TAHITI PREVIEW: Bring On The Beast

So, what do we know going into the first stop of the South Pacific swing? First, defending champ Damien Hobgood's out after a recent trip over the falls, through the reef, and into the lagoon. Second, Kelly Slater has every intention of showing up at Teahupoo. So while he's the most expensive player on the roster, he's obviously worth it. Third, and considerably more ambiguous, there are enough other subplots going on to perplex even the most ardent Fantasy Surfer subscriber. So just what are a few of these subplots? Well, here's what we came up with:

“Don’t really know exactly what I was thinking except [that I] probably should have done anything but what I did…” Damien Hobgood on his fall at Chopes.

Inside the Irons Agenda

Timmy Patterson recently finished a brand new tow-board for Andy Irons with the intention of getting Andy into "some mean ones." At the time, Andy was enjoying a brief respite in mainland Mexico, but be sure, after a lackluster run through Oz—and back-to-back losses to Slater—he's more than ready to throw himself into the fray. Bruce on the other hand has been enjoying his down days in Bali, surfing and filming for one movie part or another. Will he be ready for Tahiti? As long as it's pumping, count on it.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Taj Burrow, and now, Bede Durbidge, all have world title aspirations, all fell short in their native waters, and with the exception of Mick's second place finish last year, all are notorious for poor showings at the monster lefthander. If Australia wants to hold on to the world title trophy Tahiti's crucial.

Go Wild For Wildcards

If March Madness has taught us anything it's that you can never count the underdog out. The Billabong Pro Teahupoo is no exception. For good reason, the local boys rule the joint, and just like the Pipe Masters, making it past one of the hometown heroes is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Beware of the Unknown Soldier

Tahiti is a proving ground, and every year an unknown comes up aces and makes a name for himself. Last year it was rookie Kai Otton that came out of nowhere to finish third, so while there are a hell of a lot of eyeball focused on Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith, you may consider somebody of less notoriety to round out your Fantasy Surfer squad.

Five Stats To Consider

1.Kelly Slater is undefeated this year. He's also the only person to have won in Tahiti three times, not to mention, the only person to score a perfect 20 out of 20, which he did in his 2007 final against Damien Hobgood.

2. Bobby Martinez's first win on tour came at Teahupoo, and given that his recent third at Bells has tossed him in the world title mix, the goofy-footer will definitely be looking to solidify his standing.

3. Since his rookie year in 2007, Jeremy Flores has finished better than 33rd in every event he's surfed. Only Kelly and Mick can claim the same.

4. Tahiti's 10 hours behind of the West Coast, so when it comes to watching the web cast, tune in accordingly.

5. While not requiring surgery, Damien Hobgood broke his shoulder blade in three places thanks to his recent wipeout at Teahupoo.

Quotes From The Contenders

"Don't really know exactly what I was thinking except [that I] probably should have done anything but what I did; hesitated on this wave, thought I could get out of it, got sucked over the falls, went straight into reef, knew I hit hard and knew that something had happened."— Damien Hobgood recounting recent wipeout at Teahupoo that sidelined the defending champ.

"Been hugely inspired as of late by a charging Tiger Woods who placed a dismal 5th at his last outing and won seven straight before that. No matter the result it's nice to feel good and have results follow that. There is nothing better than just feeling good and happy about what you're doing."—Kelly Slater, pondering his 2008 start.

"The guys who surf out here the most, Hira and Manoa and all the locals, are the most solid surfers on this wave in any conditions, big or small – its always dangerous having a wildcard in Tahiti." — Andy Irons, on the less obvious threats in Tahiti

"I’ll never forget my first heat at Teahupoo back in 2002, the surf was 8- to 10-foot and I was against Kelly Slater and Peterson Rosa, I remember this huge set came in and Peterson took the first wave and scored a 10, and I was on the inside for the the next one. I knew Kelly would take it if I didn’t go so I swung into it. It was the scariest wave of my life and I only got a three. It was crazy!"—Mick Fanning, recounting tales of yesteryear.

"Tahiti is so similar to Hawaii. It's so laid back and the people are just amazing here in Tahiti—they're just the most friendly people in the world. I love coming here. The intensity of the waves here and the power of the ocean are really similar to Hawaii. It's the same time zone and only about five hours away for us so I just love coming here. I think this is about my 15th trip to Tahiti and to be able to come here and compete with just a couple other guys out here is phenomenal."—Pancho Sullivan, explaining the splendor of the South Pacific