FANTASY SURFER: Billabong Pro Tahiti 2005
SLATER RE-WRITES THE RECORD BOOKS WITH TWO PERFECT TENS TO WIN THE BILLABONG PRO TAHITI
PRODUCING two perfect 10 point rides, pro’ surfing’s freak of freaks, six-times world champion Kelly Slater (USA) today proved he was still the man to beat on the Foster’s Men’s World Tour, winning the final of Billabong Pro Tahiti with savvy and commitment that defied comprehension in faultless 4-6’+ (2m) waves at Teahupoo. Here in the French territory of tropical Tahiti, it was magnifique Slater, winning a magnifique event in magnifique conditions.
Slater’s ultimate scoreline of 20 out of a possible 20 points, an ASP World Record, eclipsed his own previously standing record for the highest two-wave heat score of 19.93 attained in the third round of last year’s Billabong Pro Tahiti against local wildcard Alain Riou.
This event was an event that superseded many records, firstly in terms of waiting, as continual showers and marginal surf conditions beleaguered the start of the event until the last four days of the event, then with the back-to-back anointing of perfect conditions that the event was delivered in those same four days, and then finally, but foremost, the exceptional standards of surfing that the Foster’s Men’s World Tour Top 45 delivered throughout the draw.
The only negative of what was an otherwise incredible day of surfing energy and spirit was the demise of Slater’s contender in the 35-minute final Damien Hobgood USA), who dislocated his shoulder half way through the concluding chapter of this epic of epic events.
Hobgood’s injury duplicated an identical situation in the final of last year’s Billabong Pro Tahiti when Australia’s Nathan Hedge dislocated his shoulder seven minutes into last year’s final against Damien Hobgood’s brother CJ.
Beyond today’s personal calamity for Hobgood, many assessed today’s action as one of the greatest days of competitive surfing ever witnessed. Adding another record to his cache of records, Slater also equalled reigning world champion Andy Irons’ record as three-time winner at the dredging left-hander of Teahupoo.
In the drama filled final both surfers were in astounding form from this morning’s opening round four heats as Teahupoo offered up the ideal arena with deep pits all day.
It was ‘game on’ from the opening minute of the final with the pair of
‘Teahupoo Specialists’ putting it all on the line with late drops and super deep barrel rides to post nine point plus rides. Thirty-three year-old Slater then took it to another level with a classic performance, clocking up a perfect 10 and a 9.8 score just ten minutes into the 35-minute final.
“I’m just relieved it’s all over. I was riding this high, and sometimes you feel things lining up and you can’t explain it. Today was one of those days,” said Slater.
“In the final I can’t explain it…I wasn’t expecting to get two perfect
tens, but I knew it was possible out there, and that someone could do it,” said Slater.
“The waves just came to me and it’s all about the waves coming to you, and you riding them right, and to their full potential”
Initially, Hobgood tried to answer back to Slater’s early throwing down of the gauntlet with several twisting tube rides, but half way through the final he was clipped by the heaving west bowl on the inside reef, thereby dislocating his shoulder.
While Hobgood was ferried to shore by the Tahitian water patrol for medical attention, Slater was left solo in the perfect line-up and rewrote the record books clocking another perfect ten point ride setting an unbeatable record.
From his opening heat against Bruce Irons (HAW), the day belonged to Slater, serving notice early with the day’s first perfect ten to defeat the young Hawaiian. Irons Junior knew the danger.
“Even though I was leading by over 18 points at one stage, I was still freaking out, knowing that anything was possible with Kelly. He proved that right didn’t he!” said Irons.
Many who witnessed Slater’s freakish 10 point-ride touted it as the best
competitive wave ridden in ASP history, and the super surfer himself readily agreed to including the ride high amongst his personally considered career highlights. When the greatest surfer of all time agrees to such a claim, you know that it’s worthy.
Plummeting critically late out of the lip, the wind catching his board as he free-fell, Slater landed on his rail and was thrown ridiculously sideways back into the wall of the rapidly rifling wave. He somehow recovered from a physics dynamic that defied recuperation, whilst still managing to be traversing under the cascading lip.
Slater continued on to surf a near perfect heat in each round of his path through to the final, narrowly defeating defending champion C.J. Hobgood (USA) in the quarters, and then posting a convincing win over Taj Burrow (Yallingup, W.A.) in the semi-finals.
