Taming Teahupoo

Round 2 fires at the Billabong Pro Tahiti

At the front of the pack today, Jeremy Flores threw caution to the wind to set the day's highest heat score. Photo: Joli

After nearly a week of waiting for a severely-hyped swell, a dark dawn broke at the end of the road in Tahiti to the tune of 8- to 10-foot sets detonating on the reef. Marred by the odd downpour and the consistent life-threatening west bowl, the Teahupoo of old unfolded to the delight--and terror--of the World Tour competitors.

Opening up the first heat of Round 2, Jeremy Flores took on local wildcard Heiarii Williams. From the outset of the heat, the pair traded one horrific wipeout after another. A show of  just how thick, slabby, and treacherous the conditions were today, both Jeremy and Heiarii spent as much time cartwheeling down the face as they did in the tube. Setting a cadence that would carry him to the front of the pack, Jeremy pulled into what was arguably the heaviest wave of the round, threaded past the west bowl, and was promptly swallowed whole and shoved into the lagoon. Fortunately for Jeremy, his unyielding commitment and bravado proved to be more than enough to send him into the third round.

"This morning was one of the gnarliest heats I've ever had in my life," said Jeremy. "I was sitting out there with Heiarii (Williams), who is one of the best heavy-wave surfers ever, and he got an incredible wipeout. It's not perfect, it's windy and it's messy and it's scary. I spent a lot of time underwater in that morning heat and I hit the reef and I was just happy to survive the lineup."

As the event progressed, so did the carnage. Mixed into the maelstrom of the second round stood a perfect 10-point ride from Brazil's Raoni Monteiro. Surfing against fellow Brazilian Adriano de Souza, Raoni flung himself over the ledge time and again to take the win.

"It's the best feeling ever--it's like winning a contest,” said Raoni of his 10-point wave. “I can't really describe that wave. I just paddled as hard as I could and when I got in, I saw it hit the west bowl and I just grabbed my rail and pumped as hard as I could. When I came out and heard it was a perfect 10, I was so excited. I will remember that wave for the rest of my life."

As the afternoon wore on, the frontrunners of an enormous swell began to filter into the lineup. True to the day's form, the ensuing heats continued to meld life-threatening wipeouts with jaw-dropping tubes. A testament to the tenacity it took to progress through a heat today, Matt Wilkinson, who was quite candid about his apprehension to tackle serious Teahupoo, managed to push himself beyond Alejo Muniz in their Round 2 match-up but paid the price for it in the process. Free-falling from a late drop, Wilko tumbled across the reef, leaving a few sizeable slices of flesh behind, but still advanced into the next round.

In the opening heat of Round 3, Jeremy Flores took on Cory Lopez. Cory, who's been courting Teahupoo for more than a decade, looked to be a favorite at the event. Despite a longstanding history with the slab, Cory’s luck would run dry today as Jeremy found himself in a perfect, focused rhythm and appeared as if he could do no wrong. Deftly slipping past the most harrowing of drops, Jeremy toyed with the most monstrous of sets and posted the highest heat score of the event with 18.63. And closing out the day, with the swell pulsing thicker with every set, Kai Otton dropped the day’s second 10-point ride over Adrian Buchan to the thunderous applause of the crowd bobbing in the channel.

There’s a massive swell scheduled to set Tahiti ablaze tonight and the forecast is currently predicting conditions that may exceed the paddle level. If that happens, Billabongpro.com will be broadcasting four hours of live tow surfing at Teahupoo on the webcast. If officials deem the swell suitable to hold the event, we're potentially looking at one of the most thrilling days of competitive surfing ever held at Teahupoo.

Surfing in the event as a wildcard, Tahiti's own Heiarri Williams had a difficult time finding his footing today. Photo: Joli

Any takers? Photo: Joli

With his loss today to Brett Simpson in Round 2, Joel Parkinson relinquished his World Tour rating's lead. Photo: Joli

Gabe Kling, about to make two new best friends. Photo: Joli

Raoni Monteiro, weaving his way through the day's first 10-point ride. Photo: Joli

Cory Lopez, in familiar territory. Photo: Joli

Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.67 def. Heiarii Williams (PYF) 0.17
Heat 2: Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 14.50 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 8.50
Heat 3: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 17.10 def. Gabe Kling (USA) 6.60
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 11.50 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 1.83
Heat 5: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.34 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.33
Heat 6: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.60 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 6.60
Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF) 17. 04 def. Daniel Ross (AUS) 10.86
Heat 8: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 15.17 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.67
Heat 9: Tiago Pires (PRT) 8.77 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 4.83
Heat 10: Jadson Andre (BRA) 7.40 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 6.53
Heat 11: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.76 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 11.10
Heat 12: Chris Davidson (AUS) 15.73 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 8.67

Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 18.63 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 8.96
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 17.70 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.87
Heat 3: Kai Otton (AUS) 13.60 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 10.33