Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).
Foster’s Men’s World Tour.
Women’s ASP World Championship Tour.
Teahupoo, Tahiti, May 5th – 17th, 2005.
Billabong Pro Tahiti Men’s May 5-17th
Billabong Pro Tahiti Girl’s May 5-15th
BEFORE the world-renowned Billabong Pro Tahiti has even begun, it is the talk of the sporting world, but with the dramatic warm-up sessions in epic conditions now behind us, it is time for the main event as the Foster’s Men’s World Tour and Women’s ASP World Championship Tour waiting periods begin tomorrow. The world’s best surfers have arrived in Teahupoo, primed and excited for their annual challenge of surviving and harnessing the brute power of the gnarliest wave on the planet.
Awe inspiring sessions in firstly monstrous stormy conditions last Sunday, where jet ski tow-in was essential, to then flawless waves on Monday, highlighted the daring skills of some of the world’s foremost Foster’s Men’s World Tour exponents, and front-lined news services around the globe. It was an unprecedented surfing media blitz.
Reigning Foster’s World Champion Andy Irons (HAW), his younger brother Bruce (HAW), and the Hobgood twins CJ and Damien (USA), were amongst those who further entrenched their renown as fearless water warriors, splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the world, along with the freakish survival of local Raimana Van Bastoloer as a jetski plunged over the falls above him while he rode through yet another gnawing barrel below.
“It looked big and evil last Sunday, the day Raimana survived the jetski over the falls, but it was almost as big the next day, ” recalled CJ Hobgood. “It looked the complete opposite in temperment though, still almost as big as it can be, but it looked beautiful and inviting. It was both worlds over those two days.”
Seasoned free-surfing chargers like Billabong’s Shane Dorian (HAW), Ian Walsh (HAW), and Dylan Longbottom (AUS) also set standards for all to pursue, riding as deep as possible in the barrel. Teahupoo is a place and wave like no other, conquered only by surfers who are like no other, and the Billabong Pro Tahiti is like no other, the contest of contests.
Florida’s CJ Hobgood won last year’s Billabong Pro Teahupoo, after fellow finalist Nathan Hedge (AUS) dislocated his shoulder just seven minutes into the final chapter of the event. Hedge again dislocated his shoulder in Hawaii, warming up for Pipeline in December, but arrived in Tahiti last night 100% fit, keen to go one step further than his forced runner-up position last year.
Both CJ and his brother Damien have also endured shoulder dislocations in the past six months, but they too are bristling fit, wanting to claim the 2005 edition of this most illustrious event. As well as fit, the twins are now well primed for the competition after those two days of exceptional waves early in the week. CJ took what observers declared the biggest wave ever paddled into at Teahupoo last Monday.
That wave that I caught, my brother kind of looked at,” said CJ, “but I was underneath him, and that was one of the biggest reasons I went that one – I was like ‘frik that’ – I just didn’t think and went on autopilot.”
“There was so much stuff going on that day that it was almost like there was too much happening at once,” said CJ trying to sum up those super sessions.
“You could rave about so much – there were so many rides up there on the top shelf, but it’s better not to highlight much. On such a day, it’s whatever floats your boat. There was a bit of everything and everyone enjoyed it. Highlighting individuals is only opinionated – you’ re not wrong, but not right either, “added CJ diplomatically.
Andy Irons was equally awe-struck over the wave action and challenges earlier this week, but remains focused on the event. Now siing third in the world after two events on the 2005 Foster’s Men’s World Tour schedule, Irons is legendary for his Teahupoo performances.
“I feel like I’ve made it through the first battle of the war,” said Andy this morning, talking of the waves on Sunday and Monday.
“With the contest coming up, I’m definitely looking forward to surfing waves that might be a little more tame. We’ve got through the hard part.”
“Those two days were crazy – so many memories for sure, but CJ’s wave, when he paddled in, was one of the gnarliest things I’ve seen. I had a couple of waves that I caught that I’ll never forget the rest of my life for sure. Bruce got so drilled out there in the morning, he didn’t come back out for the rest of the day – that goes to show how heavy it was,” added Irons.
“With 13 events this year it’s a long year, and I’m just trying to get results and be consistent. Right now I’m sitting in third, which is really comfortable for me. Trent is sitting on the top, and has a lot more pressure on him than everyone right now. He has to fight everyone off. We’re coming into Tahiti and Fiji, two of my favorite events, and I’ll be very disappointed if I lose before the quarters,” concluded Irons.
“As every year, Andy is the favorite here, the man everyone wants to take down. He is the man and he’s obviously here to get his job done,” testified ratings leader Trent Munro (AUS).
“I’m really looking forward to the event starting, and getting amongst the waves out there,” added Munro who is a former semi-finalist here at Teahupoo, and well and truly up to the task.
Swell predictions for the waiting period have a small to moderate swell kicking in from the south-west for the first two days, and then a larger groundswell is predicted early next week, with again sizeable and challenging conditions expected later in the week. The pause in heavy swell might work favorably in accommodating the parallel women’s Billabong Pro Tahiti event which will see the ASP Top 17 women trying to catch ratings leader and defending world champion Sofia Mulanovich (PER). Sofia is also the defending Billabong Pro Tahiti women’s champion.
“I finally feel confident after winning two events straight, and confidence is the basic element towards getting results and winning a world title, said Sofia.
“Teahupoo is not one of my favorite spots, but still, I want to go out and do my best. You don’t know what can happen if you give 100%. I’m amped and really really hungry.”
The beyond vertical takeoff, plummeting into the churning chasms of this the world’s most dangerous wave, has seen the girls somewhat intimidated in previous events here, but charging antics from them in the last women’s WCT in Fiji means we may be in for new standards from our surfing damsels.
“If conditions are perfect, and there ‘s good waves, the girls are going to charge. Tavarua was good for us. We experienced big waves there and most of the girls charged. Sometimes we get scared when it gets really big, but at the same time that’s fine because we are girls, and we’re not as strong as boys. We’re different, that’s why we get scared!” smiled Sofia.
Needless to say, it ‘s not just the girls who are intimidated by Teahupoo. Men are men though, and supposed to charge with bravado, and if you’re a member of the Foster’s Top 45, you’re expected to do just that, no matter what the conditions. This is it… toes, and balls, to the line for the start.
“Teahupoo is the balls to the wall, craziest wave in the world for sure,” exclaimed world champ’ Andy Irons.
“The depth of the water out the back, and how shallow it gets, and how quick, makes the wave’s lip just so much thicker and more powerful. Pound for pound, it ‘s the scariest wave in the world! ”
The Billabong Pro Tahiti delivered by Air Tahiti Nui is proudly supported by Von Zipper, Bose, Kustom and The Tahitian Surfing Federation.
By Paul Sargeant
Billabong Pro Live Webcast: via www.billabongpro.com and 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.://www.billabongpro.com> www.billabongpro.com and 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.