Alain Riou Wins Billabong Pro Tahiti Trials

Alain Riou

Alain Riou on his way to winning the 2013 Billabong Pro Tahiti trials. Photo: ASP/Robertson

Alain Riou Wins Billabong Pro Tahiti Trials Presented By Air Tahiti Nui

Fight between Ricardo Dos Santos and Jamie O’Brien mars event

Teahupo’o, Tahiti (Sunday, 11th August 2013): The two final wildcard spots into the upcoming Billabong Pro Tahiti have been decided with local Alain Riou (PYF), 30, and Aussie Anthony Walsh (AUS), 30, finishing first and second respectively in the Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Trials at Teahupo'o yesterday.

It is the second time Riou has won the trials from eight attempts and the third time he has qualified for the elite Billabong Pro main event. Last year the local goofy qualified by finishing second behind blazing Brazilian Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA).

Alain Riou

Alain Riou is on his way to the main event for the second time in eight tries. Photo: ASP/Robertson

"I'm stoked to be in the Billabong Pro again. It's crazy to think I won the trials ten years ago and now I have another shot," said Riou. "As a wildcard you always draw the high seeds and both times I've come up against Mick (Fanning). He's a good friend of mine, he stays at my house and he won the Billabong Pro last year, so who knows? I might draw him again and I hope I can get him," said Riou. “Either way, I'll be bringing my A-game."

Walsh is another serious Teahupo'o trials campaigner. The hard-charging goofy foot from Lennox Head in NSW, Australia is always a favorite at Teahupo'o and has reached the semis three times – missing out by one spot on each occasion, agonizingly close to a main event berth.

Yesterday however, Walsh dominated and put the hoodoo to rest, solidifying himself a slot in the main draw next week. "I'm really stoked to get in. That's my goal coming here – just to make the main event and show everyone what I can do," said Walsh. "Like Alain, I've been in the trials eight times. I qualified with a second one year but then missed out three times by one spot. So it's really good to get in and hopefully we get good waves," Walsh said.

Nathan Hedge

Nathan “The Hog” Hedge will most likely get into the main event due to injuries on the top 34. Photo: ASP/Robbo

Former ASP world number six, Nathan "Hog" Hedge (AUS) and local, Poulou Jocelyn (PYF) both reached the semi-finals before going down to Riou and Walsh. Their hard work may not be in vein, however, with news that ASP WCT ranked surfers Owen Wright (AUS), Dusty Payne (HAW) and Tiago Pres (PRT) will withdraw from the Billabong Pro main event due to injury. Meaning it is almost certain both Hedge and Jocelyn will get a start.

It's fantastic news for Hedge who has posted career-best results at the infamous lefthander and is serious about requalifying for the Championship Tour following a few years off tour facing more personal challenges, including the loss of his father. "It's been six years since I've been in Tahiti competing on the World Championship Tour so this result really means a lot to me," said Hedge. "I've been knocking on the door to get a trials spot the last few years and I finally got an invitation.

"I've had a second place in the WCT, a third place and I've had perfect ten's out at Teahupo'o, so to be back in the main event with another shot is pretty much a dream result for me. It means so much to come here and be back in Tahiti, it' just huge," he said.

The early trials heats were not without their drama. In Heat 1 of Round 1, former and defending two-time trials winner, Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA) found himself in a physical altercation with another former trials winner, Hawaiian invitee Jamie O'Brien (HAW).

According to onlookers, the pair rode the same wave in the dying moments of their heat – with Dos Santos on the inside and O'Brien on the outside. There was a physical altercation as the surfers rode the wave, with Dos Santos being forced from his board. The altercation continued after Dos Santos surfaced and a member of the water patrol intervened to help quell the dispute.

At the time of the incident, Dos Santos was sitting in second place looking to improve on his best ride and O'Brien was facing elimination in fourth place. The final heat result? Both surfers were eliminated – Heiarii Williams (PYF) finished first, Poulou Jocelyn (PYF) leapt up into second place, Dos Santos slipped into third and O'Brien finished fourth.

*Jamie O'Brien has since apologized to Dos Santos and posted a photo of him shaking the Brazilians hand but it has since been removed from Instagram most likely due to the hate-filled comments. We consider it water under the bridge and so do the two surfers…

Unfortunately, conditions for the one-day trials tournament were rated among the worst seen in the event's 13 year history. A lacklustre south-east swell produced only head-high waves and these waves were battered by 20knot + south-east winds. Describing it as a 'dog's breakfast' is probably not too much of an exaggeration.

Accordingly, the highest individual scoring wave ridden by any competitor was 8.0 points and 2013 marks the first year the trials tournament has not seen at least one perfect-10 point ride. Good news is the forecast for next week is much more promising. Surfline, official Billabong Pro forecasters, are calling for clean, mid-sized barrelling waves, well timed for the arrival of the world's top 34 ranked surfers.

1st place: Alain Riou (PYF) (Billabong Pro Tahiti wildcard + US $1500 + Air Tahiti Nui travel)
2nd place: Anthony Walsh (AUS) (Billabong Pro Tahiti wildcard + US $1000).

Semi Finals
SF1 Anthony Walsh (AUS) 9.33pts def Poulou Jocelyn (PYF) 7.53pts (US $600)
SF2 Alain Riou (PYF) 9.00pts def Nathan Hedge (AUS) 7.97pts.

Quarter Finals
QF1: Anthony Walsh (AUS) 12.24pts def Ian Walsh (HAW) 10.34pts
QF2: Poulou Jocelyn (PYF) 7.73pts def Matt Bromley (ZAF) 5.34pts
QF3: Alain Riou (PYF) 12.83pts def Dandois David (PYF) 7.33pts
QF4: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 11.13pts def Hira Teriinatoofa (PYF) 8.63pts.

Honor Roll – Air Tahiti Nui Trials Champions
2013 Alain Riou (PYF)
2012 Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA)
2011 Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA)
2010 Tuamata Puhetini (PFY)
2009 Heiarii Williams (PFY)
2008 Jamie O'Brien (HAW)
2007 Manoa Drollet (PFY)
2006 Heiarii Williams (PFY)
2005 Manoa Drollet (PFY)
2004 Heimata Carroll (PFY)
2003 Alain Riou (PFY)
2002 Vetea David (PFY)
2001 Bruce Irons (HAW)