Billabong Pro Tahiti: Round Two

Chopes without BARRELS? Can it be?

You bet it can. Today it was, and a mega-contest went ahead anyway.

Teahupo’o today was three feet, fun, and about as hollow as Salt Creek on a south swell Š but there’s no longer any mercy for anybody here at the Billabong Pro Teahupo’o 2007. There’s three days left in the schedule, and if you’re a competitor, it’s time to get out the smallest board you own and start smacking ’em.

If you’re Luke Egan, contest co-director, it’s time to take the pressure head-on. Luke hesitated a long extra hour this morning, counting the sets, before sending out heat number one of round two. As a surfer representative three years back, Luke would force event directors to wait till the last minute of the last day, if that’s what it took to get good surf. Now the boot was on the other foot. “I’ll take the rap for it today,” he said, “but we had to get something done.”

And they did. The eight heats of round two run today relieves a tiny part of the burden Š but from now on, it’ll be 7:30am starts and powering till dusk, until someone emerges from the carnage.

Despite our long commitment to never tipping a heat, SURFING dares to suggest here and now that the someone, the winner, will be a top seeded pro. No wildcards or back markers have a hope in conditions like this. Going up against a member of the tour’s Top Gun Academy in an inconsistent three-foot reef break, hell, it doesn’t matter if you were born in a canoe next to the break, they’ll hand your ass to you on a platter and go home for lunch.

Taj Burrow did precisely that against the fearsome trials winner Manoa Drollet. Two days ago, Taj bought his best buddy Damon Nicholls an airplane ticket from Australia. In Damon’s bag was Taj’s magic baby board, the one he hadn’t bothered to bring with him since this was Chopes, not some three-foot hotdog heaven. Thus armed, it took him five minutes to effectively win the heat with his opening rides, then tease Manoa into riding nothing but crap for the next 30.

Heat after heat fell just the same way: Bede Durbidge over Anthony Walsh, Tom Whitaker over Bruno Santos, Damo Hobgood over Hira Terinatoofa, only getting a bit nail-bitey when WCT guy started bumping into WCT guy.

Form guy today? Mick Campbell was quietly exceptional. His closing two rides against Neco Padaratz were flawless examples of technique and surfed directly to the judging criteria, top to bottom, steep, fast, and with power.

The judges themselves put in another good days’ work under difficult conditions, only going shaky deciding between Troy Brooks and Ben Dunn. Ben surfed badly and Troy surfed safe, and the panel got trapped by their scoring pattern; when the pair both rode weirdly off-balance closing waves, the scoring followed suit. To our eye, Ben got the rough end of the deal on that exchange Š but then again, we bet Ben wasn’t exactly cheering his own three or four unforced errors earlier in the heat. Brooko lives to fight again.

And Victor Ribas. Short, quiet, 20-year pro veteran Victor, who arrived here before the event with none of his bags. He had to borrow boardshorts, for Christ’s sake. Today, fully equipped and with a lot of practice surf in small Chopes behind him, Victor was the only surfer who successfully tube-rode No-Tube Teahupo’o to a spectacular win.

Go Victor! If this was round four he’d be up with the faves. But it ain’t. It isn’t even tough yet. AgainŠwait till the big guns show up tomorrow and you’ll see who’s really quick on the draw.

Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.03 def. Manoa Drollet (PYF) 8.00
Heat 2: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.17 def. Anthony Walsh (AUS)7.20
Heat 3: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 15.27 def. Bruno Santos (BRA) 3.83
Heat 4: Damien Hobgood (USA) 17.36 def. Hira Teriinatoofa (PYF) 12.00
Heat 5: Daniel Wills 13.83 (AUS) def. Luke Munro (AUS) 9.17
Heat 6: Michael Campbell 16.67 (AUS) def. Neco Padaratz (BRA) 12.77
Heat 7: Troy Brooks (AUS) 10.66 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 9.{{{80}}}
Heat 8: Victor Ribas 16.34 (BRA) def. Phillip Macdonald (AUS) 12.74

Heat 9: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) vs. Trent Munro (AUS)
Heat 10: Frederick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Shaun Cansdell (AUS)
Heat 11: Greg Emslie (ZAF) vs. Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA)
Heat 12: Leonardo Neves (BRA) vs. Dayyan Neve (AUS)
Heat 13: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 14: Cory Lopez (USA) vs. Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
Heat 15: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Luke Stedman (AUS)
Heat 16: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Michael Lowe (AUS)