“Bruce got a big lead on me early, and then I got that ten and I went, ‘I can win this contest’,” said Slater. “You know that wave just basically inspired me all day. This is definitely one of those moments; one of the most magical days of my career for sure.”
For Hobgood, it was a bitter ending after looking like the only one capable of conquering the seemingly unstoppable run of Slater. Amassing two perfect tens of his own throughout the Billabong Pro Tahiti tournament, the 25-year-old flew past dangerous opponents Kalani Robb (HAW) in round four, Fredrick Patacchia Jnr (HAW) in the quarters’ and Hedge in the semi final.
While it was ultimately a severe shoulder dislocation that stopped his
dream of standing atop the Billabong Pro podium as victor, that lofty aspiration could only have been achieved as co-event champion, when and if he could have matched Slater’s perfect 20 point score.
Hobgood’s second place finish lifts him to equal second position on the ASP WCT ratings after three events, alongside reigning world champion Andy Irons (HAW).
For Hedge, today’s semi-final finish cemented his status as a revered
Teahupoo charger. After narrowly defeating current ASP ratings leader
Trent Munro in the Australian pair’s quarter final, Hedge could do little to overcome Hobgood in the following semi-finals, scoring a combined two-wave total of 16.87, as opposed to his opponent’s impeccable 18.33.
After breaking his board midway through the crucial clash, Hedge had to settle for equal third as Hobgood continued to thread his way through the warping Teahupoo west bowl and into the final.
West Australian surfer Taj Burrow again proved his worth as a Teahupoo charger with his semi-final finishing equal third today. It was the second time Slater has gotten the better of the 26-year-old, after defeating him in the final to win the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2003.
Burrow’s combined two wave score of 13.40 was not enough to match the rampaging Slater, who piled on two near-perfect nine point rides to finish with a 19.73 out of a possible 20.
Hawaiia’s Foster’s Men’s World Tour rookie Fred Patacchia looked completely at home at Teahupoo, using his intimate barrel riding skills honed on the powerful Hawaiian reef breaks to thread his way through to a quarter final, and equal fifth place.
Brazilian surfer Paulo Moura, who had the South American continent on
standstill after a fanatical 10 point ride in yesterday’s competition, again proved himself as one of Brazil’s best big wave surfers finishing 5th in the Billabong Pro Tahiti 2005. The lithe goofy footer charged through the fourth round this morning over Australian Tom Whittaker, but could not match the barrel riding skills and relentless perseverance of Hedge in the quarter-finals.
Reigning world surfing champion Andy Irons uncharacteristically failed to find his rhythm and was eliminated in round four by Australian Dean Morrison (Gold Coast). Morrison was forced to settle for an equal fifth placing after losing to Burrow in the quarter-finals.
As the world’s spotlight turned on Teahupoo for a marathon month of surfing, the reef break turned on the full range of elements from perfect spitting barrels to heart thumping 6m mountains, to the on-shore rain drenched days of unsurfable slop.
The action commenced late April with the Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper Trials staged in the best conditions of the tournaments five-year history, waves varying from epic 3 metre slabs to perfect two metre barrels. Tahitian big wave surfing legend Manoa Drollet emerged victorious over a world-class field of trialists.
Then, in what is now regarded as one of the most momentous surfing sessions ever, Teahupoo pulsed at its powerful best for two solid days with giant 6m waves offering ideal tow-in surfing conditions for the world’s top ranked and best big wave surfers.
The world’s top 17 female surfers battled testing Teahupoo waves for two
days with Australia’s Chelsea Georgeson claiming the Billabong Girls Pro
Tahiti title. Then after a rain drenched 2 weeks of waiting for waves,
Teahupoo turned on once again, on queue, throwing epic waves at the top Foster’s Top 45 men’s surfers for the final four days of the Billabong Pro Tahiti waiting period. The job is done!
The Billabong Pro Tahiti was delivered by Air Tahiti Nui is proudly supported by Von Zipper, Bose, Kustom and The Tahitian Surfing Federation.
Billabong Pro Live Webcast: via www.billabongpro.com and www.aspworldtour.com each day of the event utilizing live coverage in English, French and Portuguese, with the event websites being translated into these three languages plus, Japanese and Spanish. Various camera angles, highlights and replays, weather and scoring information, direct viewer interaction, celebrity guests, interviews and more are a part of the daily webcast program.