2006 Billabong Pro Tahiti

Rookie Bobby Martinez (USA) has turned the surfing world on its ear today by
pushing past a host of established pro tourers to claim his first-ever major
event win at the Billabong Pro Tahiti.

Defeating the 2005 Foster's ASP Men's World Tour Rookie Of The Year Fred
Patacchia Jr. (HAW) in the 40 minute and extremely tight affair, Martinez scored
a total of 16.27 to Patacchia's 16.07.

Held in two metre (four to six foot) and near perfect waves at the infamous
break of Teahupoo, Martinez was the form surfer of the event and in the lead up
to the final he scored some of the deepest and longest tube rides ever seen in
competition.

While the waves were few and far between at the beginning of the final, when the
swell did begin to pump toward the end, Patacchia and Martinez were literally on
fire, mixing up tube riding with scintillating top turns and incredibly
committed lip bashes – all just above the razor sharp reef.

The lead swapped and changed on numerous occasions as the two went blow for blow
and despite Patacchia landing a huge aerial manoeuvre right at the end Martinez
had done enough to claim first place.

"I'm on cloud nine. To have a win is… I can't even talk… it just feels fake,"
said Martinez. "I didn't know how I was going to do this year. To have a win has
taken me by surprise. It's amazing…

"My head was tossing and turning, [after Patacchia scored an 8.10 for his huge
last wave] just wondering if I blew it, blew the opportunity," said Martinez. "I
didn't see the barrel but I saw him do that air. And luckily he didn't get the
score and I won."

Martinez was elated at the fact that he has claimed his first win at such a
prestigious event.

"You have the best surfers in the world competing here on this tour and to win
here at Teahupoo… it can't get any better," said Martinez. "To win here even
though the waves weren't crazy Teahupoo… is just amazing. It hasn't sunk in yet
but when it does…"

The win has also catapulted Martinez into second place on the ratings and places
him well within striking distance for a full on assault at the 2006 crown.

Patacchia meanwhile was equally ecstatic about his second placing – his best
result since joining the tour last year.

Having come so close to claiming his first win was enough to have the likable
Hawaiian grinning from ear to ear.

His performance on the last wave of the heat was something that won't be
forgotten in a hurry by anyone fortunate enough to witness it.

"I knew I needed and 8.1 and I was lucky enough that Bobby actually gave me the
wave," said Martinez. "And I knew that that was going to be the last wave ridden
in the final. I felt like I had to put it all on the line, right then and there,
no matter what. I got a little barrel right off the takeoff, did a pretty good
snap and then an air and a cutback. I was able to fit some pretty good turns in
in a small period of time. I just barely didn't get the score, but not to take
anything away from Bobby, he was surfing great the whole event.

"I was getting really heated earlier in the event about scores, but that I left
that last wave up to the judges," said Patacchia. "I didn't really want to get
too emotional about it because I know when you surf Teahupoo you have to get
good barrels, and Bobby got the best barrels of the heat. But if you look at the
judging criteria, I did everything in the book on that wave. That's what I tried
to do and I knew I had to do it. It could have gone either way, they could have
given it to me, they obviously didn't but I'm satisfied with the result I had
and I think the judges made a good decision."

It was also a dramatic day for Kelly Slater (USA) when he finished in third
place after being beaten by the rampaging Patacchia.

In the action packed semi, both surfers were pushing themselves to the limits
and Slater so much so, that he broke both himself and his board in the
encounter.

With the emphasis shifting from the tube to big turns when the tide slightly
affected the wave shape, Patacchia and Slater attacked the break like dogs on a
piece of raw meat.

Patacchia was scintillating on one wave where he executed some sizzling top
turns and cut backs and gaining motivation from seeing that wave, Slater took
off on five footer and drove hard off the bottom in order to execute a big
backside floater.

But coming into the turn too late and with the lip being heavy and thick he
landed awkwardly smashing onto his board in a hideous fashion.

It was immediately obvious that Slater was injured and first messages from the
channel back to the tower indicated that he had done some rib damage, which was
later confirmed by the medical staff.

Then to rub salt into the wound he took off on another wave late, threw his
board away only to come up and see it floating in two pieces.

"It was an injury I did in the last event at Bells in the final on one of my
last waves," said Slater. "I just fell out there today and came down square on
my ribs, right on my board. It was the second or third wave I had in that heat,
and at that point I was basically out of it. I couldn't really paddle, couldn't
breathe very deep, so I probably shouldn't have surfed anymore, I don't know if
I injured it any more, but there's definitely some strange kind of pain going on
in there."

The injury will place a cloud over Slater's fitness for the next event at Fiji
and at this stage the seven-time world champion is looking like being a no-show.

"I probably won't go to Fiji if I feel this way a week or five days from now.
That would give me a break until Mexico comes at the end of June so I'll just
see how we go. Fiji can get pretty big waves – you get some serious thrashings
at Cloudbreak, so I wouldn't want to be feeling like this and do more internal
damage."

Also finishing in equal third was Foster's ASP Men's World Tour veteran Taylor
Knox.

The likable Californian was standout all throughout the event and put on a
tremendous show in the second semi final where he was beaten by Martinez.

For Knox the third placing was his best result for quite some time and it will
augur well for a strong 2006 campaign as he now has been rocketed into third
place on the ratings.

Results:

Quarter finals

Quarter final 1: Fred Patacchia (HAW) 14.27 def. Hira Teriinatoofa (PYF) 14.17
Quarter final 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.83 def Bruce Irons (HAW) 9.23
Quarter final 3: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.07 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 14.60
Quarter final 4: Bobby Martinez (USA) 14.84 def. Danny Fuller (HAW) 8.84

Semi finals

Semi final 1: Fred Patacchia (USA) 10.24 def Kelly Slater 5.10 (USA)
Semi final 2: Bobby Martinez (USA) 17.97 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 16.73

Final:
Bobby Martinez (USA) 16.27 def. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 16.07

Ratings after event #3 on the Foster's ASP Men's World Tour:

1. Kelly Slater (USA) 5276
2. Bobby Martinez (USA) 2676
3. Taylor Knox (USA) 2208
4. Andy Irons (HAW) 2064
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 2042
5. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 2042
7. Damien Hobgood (USA) 1742
7. Bruce Irons (HAW) 1742
9. Fred Patacchia (HAW) 1667
10. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 1610