parkinson (AUS) performed an equallyimpressive demolition of Troy Brooks (AUS) and Drollet ‘ s fellow trialssuccessor Liam McNamara in the very next heat.

Strangely, with the exception of Mick Fanning ‘ s winning of a wave-starved heatfive, and the last heat of the day which saw last year ‘ s runner-up NathanHedge barrel his way to victory in some of the best waves of the day, theaforementioned heats were the only ones that the top 16 seeds won all day. Justsix round one victories from the Top 16 is a very unusual statistic indeed, butsuch was the day as the ocean ran its own race settling into the forecast swell.

The lower-seeded surfers ‘ push included four Brazilian victories from theirseven representatives with Raoni Monteiro making a late comeback in the openingheat of the day, Peterson Rosa somehow surviving a very controversial clash withLuke Egan in the very next heat, Paulo Moura surfing strongly to oust Chris Wardand Neco Padaratz in heat 13, and an impressive display of barrel runs fromMarcelo Nunes who got by Cory Lopez and South Africa ‘ s Greg Emslie.

Former Teahupoo winner Lopez got deep but also clipped or caught behind. He cameback with a sensational pit just seconds before the final hooter, but the judges’eight plus score was just short of what he needed. He ‘ ll be back. Emslie’ s Springbok partner in rookie Travis Logie had some impressive rides but wavejudgement cost him in a heat which Hawaii ‘ s Kalani Robb ended up baggingreasonably comfortably.

” I didn ‘ t have a second scorer, ” said a disappointed Logie who startedwith a high seven. ” I got one that could have been, quite a good one, but Ididn ‘ t think it was going to barrel and by the time I realized it was goingto, it was too late .”

One of the best heats of the day was the showdown between current ratings leaderTrent Munro (AUS) and his NSW north coast mate Darren O ‘ Rafferty, with localBillabong wildcard Hira Terinatoofa left a distant third. It was quite a spiritedexchange between the Aussies, which included a scrap for a late wave.

O ‘ Rafferty opened up banking an 8.83 for a big four manoeuvre opening run atthe seven minute mark. ” I was pretty lucky to get that first wave, ” considered O ‘ Rafferty.

” It allowed me to do three or four good backhand re-entries. A lot of the wavesout there were fizzling out, but that one kept walling all the way through ” .

Munro countered with a 7.33 before O ‘ Rafferty pulled in to yield 8.67 andthereby eclipse Slater ‘ s earlier lofty attainment of a heat score of 17.10with 17.50. Munro came back in the interim with a barrel worth 9.07, but he stillneeded 8.43 with two minutes on the clock. A paddle battle ensued, with O ‘Rafferty successfully blocking Munro on a wave that could have turned the scales.Munro was not impressed, but as he knows, there are no friends in the water. Thepair exchanged backslaps at heat ‘ s end.

Also impressive, as always here at Teahupoo was Bruce Irons. He floated and gotrepeatedly barrelled like the master he is, ending up with a couple of mid-rangesevens in his winning score. Perhaps they could have even been worth more, but he’ ll presumably be making more of an impression later in the draw.

American Taylor Knox was raging for the California set with one of the highestscores of the day, over a nine, Mick Lowe racked some power moves to move forwardrubbing his hands together in expectation of the rising swell, and former eventrunner-up Taj Burrow also had a good innings, but is looking to dig deeper.

” It definitely gave me some confidence finishing as runner-up here in 2003, butI still didn ‘ t think I surfed near as well as I could have back then, ” saidTB.

” I was stoked with that result, and the confidence it gave me, but I want to domuch better. I want to surf it here like the best guys do. It ‘ s always good totry to be better ” .

As mentioned earlier, Narrabeen ‘ s Nathan ‘ Hog ‘ Hedge came storminghome in the last heat of the day to pay back the reef for it ‘ s indignanttreatment of him in last year ‘ s Billabong Pro Tahiti when he dislocated hisshoulder seven minutes into the final stanza against CJ Hobgood.

Producing an 8.33 with perfect positioning and pace in an early pit, and then an8.5 towards heat ‘ s end for an equally impressive run, Hedge comboed VictorRibas (BRZ) and Shane Beschen (USA).

Riding the same 6 ‘ 6 ” stick that he rode here last year, Hedge also hadanother run behind the curtain mid-heat, but the lip attempted to behead him as heprematurely stood tall to emerge from the pit. The job woast swell.

The lower-seeded surfers ‘ push included four Brazilian victories from theirseven representatives with Raoni Monteiro making a late comeback in the openingheat of the day, Peterson Rosa somehow surviving a very controversial clash withLuke Egan in the very next heat, Paulo Moura surfing strongly to oust Chris Wardand Neco Padaratz in heat 13, and an impressive display of barrel runs fromMarcelo Nunes who got by Cory Lopez and South Africa ‘ s Greg Emslie.

