After a night of rumbling reef noises on the Teahupoo (Cheo-poo) Point competitors in the Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper Trials realized their dreams had come true with perfect two metre plus (6ft plus) barrels on show at first light at the dredging left-hander 400 metres off-shore.
As the international field of eighty surfers commenced competition for the two remaining wildcards in the Billabong Pro Tahiti the south-west swell continued to build and become more consistent throughout the day. Round one of competition was completed with the afternoon heats experiencing some booming 3 metre (8ft) plus sets that separated the experienced big wave surfers from the talented hopefuls.
1993 World Champion Derek Ho (Haw) showed no fear in his opening heat, launching over the Teahupoo ledge with reckless abandonment twice to post two strong scores and advance with a win. The 40-year-old goofy footer, known for his prowess on the heaving Hawaiian reefs, looked completely at ease in the pulsing swell.
"Yeah I guess I was pretty lucky to slot straight into the first wave of the heat, when the alarm blows and the wave comes in you have to catch it," said Ho. "The conditions are really nice out there was some beautiful waves through my heat. The only way I get to compete in a WCT heat is to go through the trials these days so my brother (Michael) flew me down here from Hawaii, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. We are having fun hanging out whatever happens."
Young Australian surfer Anthony Walsh (Lennox Head) lived up to all expectations in his opening heat this morning, winning comfortably despite an interference call, reducing his second highest score by half. The 22-year-old, known in international surfing circles as a proven big wave charger, survived a narrow escape from the shallow coral reef after being caught inside on a rouge 3m set.
"I was pretty happy, the first wave I ever caught over here in the contest was a 9.5 so I was stoked with that," said Walsh. "This is my first time here, I have been here for five days and it has been kind of small and this is the first real Teahupoo day so I am happy with the result."
Walsh secured his spot in the second round alongside Hawaiian goofy footer Kalani Chapman, eliminating dangerous Tahitian duo Lionel Teihoto and Guillami Bourligueux.
"The local guys and the Hawaiians don't worry me too much really, I just stick to my own thing and do what I do, so I'm not worried about what they do," said Walsh. You can have a good heat or a bad heat, you just have to pick the right ones at the right time out there."
In a dramatic three consecutive heats, Australian duo Wade Goodall (Sunshine Coast) and Luke Dorrington (Gold Caost) were eliminated, while fellow Gold Coast surfer Austin Langridge progressed through. Dorrington surpassed the fears held prior to surfing 'Chopes, launching himself down three set waves but failed to get deep enough to warrant the high scoring rides rewarded for a deep tube.
Goodall suffered a different fate, in a wave starved heat the talented youngster failed to lock in a second strong ride and fell short to Kalama Ikaika (Haw) and Heinere Paez (Tah).
Langridge surfed with the determination he is renowned for, positioning deep behind the peak and threading two long backside tube rides before they closed out on the draining reef, to survive through to the second round.
Tahitian surfer Vetea "Poto" David, one of the many locals who show little regard for the powerful left-hand break on their doorsteps seemed completely at ease today, dropping into barrel after barrel amidst the screams of the Tahitian spectators in the nearby channel. The 2002 Billabong Pro Trials champion, knows what it takes to win at 'Chopes' and will be vying for one of the precious two spots in the main event and working on the Tahitian Water Patrol team at the same time.
"I had the luck with me, I pulled back on a few because I didn't need to go and break my board, I was being a bit conservative," he said. "Local knowledge has a lot to do with it, the ones to go and not to go. Some of the big sets I didn't go are easily big enough to tow into. You can try and paddle but you have to be in the right spot, it makes you lazy though, towing all the time."
Top seeded surfers including defending trials champion Heimata Carroll (Tah), Damon Harvey (Gold Coast), Tamayo Perry (Haw), Danilo Costa (Brz), Dylan Longbottom (Gold Coast, Aus), Pete Mendia (USA), Brian Pacheco (USA),James Wood (Lennox Head, Aus) Manoa Drollet (Tah) and rising Tahitian young gun Heiarii Williams will enter competition in round three.The Billabong Pro Tahiti delivered by Air Tahiti Nui is proudly supported by Von Zipper, Bose, Kustom and The Tahitian Surfing Federation
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