Teahupoo: Slater Survives, Smith Falters
A dozen surfers suffered the biggest losses of their lives today in Tahiti. And with only nine days between the Billabong Pro Tahiti and the Hurley Pro at Trestles, the question remains: of the 13 World Tour surfers being cut, how many will have to cancel tickets to California, or go to the event only to be stuck watching from the sidelines? Talk about rubbing salt in their wounds with poor scheduling.
Regardless, at the end of the second full day of competition, I am very sad to report that the World Tour season has ended for Blake Thornton, Tanner Gudauskas, Drew Courtney, Mick Campbell, Neco Padaratz, Kekoa Bacalso, Dean Morrison, Jay Thompson, Ben Dunn, Kieren Perrow, Tom Whitaker, and Nate Yeomans. Two spots on this unenviable list are still left to be decided, and that will depend on the performances of Marco Polo and Patrick Gudauskas. Patrick could just as easily rodeo-flip himself through a few heats and avoid relegation, but Marco’s fate is all but sealed and he looks destined to join the above company barring a huge result in the coming days.
But the drama wasn’t limited to the those being cut from the Tour. Local wildcard Manoa Drollett took down current World Number 1, Jordy Smith, in what is now becoming a recurring theme in Tahiti. Then, in the very next heat, Kelly Slater barely escaped a loss to Heiarii Williams with an 8.80 on his final ride. And with that breath of life, whatever disinterest was brewing in Slater before the event and during the lay days, was effectively erased. A calm, calculated, and proven killer will now be looking for a win at Teahupoo to put himself firmly back in control of the 2010 world-title race.
As for the surf, the swell continued to limp in. But when the sets decided to show, they provided a nice canvas for the guys to perform on (as long as you erased the expectations of 10-foot Teahupoo we all had before the event began).
Freddy P. surfed a great heat in waves that looked like a mix between baby Pipeline and playful Rocky Point—conditions in which he’s expected to perform. Jeremy Flores also put together a complete heat, finding open tubes and performing precise turns over the shallow inside reef. Jeremy is perhaps at his most dangerous in these conditions, as they closely resemble the waves he grew up surfing at St. Leu.
Tiago Pires also showed his past performances in left tubes were no fluke. In a heat that ultimately ended Dean Morrison’s year on the World Tour, Tiago showed great tenacity in his last-minute, come-from-behind win.
Another standout performer was Owen Wright, who continued to perform as a future world-title contender should. A win here could see him jump into that race sooner than most thought.
Likewise, everything went right for Dane Reynolds in his heats, and when that happens you can almost guarantee an 18+ heat total from him. If quality wave pools existed, he would be extremely difficult to beat. But that’s not a reality and his next heat could very easily end in a single-digit heat total.
The meager swell completely fell apart during the last heat of the day, which means we may be in for another lay day tomorrow, leaving everyone praying for the best case scenario: a repeat of today’s contestable conditions to finish in during the last two days of the waiting period.