Six-time world champion Kelly Slater (USA) today advanced in the 2002 Billabong Pro Teahupoo as Pearl Jam’s singer Eddie Vedder looked on. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) was placed on hold this morning due to unfavorable weather conditions, before round two was completed in clean surf.
Waves decreased overnight to 6-8 ft (2-2.5m), with slight rainfall helping to glass off the ocean surface during the day’s action.
Slater, who won this tournament in 2000 as a wildcard entrant, today eliminated world #5 Jake Paterson (Aus). Leading from the outset, after posting an 8.5 on his first wave, he then broke two surfboards and was forced to borrow fellow American Pat O’Connell’s equipment. With less than five minutes remaining, Paterson required an 8.01 and it seemed the window of opportunity had opened, but then Slater swung around into his last ride, with a block of wax in his mouth and the board’s leash still dangling unattached behind. The 30 year old disappeared into his best barrel ride, securing an 8.9 and the match.
“It was a bizarre heat,” admitted Slater. “My first wave right off the bat was good, as was my last one just before the horn. In between I was struggling and couldn’t find rhythm, and kept falling and breaking boards.
“I’m stoked to be back,” he added of the venue. “The waves have been amazing. Frightening. Probably the most intense waves I’ve ever seen anywhere. Life-threatening. It’s really surprising that no one’s been hurt badly yet. It could easily happen.
“Eddie’s just a surf fan,” he commented on friend Vedder. “He’s really passionate about it and it’s been his whole life he says. Last couple of years he’s really been getting into just surfing. He comes to Hawaii to surf, California a bit, Australia… he’s kind of on his own little surf trip. This just happened to link up when he had some time off, and he wanted to come to Tahiti. He says it’s blowing his mind like nothing he’s ever seen. We’ve just been playing some ukulele’s at night, that’s about it.”
Vedder, who’s sporting a Mohawk haircut, has spent the past couple of days either on a boat or the back of Jet Ski watching the tournament. After Slater’s win, he offered the following account of what he’s witnessed.
“The biggest, scariest waves I’ve ever seen,” said Vedder. “It actually is so big, and such a freak of nature it takes at least a couple of days to figure it out. Your brain can’t compute, or at least that’s what I’ve found. And then all the people out there, it’s kind of like a circus built right next to an earthquake that’s going off. It’s super intense and totally enjoyable.
“We went out the day before the contest started in front of Manoa’s place,” he added, of surfing with Slater and local Tahitian standout Manoa Drollet. “Maybe if I had a couple of days to get into it I would have gone for a couple, but when you’re in different waters… I have a pretty healthy sense of fear. They were just above my level, so I watched. But hopefully I get something before I leave.”
World #6 Kalani Robb (Haw) dominated the day’s opening match to eliminate Rodrigo Dornelles (Brz). Posting a near-perfect 9.75, and then an 8.0 for the highest two-wave total so far of 17.75-points, his opponent suffered the opposite fate, failing to secure any good rides.
“I know Rodrigo is a good surfer, but I made my barrels and that’s the difference,” said Robb. “I actually got a pretty good one before the event started this morning and I was just looking for the same waves. I didn’t really think I was going to make the one I got, but I went anyway, and thankfully made it.
“A lot of people who see it on TV across the world, they don’t really get to feel it,” he added, of the life-threatening reef break. “It’s a full gladiators’ pit with all the boats and the biggest waves you’ve ever seen. We’re lucky it’s not out of control like thaat today ’cause you can get killed, for sure.”
Australian WCT newcomers Kieren Perrow, Mick Fanning and Dean Morrison all advanced today. Perrow, who has been on a roll all year and is currently equal sixth of the ratings, continued his form this morning against fellow Australian Michael Campbell. After opening with an 8.0, the heat became tight when ‘Cambo’ posted a 7.65, but Perrow did likewise the next ride for a lead that didn’t change.
“Things are going well this year, so hopefully I can keep it up,” said Perrow, a renowned charger at Teahupoo. “It was really good out there, so I can’t complain, but I would have loved to surf yesterday. It was pumping.”
Paul Canning (SAfr) ousted close friend and Tahitian housemate Michael Lowe (Aus). The South African started strong with two eight plus scores, creating a situation whereby his opponent needed 9.51-points.
“I feel insane,” said Canning. “Especially after my last heat where I took some heavy wipeouts. Yesterday I broke three boards and only had this bigger one left. If I broke this I was pretty much over. I also tweaked my neck, so I was stoked to have it a bit smaller.”
Former world #2 Taj Burrow enjoyed a ‘walk-through’ today, as opponent Guilherme Herdy (Brz) was forced to withdraw after he perforated his eardrum and then aggravated it further out at Teahupoo this week.
A decision will be made tomorrow morning at 6:30am (local time) as to the day’s schedule, with the women’s division very likely to begin.
Official results of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo Round Two
H7: Kalani Robb (Haw) 17.75 def. Rodrigo Dornelles (Brz) 3.5
H8: Taylor Knox (USA) 10.25 def. Luke Hitchings (Aus) 6.5
H9: Kieren Perrow (Aus) 15.65 def. Michael Campbell (Aus) 14.4
H10: Paul Canning (SAfr) 16.75 def. Michael Lowe (Aus) 13.0
H11: Taj Burrow (Aus) 0 def. Guilherme Herdy (Brz) N/S
H12: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.4 def. Jake Paterson (Aus) 3.3
H13: Mick Fanning (Aus) 16.25 def. Nathan Webster (Aus) 10.5
H14: Flavio Padaratz (Brz) 10.25 def. Greg Emslie (SAfr) 6.8
H15: Dean Morrison (Aus) 12.25 def. Russell Winter (UK) 4.4
H16: Shane Powell (Aus) 14.25 def. Fabio Gouveia (Brz) 13.25