On All Cylinders
Was the Billabong Pro Tahiti the greatest surf contest of all time?
ASP commentators are some of the most hyperbole-prone people on earth, and at some point during the final day nearly everyone in the South Pacific with a microphone exclaimed the words “best ever”. So let’s break the event down to its basic ingredients and see if their sum was truly the greatest surf contest in ASP history.
A Strong Start
There are no two ways about it: Teahupoo was on fire the entire time. In the very first heat, Kelly Slater caught a bomb and earned himself a 9.40, and things only got better from there. Even the slowest heats had at least a decent wipeout or two.
9s That Were Throwaway Scores
It seemed like there were well-deserved 9-point rides in almost every heat. And perfect 10s? There were plenty of those as well. Nathan Hedge got one, so did Kai Otton, John Florence, Owen Wright, and Bede Durbidge. Oh yeah, and Slater got two. By the end of the event, low 9s were being discarded like common trash. Who needs ‘em? Not these guys.
“You kind of feel like a pussy letting them go, but I don’t know how makeable a lot of them are.” This is what Dion Atkinson had to say about the sets that were rolling through during his heat against Kai Otton in Round 5. Those big, dark, evil-looking bastards that so many of the world’s best wanted no part of. Nothing makes for better surfing than a nice cold sweat.
Mick Fanning getting dominated by Dion Atkinson? Julian Wilson opting to ride a buzzer-beater on his bum? Kolohe Andino making Quarters in maxed-out left barrels? Tahiti just might be some kind of Bizarro world where absolutely nothing goes according to script, and when every heat seems up for grabs, that’s when competitive surfing is at its best.
One Unforgettable Heat
The Medina vs. Slater Final was a hell of a show, but when we think back to this contest a year from now, that’s not the heat we’re going to remember. That distinction goes to the Semi between Kelly and John John. We’ve been waiting for this matchup between the world’s greatest barrel riders ever since their clash at last year’s Pipe Masters, and it didn’t disappoint. A 9.77, 9.87, 9.90, and a perfect-10 were counted in the score line while a 9.10 and 9.40 were tossed aside. The heat ended in a tie, with the nod going to Slater for holding the highest single-wave score. Fugghetaboutit. Best heat ever.
A M. Night Shyamalan Ending
Remember when Bruce Willis turned out to be dead all along? Or when the people in that village were actually living in modern times? Or how about when those aliens ended up being allergic to water? All of those plot twists pale in comparison to Kelly Slater losing to Gabriel Medina in the Final at Teahupoo. Kelly surfs that wave better than anyone, and he was at his all-time best during this event. We never saw it coming. Well done, Gabriel.
Bonus: The Kickouts
Not a key ingredient for a great surf contest by any means, but seeing all the skip-outs on the shoulder, near boat collisions, trips over the falls, high-speed chop hops, and flying squirrels was pretty damn entertaining.
Yes, that was the best ASP event. Ever.
What say you? Tell us in the comments.