Sunday April 24th 2004 (Teahupoo, Tahiti): Eighty of the worlds most revered big wave surfers will line up at the awe-inspiring Teahupoo (Cheo-poo) reef-break tomorrow to contest the prestigious Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper Trials for the two remaining wildcards into the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Initial surf reports indicate a solid south-west ground swell for the entire trials window with the Pacific Ocean expected to dish out bone shattering 3-4m (10-12ft) conditions mid week.
The world’s largest WCT Trials comprises 40 Tahitian and 40 international surfers who have either qualified for or been invited to compete at the dredging left-hander situated 400 metres off-shore. The 2005 competitors list once again reads like the who’s who of big wave surfing, with each trialist hoping to join the elite list of past winners alongside reigning three times world champion Andy Irons (Haw) and younger brother Bruce.
Outside of the surfing world the relatively unknown and laid back locals are the most feared opponents at Teahupoo, with defending Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper Trials champion Heimata (pronounced Hey-Mata) Carroll leading in a talented contingent of Tahitians. The, 23 year-old goofy footer has gained underground notoriety as one of the world’s best Teahupoo barrel riders.
Tahitian surfers have won three of the past five trials events and will again have local knowledge and vocal spectator support on their side. Main event Billabong Pro Tahiti wildcard Hira Terinatoofa (Tah) admits this provides a valuable added edge, “It (local knowledge) gives a lot of advantage for surfing that wave because we know exactly which wave is going to be the best barrel and the longest one.
“All the locals are really good especially Heimata Carroll, he is a good tube rider. Vetea (‘Poto’ David) is another for sure if the waves are big and consistent he can be dangerous too. Also Alain Riou, there are a lot of good local guys.
Twenty five year old Terinatoofa was the highest placed Tahitian in last years Billabong Pro Tahiti finishing equal ninth. He explains how the hundreds of locals cheering from the nearby channel push the surfers to charge the life or death situations Teahupoo is known for.
“It’s really intense competing at Chopes anyway, the power of that wave and then all the people watching makes it even bigger. They add big pressure, everyone is cheering for you and you don’t want to disappoint them for coming to see you. It’s good though. You can feel the power. Even when you see that wave breaking you see something of the power just flowing right next to your skin. It’s just big for everyone.
International challengers in this years trials event include equal 3rd placed 2004 trialist Damon Harvey (Gold Coast, Aus), 2003 Billabong Pro 3rd placed Danilo Costa (Brz), equal fifth 2004 trialist Tamayo Perry (Haw), former world no.4 Shane Dorian (Haw), former world no.2 Rob Machado (USA), 1993 world champion Derek Ho (Haw), 1998 WQS Teahupoo winner Koby Abberton (Maroubra, Aus), former trials qualifier Conan Hayes (Haw), big wave specialists Pete Mendia (USA), rising Hawaiian big wave surfer Ian Walsh (Haw) and Billabong XXL Monster Tube Ride Dylan Longbottom (Gold Coast, Aus).
The Hawaiian surfers have also demonstrated their prowess at Teahupoo with Hayes and Perry being two of the many stand-outs. Former WCT surfer Hayes has previously qualified twice through the trials and is highly regarded at the break.
Three times Teahupoo winner Andy Irons expects his fellow Hawaiians to also have an advantage. “The reason why the Hawaiians go so well in the trials is because the wave is a lot like the waves they have grown up surfing. They all go down there a lot and have the place a lot more dialed than the other guys.
Australian surfers have already proved they are capable of upsets with powerful goofy footer and former WCT surfer Beau Emerton (Gold Coast, Aus) included in this years trials. The 30 year-old who failedd to re-qualify for the WCT last year, finished third in the 2002 Billabong Pro Tahiti and has clocked up some huge scoring rides at the left-hander. Fellow Gold Coaster Harvey was a stand-out in the 2004 trials, eliminated in the semi-finals to narrowly miss out on a main event berth.
Reigning Billabong ASP world junior champion Pablo Paulino (Brz) is one of the unknown elements in this year’s Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper Trials. With talent to burn the young gun will be looking to cause some upsets among his more experienced Teahupoo opponents. The Sunshine Coasts Wade Goodall is another who is being touted as possessing the fearless factor but both surfers will be surfing ‘Chopes for the first time.
Two wildcards will be awarded from the Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper Trials into the Billabong Pro Tahiti World Championship Tour (WCT) event. The Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper Trials winner and the highest placed Tahitian will join the world’s top 45 men’s surfers in the Teahupoo line-up from May 5th — 17th. The Billabong Pro Tahiti Girls WCT will be staged in conjunction with the men’s from May 5th — 15th.
A total of three full days of competition are required to finalise the trials which has a 5 day waiting period for the best possible surf conditions between April 25th to 29th.
The Billabong Pro Tahiti delivered by Air Tahiti Nui is proudly supported by Von Zipper, Bose, Kustom and The Tahitian Surfing Federation.
A total field of 80 surfers.
Round’s 1 through to 3 will feature four man heats.
From round four onwards all heats will be man on man.
Round 1 features 64 surfers with 50 per cent progression.
Round 2 features 32 surfers with fifty per cent progression.
Round 3 will see the 4 Billabong Invitees and top 8 from last years trials enter competition. Therefore round three will feature 32 surfers.
Billabong Trials Invitees seeded directly into Round 3:
Pete Mendia (USA)
Ian Walsh (Haw)
Dylan Longbottom (Aus)
Billabong ASP World Junior Champion Pablo Paulino (Brz)
Top Seeded Trialists directly into Round 3:
Heimata Carroll (Tah).
Alain Riou (Tah)
Damon Harvey (Aus)
Danilo Costa (Brz)
Tamayo Perry (Haw)
Heimata Pollock (Tah)
Heifara Tahutini (Tah)
Pancho Sullivan (Haw)
Previous Trials Champions:
2004 Heimata Carroll (Tah).
2003 Alain Riou (Tah).
2002 Vetea ‘Poto’ David (Tah).
2001 Bruce Irons (Haw).
2000 Andy Irons (Haw).