As the world's best surfers prepare to compete at Stop 7 of 11 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour, the Billabong Pro Tahiti, a crop of the best of the rest prepare to battle for the two remaining spots in the event via the Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials. Boasting a four-day window from August 9 – 12, the Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials will see surfers sent out in the best possible conditions in deciding which two surfers will be given the opportunity to compete against the world’s best.
The Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials field consists of local Tahitian chargers, a crew of international surfers who have proven themselves at solid Teahupo’o and some of the Billabong team's most exciting talent that's currently not on Tour. The winner and the highest-placed local surfer will be slotted into Round 1 and are likely to face off against ASP World Nos. 1 and 2 Gabriel Medina (BRA) and Joel Parkinson (AUS). The Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials always attract a stellar field as well as attention from surf fans world-wide, with the winners often going on to cause upsets and twists and turns in the race for the ASP World Title.
Manoa Drollet (PYF) is the most experienced of the local trialists, surfing in the Billabong Pro Tahiti six times, including a third place finish in the first ASP World Championship event at Teahupo’o in 1999 and a runner-up finish to Bruno Santos (BRA) in the all-wildcard final in 2008.
"It's an exciting time of year!" Drollet said. "Teahupo’o is my favourite wave and you get a chance to surf against the best in the world, to be from Tahiti and have the chance to compete in this event is a great opportunity. The forecast is looking really good, if it doesn't change from what I saw, this event could be all time, it's the perfect forecast. It's not going to be super big, but 8, 10, 12 feet maybe. Most of the guys on Tour are starting to get really good out there, they know it as much as me – I love watching Kelly Slater and Parko and Mick (Fanning) too. There's an exciting young generation of Tahitians coming up, they know to be good at Teahupo’o is important and they will be good to watch."
Jack Robinson (AUS), the 16-year-old West Australian got his first taste of Teahupo’o just a couple weeks ago on a Billabong Bloodlines trip and it left a lasting impression. Robinson was a standout in a number of freesurf sessions and is keen to return to see if he can make an impact in a competition jersey.
"Teahupo’o is unbelievable," Robinson said. "Just how clean it is and being able to paddle such a big volume slab of a wave. I've seen a million photos and videos, but doing it in person is better than I could have imagined. My favourite Teahupo’o vision is of that Code Red day, some of that slow motion video is insane."
Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) took out the trials in both 2011 and 2012 had an impressive run at at the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2012, finishing equal 5th place after losing to eventual winner Mick Fanning (AUS) in the Quarterfinals. Dos Santos did some damage in the draw, eliminating Kelly Slater (USA) and Taj Burrow (AUS) with some impressive tube riding.
"It's always a pleasure to surf with only a couple guys out at Teahupo’o," dos Santos said. "It feels amazing to have the opportunity of choosing the best wave of the set and just go for. Teahupo’o puts you in your place. That wave never lets you feel 100 percent comfortable, that's why it is the best feeling ever when you make the barrel. My last wave against Kelly (Slater) gave me the best feeling of my life. I knew that I got the score, and I could feel that the ocean chose me in that moment."
Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials will run from Aug 9 – 12. Stay tuned to ASPWorldTour.com for results and images.
* Another eight locals will be added to draw via pre-trials event
Ricardo dos Santos
Past Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials Winners
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)