Last year in Tahiti wildcards reigned a la Manoa Drollet vs. Bruno Santos in the final. When the third event for the ASP World Tour year gets underway this Saturday, May 9th, will it be more of the same at Teahupo’o? Or will the top seeds in the world assert their dominance?
The top five is currently sitting like this: Joel Parkinson number one, with his mate Mick Fanning in second, Fredrick Patacchia in third, Jordy Smith in fourth, and C.J. Hobgood in fifth. Parko is looking to stay on a roll with these two wins he's racked up, but there's another guy who has some momentum in his corner going into a hollow left.
Fred Patacchia has to feel good going into the event ranked third. As a goofy-footed Hawaiian, he's no stranger to macking left barrels, plus he's fresh off his Lowers Pro win. While Lowers can't prepare him for Chopes, the win definitely gives him momentum. Look for him to be a big threat at Teahupo’o. Freddy P. lost last year in Round 2 to Luke Munro by fractions of a point, and in 2006 he was runner up to Bobby Martinez who also narrowly beat him.
Kelly Slater has lost to event wildcards twice this year and now faces stiff competition. Last year he went into Tahiti on a hot streak, but lost to Tahitian Manoa Drollet in Round 3 (Drollet also took down Joel Parkinson in the semifinals last year). Don't forget that Slater scored the first perfect heat score at Teahupo’o, with a broken foot, so don't count him out just yet. But he's gonna have to be battling some tough wildcards to pace higher than 17th again.
The list of trialists for this event reads like a who's who listing of some of the best freesurfers in the world: Bruce Irons, Andy Irons, Clay Marzo, Anthony Walsh, Kalani Chapman, Kamalei Alexander, Mark Healey, not to mention the best local Teahupoo riders who surf there day in and day out (watch out for youngster Tamaroa McComb). And don't forget about wildcard Andy Irons, former Billabong Pro winner (2002) and his world-class backside tube riding skills. We'll see whether his vacation from the tour will help or hurt his performance for this event.
Stay tuned for full coverage of the Billabong Pro on transworldsurf.com, as the brothers Cote are posting up in the channel at Teahupo’o ready to give you a backstage pass of Tahiti like you've never seen before. And make sure to chime in while the event is going on live so both Chris and Justin can bring you exactly what you want to see from one of the most death-defying lefts in the world.
Chris Cote (1/2)
Winner: Freddy P is on a roll and surfing the best he ever has. He's been close to the cup at Teahupo’o before, so this year could be his year to take the trophy. Slater is like a rabid dog backed up into a corner, he will no doubt be attacking every wave and every tube like a wild animal hell bent on eating and clawing everybody in his way—if Slater doesn’t win Teahupo’o, he'll most likely take a few of the next events off.
Best Rookie Performance: Bourez is the easy pick, but it will be rad to see Barca follow in the footsteps of Bruce and Andy with some hands-free backside death tubes.
Shocker: A wildcard will win and his last name will be Irons.
Casey Koteen (0/2)
Winner: Damien Hobgood. CJ's on a roll, but Damo's not far behind and looks hungry.
Best Rookie Performance: Everyone is gonna say Bourez, so I'll go with Kekoa Bacalso. He's the highest rated rookie going in, and is well prepared to pig dog square lefts.
Shocker: In his first heat Josh Kerr will do a rodeo over the inside reef and land in the lagoon, but the judges will only give him a six and he'll lose.
Aaron Checkwood (0/2)
Winner: CJ Hobgood…he's ready.
Best Rookie Performance: Michel Bourez with his homefield advantage.
Shocker: Bad shocker-Bede, hard year so far gets worse…Good shocker-Kerr, remember his performance in Hawaii last winter? He's underestimated in waves like this.
Justin Cote (1/2)
Winner: Kelly Slater is going to win. Guaranteed.
Best Rookie Performance: Michel Bourez will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders but will handle it just fine.
Shocker: Sorry Parko, but don't worry, there's some more rights coming up soon…
Carl Steindler (0/2)
Winner: A wildcard won it last year and its gonna happen again this year…AI is gonna dominate. Re-energized and ready to take scalps! Unlike previous years, this year he has nothing to lose.
Best Rookie Performance: Michel Bourez. Home turf, home cooking, local cheering gallery, superb spot knowledge = best rookie performer
Shocker: Justin Cote…we’ve all seen his sick Chopes video and now that he’s engaged he’s super focused and more ready than ever. For real though, I’m gonna go with Dustin Barca. He will at least make the semis because he excels in waves like this, is lethal on his backhand, and knows he needs to post a good result.
Ryan Brower (0/2)
Winner: CJ Hobgood is sitting at 5th, and having won the event in 2004, he knows what it takes to win in Tahiti.
Best Rookie Performance: Obviously Michel Bourez is going to be showcasing his world-class talent at home. But don't forget about Dustin Barca and Kekoa Bacalso, these two Hawaiian rookies know how to surf powerful lefts.
Shocker: Parko and Slater both going down early. Expect Barca, Bourez, AI, or Freddy P to be battling it out in the final with Ceej. Just depends on the luck of the draw.
Nick Jiampa (0/2)
Winner: Parko: Nobody's more on fire than Parko right now, he's finally getting the results that people expect from him and his momentum will lead to a good result.
Best Rookie Performance: Kekoa Bacalso: He should be pretty comfortable in Tahiti because its power suits his upbringing in Hawaiian waves.
Shocker: Jordy: He surfs well enough to take anyone out and isn't afraid of getting barreled.
Let us know below who your picks are and what you think of our picks.