Former Teahupoo winner Lopez got deep but also clipped or caught behind. He cameback with a sensational pit just seconds before the final hooter, but the judges’eight plus score was just short of what he needed. He ‘ ll be back. Emslie’ s Springbok partner in rookie Travis Logie had some impressive rides but wavejudgement cost him in a heat which Hawaii ‘ s Kalani Robb ended up baggingreasonably comfortably.

” I didn ‘ t have a second scorer, ” said a disappointed Logie who startedwith a high seven. ” I got one that could have been, quite a good one, but Ididn ‘ t think it was going to barrel and by the time I realized it was goingto, it was too late .”

One of the best heats of the day was the showdown between current ratings leaderTrent Munro (AUS) and his NSW north coast mate Darren O ‘ Rafferty, with localBillabong wildcard Hira Terinatoofa left a distant third. It was quite a spiritedexchange between the Aussies, which included a scrap for a late wave.

O ‘ Rafferty opened up banking an 8.83 for a big four manoeuvre opening run atthe seven minute mark. ” I was pretty lucky to get that first wave, ” considered O ‘ Rafferty.

” It allowed me to do three or four good backhand re-entries. A lot of the wavesout there were fizzling out, but that one kept walling all the way through ” .

Munro countered with a 7.33 before O ‘ Rafferty pulled in to yield 8.67 andthereby eclipse Slater ‘ s earlier lofty attainment of a heat score of 17.10with 17.50. Munro came back in the interim with a barrel worth 9.07, but he stillneeded 8.43 with two minutes on the clock. A paddle battle ensued, with O ‘Rafferty successfully blocking Munro on a wave that could have turned the scales.Munro was not impressed, but as he knows, there are no friends in the water. Thepair exchanged backslaps at heat ‘ s end.

Also impressive, as always here at Teahupoo was Bruce Irons. He floated and gotrepeatedly barrelled like the master he is, ending up with a couple of mid-rangesevens in his winning score. Perhaps they could have even been worth more, but he’ ll presumably be making more of an impression later in the draw.

American Taylor Knox was raging for the California set with one of the highestscores of the day, over a nine, Mick Lowe racked some power moves to move forwardrubbing his hands together in expectation of the rising swell, and former eventrunner-up Taj Burrow also had a good innings, but is looking to dig deeper.

” It definitely gave me some confidence finishing as runner-up here in 2003, butI still didn ‘ t think I surfed near as well as I could have back then, ” saidTB.

” I was stoked with that result, and the confidence it gave me, but I want to domuch better. I want to surf it here like the best guys do. It ‘ s always good totry to be better ” .

As mentioned earlier, Narrabeen ‘ s Nathan ‘ Hog ‘ Hedge came storminghome in the last heat of the day to pay back the reef for it ‘ s indignanttreatment of him in last year ‘ s Billabong Pro Tahiti when he dislocated hisshoulder seven minutes into the final stanza against CJ Hobgood.

Producing an 8.33 with perfect positioning and pace in an early pit, and then an8.5 towards heat ‘ s end for an equally impressive run, Hedge comboed VictorRibas (BRZ) and Shane Beschen (USA).

Riding the same 6 ‘ 6 ” stick that he rode here last year, Hedge also hadanother run behind the curtain mid-heat, but the lip attempted to behead him as heprematurely stood tall to emerge from the pit. The job would have otherwise havebeen done at that point. He ‘ s obviously looking to follow through and amendlast year ‘ s result.

” It was nice to get the place back and get the first heat out of the way, “said Hedge back on the event ‘ s mother ship the Cascade after his solidvictory.

” I ‘ ve waited twelve months for this and it ‘ s a weight off my shoulders tobe back in the barrel and coming out of them, as well as to come back to the boatin one piece. ”

” Being the last heat of the day and getting the afternoon glass-off worked forme. Our heat actually got some of the best waves of the day. Reports are lookinggood for the rest of the event with the swell on the rise out of the south-west,so fingers crossed! ” concluded Hedge, summing up the level of excitement andanticipation that now finally presides over everyone here in Tahiti. The best isyet to come!

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)b would have otherwise havebeen done at that point. He ‘ s obviously looking to follow through and amendlast year ‘ s result.

” It was nice to get the place back and get the first heat out of the way, “said Hedge back on the event ‘ s mother ship the Cascade after his solidvictory.

” I ‘ ve waited twelve months for this and it ‘ s a weight off my shoulders tobe back in the barrel and coming out of them, as well as to come back to the boatin one piece. ”

” Being the last heat of the day and getting the afternoon glass-off worked forme. Our heat actually got some of the best waves of the day. Reports are lookinggood for the rest of the event with the swell on the rise out of the south-west,so fingers crossed! ” concluded Hedge, summing up the level of excitement andanticipation that now finally presides over everyone here in Tahiti. The best isyet to come!

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)