High Stakes and High Scores as Wildcards Beckon in Tahiti

A decrease in swell overnight resulted in perfect 2m conditions for the second day of the Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper trials at Teahupoo, as competitors rode the pristine 'Chopes' barrels in hope of securing a wildcard into the Billabong Pro Tahiti.

Stakes were raised and pressure intensified as top seeded third round surfers submitted their bid for a slot in the Billabong Pro for 2005. Today's surfing saw the culmination of the second and third round. The fourth round scheduled for tomorrow conditions pending will feature eight half hour man on man heats.

Gold Coast surfer Dylan Longbottom came from behind in the dying minutes of his top seeded third round heat, to earn a position in the remaining 16. The 31-year-old, who recently won the Global Billabong XXL Big Wave award for biggest tube ride was trailing throughout the 30 minute heat after being smashed on his first two waves. With only minutes remaining, Longbottom used his deep inside position to launch into a solid eight foot set wave, ride deep inside the tube, emerge and pull off a critical air drop floater over dry reef, earning an 8.50.

"I got my first one and I knew I wasn't deep enough so I tried to stall and the lip hit me in the head and flipped me upside down and I hit my board and then the reef," said Longbottom. "When I paddled back out this set came in wide so I swung and just got held under for so long, I was thinking, what's going on. My next one was a good long barrel and I know I needed a good score so I went for the floater. There was just enough water for my fins and it was so clear and green with big coral heads everywhere. I must have landed between two of them (Coral Heads) and then just jumped into the white wash and bounced along the reef."

Longbottom's unique barrel riding skills were enough for second place but not for the win with yesterday's standout performer Kalani Chapman (Haw) again proving his authority at the heaving left hander.

"He charging, he's a really good tube rider, especially growing up at Pipeline and he got some good ones, so I'm stoked to go through with him," said Longbottom.

Chapman, the 23-year-old goofy footer from Sunset Beach has consistently taken late critical drops from far deeper in the heaving Teahupoo take off zone than his fellow competitors. Using a different tactic than his opponents by looking for the west angled peaks which offer one huge ledging section as opposed to a longer, more perfect ride, Chapman waits until the last moment, then propels himself virtually under the lip. The tactic paid off once again today, winning both his second and third round heats convincingly.

"If the waves aren't quite right, you can't go, you just got to wait for the best ones and go, it's the best chance you have of winning," said Chapman. "You just got to close your eyes paddle hard and hope for the best."

Pete Mendia (USA) led the way for the US mainland surfers today with a solid heat win over Ben Sancho (Eur) Tahitian wildcard Heimata Pollock and 1993 world champion Derek Ho (Haw). The Californian surfer, renowned for chasing big waves as opposed to following the World Qualifying Series will face a man on man battle with Sancho in the fourth round.

"Conditions were fun out there, a couple of really good sets, I didn't make the best one that I caught but though," said Mendia. "It definitely feels good, the next round is man on man so I'm really looking forward to that, it will be a dream. This whole time I have been here is probably the biggest I have seen it, yesterday was super sick and today was a lot more fun."

It's was a day of mixed results for local Tahitian surfers with defending Air Tahiti Nui/Von Zipper trials champion Heimata Carroll suffering a shock opening round three, elimination. The talented goofy footer posted his worst result ever in the WCT Trials after finishing third behind by an inform Liam McNamarra of Hawaii and Australia's giant killer Anthony Walsh (Lennox Head).

Experienced Teahupoo surfer Manoa Drollet kept the local hopes alive with a brilliant backhand performance that saw him post one of the day's highest individual wave scores of 9.75 with late take-off straight into a pitching barrel. The natural footer then backed up with another near perfect ride to score 9.1 and 18.85 out of a possible 20.

Seventeen year-old Heiarii Williams live up to the reputation he has been carving out at Teahupoo and in Tahiti by advancing behind Brazilian Bernado Miranda into round four.

“It’s not bad, I got two waves, one was a 7.00 and the other an 8.50. I’m very happy man, I want to continue like this," said Williams in his newly acquired English, gained from recently spending three months in Australia honing his competitive skills.

“I don't surf Teahupoo much, when the swell comes, I come here, when no swell, no come here.”

Included in the list of shock losses today was Brazil's Danilo Costa who was expected to be a major contender for a Billabong Pro wildcard. Also joining the list of causalities were the Hawaiian Ho brothers Michael and Derek. 48 year-old Michael was narrowly defeated in the dying seconds in his round three heat by fellow Hawaiian Tamayo Perry who managed an 8.25 ride on the final set of the day. Tahiti's Nicolas Leetham advanced in second just a mere point four ahead of Ho.

Competition will resume at 8am tomorrow morning conditions pending.

The Billabong Pro Tahiti delivered by Air Tahiti Nui is proudly supported by Von Zipper, Bose, Kustom and The Tahitian Surfing Federation


Trials: Round 3
(1st and 2nd progress to round four 3rd and 4th eliminated)

Heat 1: 1st – Pete Mendia, 2nd – Ben Sancho, 3rd – Derek Ho, 4th – Heimata Pollock
Heat 2: 1st – Bernado Miranda, 2nd – Heiari Williams, 3rd – Steven Pierson, 4th – Heifara Tahutini
Heat 3: 1st – Kalani Chapman, 2nd – Dylan Longbottom, 3rd – Reef McIntosh, 4th – Tehina Temorere
Heat 4: 1st – Liam McNamara, 2nd – Anthony Walsh, 3rd – Heimata Carroll, 4th – Malik Joyeux
Heat 5: 1st – Damon Harvey, 2nd – Kevin Johnson, 3rd – Pedro Henrique
Heat 6: 1st – Manoa Drollet, 2nd – Michel Bourez, 3rd – Heina Rochette, 4th – Patrice Chancy
Heat 7: 1st – Danny Fuller, 2nd – Paez Henere, 3rd – Danilo Costa, 4th – James Wood
Heat 8: 1st – Tomayo Perry, 2nd – Nicolas Leetham, 3rd – Michael Ho, 4th – Germain Tuataa

Upcoming Round 4 Heats

Heat 1: Pete Mendia, Ben Sancho
Heat 2: Bernado Miranda, Heiari Williams
Heat 3: Kalani Chapman, Dylan Longbottom
Heat 4: Liam McNamara, Anthony Walsh
Heat 5: Damon Harvey, Kevin Johnson
Heat 6: Manoa Drollet, Michel Bourez
Heat 7: Danny Fuller, Paez Henere
Heat 8:,Tomayo Perry, Nicolas Leetham