The world's best surfers tackled solid six-to-eight foot plus (2 – 2.5 metre plus) waves at the infamous lefthander of Teahupo'o today as the Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui completed Round 2 and the opening three heats of Round 3.
Event No. 5 of 11 on the 2011 ASP World Title season, the Billabong Pro Tahiti ran in some of the biggest surf ever in the event's 13-year history today, with some phenomenal performances logged by the ASP Top 34.
Jeremy Flores (FRA), 23, current No. 15 on the 2011 ASP World Title rankings, proved to be the most in-form surfer of the day, surviving the opening heat of the morning in terrifying conditions local wildcard against Heiarii Williams (PYF) before besting lethal replacement surfer Cory Lopez (USA), 34, in Round 3 of competition.
"This morning was one of the gnarliest heats I've ever had in my life," Flores said. "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."
The Frenchman would go on to post the highest heat total of the event, an 18.93 out of a possible 20, in his afternoon Round 3 heat, exhibiting a masterful display of backhand bravado.
"After this morning, I didn't want anything else to do with those conditions," Flores said. "This afternoon's heat had perfect waves. It's still big, but it's not nearly as messy as this morning. I've had really tough heats today. I had Heiarii (Williams) this morning, one of the best guys out here, and then I had Cory (Lopez) this afternoon who is amazing. I'm so stoked that I got to surf these conditions twice in one day and I'm feeling very confident moving forward."
Raoni Monteiro (BRA), 29, current ASP World No. 25, scored the first Perfect 10 of the event this morning, navigating a backless eight-foot (2.5 metre) monster from the south end of the point through the west bowl to the eruption of applause and hoots from the hundreds in the channel. The fearless Brazilian was exuberant after his Round 2 victory.
"That's amazing," Monteiro beamed. "It's the best feeling ever – it's like winning a contest. 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."
Kai Otton (AUS), 31, would go on to post the second Perfect 10 of the event on the opening ride of his Round 3 bout against an in-form Adrian Buchan (AUS), 28. Following Otton's Houdini-esque forehand barrel to start, the powerful goofy-footer would hang in for the win and advance directly to Round 4.
Josh Kerr (AUS), 27, survived the shootout of the event this afternoon in Round 3, going blow-for-blow against an inspired performance from 2011 ASP Dream Tour rookie Julian Wilson (AUS), 22. While the youngster jumped out to an early lead with a near-perfect 9.67 on his opening ride, it was Kerr who would answer back with his own 9.70 out of a possible 10 at the end of the heat to take the win and advance through to Round 4.
Julian Wilson, deep in another Tahitian pit.
The day would host a bevy of major upsets in the context of the 2011 ASP World Title Race with three of the Top 5 eliminated in Round 2 of competition.
Brett Simpson (USA), 26, current ASP World No. 31, caused the upset of the event, dispatching the current frontrunner in the hunt for the 2011 ASP World Title, Joel Parkinson (AUS), 30, in Round 2 of competition.
"There's been a lot of speculation about the swell and what's coming and it can definitely play with your brain," Simpson said. "However, I'm staying with good people like the Hobgoods and they've told me to go out, sit there and pick the waves that look good to me. I was just trying to surf my own heat and ignore talk about the swell or the ratings, and was hoping I'd be in it at the end. Parko (Joel Parkinson) is no easy draw and it's one of my better heat wins of the year so I'm stoked."
With the loss, Parkinson has relinquished his position as frontrunner on the 2011 ASP World Title rankings.
Ricardo dos Santos (BRA), 21, caused another major upset this morning, sending current No. 5 on the ASP World Title rankings, Taj Burrow (AUS), 32, packing in Round 2 of competition.
Michel Bourez (PYF), 25, current No. 7 on the ASP World Title Rankings, utilized his superior local knowledge today to thread some impressive barrels on his backhand, netting a 17.04 out of a possible 20, en route to Round 3.
"I don't really think about the pressure of being from Tahiti when I'm in the water," Bourez said. "It's my third year on tour so I've figured out to deal with stress. I take the event at Teahupo'o the same as if I were at Snapper or J-Bay. It's still good to be here and surf the backyard and it's great to have all the friends and family. I'm stoked to do well for Tahiti and make my heat."
Facing Dusty Payne (HAW), 22, in Round 3 of competition, Bourez opted to postpone their clash (which would have finished the day's events) in order to allow Payne time to heal after he suffered a severe injury to his knee during a training session last night.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:30am to assess conditions for a possible 7am start.
When competition resumes, up first will be Michel Bourez (PYF), 25, up against Dusty Payne (HAW), 22, in Heat 4 of Round 3.
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 for an even larger and very solid, long period SSW swell to show Saturday, fading Sunday. Another solid SSW swell could move in on Monday, before easing Tuesday. Moderate E trades prevail Saturday before backing down by the end of the weekend, with very light wind possible early next week.
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 2 RESULTS:
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
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 3 RESULTS:
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
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI REMAINING ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 5: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 8: Chris Davidson (AUS) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 10: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 11: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)