Epic Opening Day for World’s Best at Billabong Pro Tahiti, Mammoth Swell Approaching

C.J. Hobgood (USA), 32, former ASP World Champion (2001) and last year's event Runner-Up, put in the most impressive performance of the day during Round 1 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Photo: ASP

TEAHUPO'O, Taiarapu/French Polynesia (Saturday, August 20, 2011) - Round 1 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui was completed today in clean four-to-six foot (1.5 - 2 metre) waves at Teahupo'o.

Event No. 5 of 11 on the 2011 ASP World Title season, the Billabong Pro Tahiti is facing a historic week of swell projected for the event, a fitting setting for the current ASP World Title Race as well as for those surfers looking to retain their spot amongst the world's elite after the September rotation.

Following the next event on the 2011 ASP World Title season in New York, the current ASP Top 34 will be rotated with the top 32 surfers on the ASP World Rankings as well as two surfer wildcards. Those sitting on the bubble at the moment will be looking for major results here in Tahiti and at the next event to ensure their position as ASP Top 34 members for the remainder of the season.

C.J. Hobgood (USA), 32, current No. 18 on the ASP World Rankings, is well within the safety zone for the September rotation, but he certainly shook things up today, dispatching current frontrunner in the hunt for the 2011 ASP World Title, Joel Parkinson (AUS), 30, in Round 1 of competition.

"The wind got good which allows you to push it a little further up the point and the waves turned on," Hobgood said. "I'd like to take a little bit of credit, but the ocean did a lot of work out there. Joel (Parkinson) had a wave that could have been a 10 if he had come out so they're definitely out there."

Hobgood netted the day's high heat total of a 19.37 out of a possible 20, including a near-perfect 9.87 out of a possible 10 single-wave score, for a blistering forehand assault amidst Teahupo'o's fanging lefthanders.

"There's a lot going on out in the barrel at Teahupo'o and the trick is to slow everything down as much as possible," Hobgood said. "I guess at that point, you rely on instinct to get you through. Very happy to get through that heat and I'll focus on Round 3."

Travis Logie (ZAF), 32, current No. 44 on the ASP World Rankings, gained entry into the Billabong Pro Tahiti at the 11th hour with the withdrawal of Bobby Martinez (USA), 29. The South African embarked on a white-knuckle trip from Europe to Tahiti, showing up with less that 10 hours before his heat. The trip has already proven fruitful though, with Logie taking out his Round 1 heat and moving directly into Round 3.

"I got the call about 24 hours ago from Renato Hickel (ASP World Tour Manager) and got on the next plane from Europe," Logie said. "I was over there competing in the 6-Star events and opted to take the opportunity in Tahiti. I don't have any boards or any equipment so I used my good friend Alain Riou's board his morning and it felt pretty good."

Jordy Smith (ZAF), 23, current No. 2 on the ASP World Title Rankings, kept his 2011 campaign red-hot today, putting on a commanding backhand performance en route to his Round 1 victory. The young South African was enthusiastic with today's conditions and excited for the swell on the horizon.

"I've been here most of the day and I've just been psyching to get out there," Smith said. "It's so much fun - just perfect, blue barrels. I'm so happy to be here in Tahiti and the forecast looks pretty amazing. We'll see how it pans out."

Mick Fanning (AUS), 30, former two-time ASP World Champion and former Runner-Up at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, is sitting in the No. 4 on the ASP World Title Rankings and will look a big result at Teahupo'o to ignite his 2011 campaign.

"This leg is going to be the one that determines who is the champ come the end of the year," Fanning said. "It's a long leg, but it's one I generally do pretty well on so I'm looking to get on a roll. Stoked with the first round result and will look forward to the rest of the week."

Kelly Slater (USA), 39, reigning 10-time ASP World Champion, missed out on the last event in South Africa and currently sits at No. 6 on the ASP World Title rankings. While a standout in yesterday's ASP Top 34 warm-up, Slater scored a last-minute come-from-behind win over opponents Dan Ross (AUS), 28, and wildcard Heiarii Williams (PYF), 23.

"I wanted to get the deep south ones," Slater said. "I'd seen enough of those ones in the earlier heats to think they were out there. I got a few small ones that didn't work out. I was a bit greedy and trying to stay in the barrel a bit longer than I should have. Rossy (Dan Ross) got pushed up the point and I was fortunate to bag a wide one and that made the difference."

Dusty Payne (HAW), 22, ASP Dream Tour sophomore, and Julian Wilson (AUS), 22, 2011 ASP Top 34 rookie, punctuated the day's affairs with inspired exhibitions of backhand tube-riding.

"I just tried to catch a lot of waves," Payne said. "Teahupo'o is one of my top two favorite waves in the world - the other being Pipeline. I've been spending time with Bruce (Irons) here and we've had a lot of good talks about the spot and the event. I'm just cruising."

Currently sitting No. 30 on the ASP World Rankings, Payne is very aware that results in Tahiti and New York are paramount to his tenure as one of the world's elite.

"I don't think about it too much," Payne said. "I'm aware of the situation, but I'm really just focused on getting good waves and surfing my best. Everything else will fall into place."

Wilson capped off the day by netting a near-perfect 9.83 out of a possible 10 for a Houdini-esque no hand barrel out at Teahupo'o to steal victory away from an in-form Josh Kerr (AUS), 27.

"There have been 10's out there all day - you just have to be in the right spot and you have to want them when they come to you," Wilson said. "I made some mistakes at the start of the heat, but slowed myself down and found the right ones in the end. It's so good to be in Tahiti and the forecast looks amazing."

Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:30am to assess conditions for a possible 7:30am start.

When competition resumes, up first will be Jeremy Flores (FRA), 23, and Heiarii Williams (PYF), 23, in the opening heat of Round 2.

Highlights from the Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui will be available via http://www.billabongpro.com

Surfline, official forecasters for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, are calling plenty of swell lined up for the next week+. Medium SSW swell through the weekend will be followed by another medium size S swell for early next week, along with favorable conditions. We remain on track for a major swell for the 25th-26th, with potential for more very strong swell by the 28th.

For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com

Heat 1: Cory Lopez (USA) 12.83, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.47, Chris Davidson (AUS) 4.67
Heat 2: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 15.83, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.73, Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.27
Heat 3: Travis Logie (ZAF) 16.07, Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.40, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.73
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.23, Gabe Kling (USA) 13.97, Tiago Pires (PRT) 7.97
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.36, Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 14.47, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 8.47
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.96, Daniel Ross (AUS) 13.07, Heiarii Williams (PYF) 10.47
Heat 7: Kai Otton (AUS) 11.47, Heitor Alves (BRA) 10.53, Owen Wright (AUS) 10.33
Heat 8: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 19.38, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.60, Adam Melling (AUS) 10.33
Heat 9: Taylor Knox (USA) 12.90, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.53, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.10
Heat 10: Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.73, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 13.10, Brett Simpson (USA) 8.83
Heat 11: Dusty Payne (HAW) 16.76, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 15.63, Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.17
Heat 12: Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.50, Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.84, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.27

Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Heiarii Williams (PYF)
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 3: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 6: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Daniel Ross (AUS)
Heat 8: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 9: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 10: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 11: Alejo Muniz (BRA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 12: Heitor Alves (BRA) vs. Chris Davidson (AUS)