A Bugs Eye View

After a successful conclusion to the Billabong Pro Tahiti the troops are readying for some serious action in Fiji. Contest Director for the Globe Pro Fiji, Steve Robertson, is extremely pumped over predictions a macking swell is about to descend on the area this weekend. Forecasters are tipping a possible start to proceeding at the legendary Restaurants, scene of a mind-blowing Final's day a couple years back.

Before we start salivating about this crazy potential, let's look back at the week that was at Teahupoo. Well, the week was going very slowly and then the Guineas Book of World Records was challenged as Big Louie Egan attempted to stuff an entire Men's World Championship Tour event into three days. It required early starts and long drawn out days but somehow the guys were still contesting 30 minute heats in all but the second and third rounds.

Leading up to these 72 hours the map looked fairly bleak. After cranking the trials completely off the Richter the South Pacific was looking somewhat idle midway through the lunar cycle. Fortunately a rare system spun off the Northern tip of New Zealand and emptied out into the western window, spinning for 48 hours and sending a pretty much due west swell toward Tahiti.

So what was looking dismal at the beginning of the waiting period merged into a pleasantly surprising 4-6' for the first two days of competition. Big Louie powered through the rounds, squeezing a normal three day program into two. Some great surfing emerged from the arena known as Teahupoo. I think enough copy has been devoted to all the nasty upsets that went down, so let's stick with the positives.

A couple years back Adriano de Souza was heralded as the first genuine title contender from Brazil. He burst on the scene with a then record breaking win of the WQS and racked up a third at Snapper on debut. But then the skeptics were proven right when his challenge faded in the South Pacific leg and he never quite regained momentum. This time round a mature Adriano posted some outstanding heat performances, leading off with a top scoring 19.53 in Rd 1, and then toppling Danny Wills & Kai Otton before bowing out to eventual champion Bruno Santos in the Quarters. Going into Fiji the young Brazilian sit #6 in the world.

Luke Stedman is another who has applied himself well to reef conditions. I would say “most improved” at Chopes, Luke put in some dazzling performances enroute to a 9th place finish. There were some awesome shoot-outs as well. The Leonardo Neves/ Bruce Irons showdown was a classic, Brucey putting on a show, then Leonardo nailing a perfect 10 to keep Bruce honest. There were several 10's by losing surfers. Another who impressed was rookie Tiago Pires. He won his opening heat handsomely and had Joel Parkinson on the ropes in Rd 3 before making a huge rookie error.

After losing priority for a blocking tactic Tiago failed to check the priority disc before ping in on Joel on a wave he simply did not need. He had Joel totally combo'd, with a scintillating 10 and then something like an 8.9 back-up. Joel had like two 6's and looked well beaten when he identified a rookie mistake had been made. It was a gift horse, one that comes around once every 5 years, and there isn't a single guy in the Top 45 who would not have seized the opportunity of a technical knockout. Tiago, along with the whole nation of Portugal, was understandably bewildered, and while he accepted the decision and put it down to a lesson learnt at great expense, bewilderment turned to anger in web land, most viewers still struggling to come to terms with this perceived outrage.

Wow, I'm glad they weren't web casting in our day. The atrocities committed before the priority system was deployed may have resulted in declarations of war. These days it is extremely rare to have interference calls, however there was another controversial incident when World #1 Kelly Slater fell foul of a deemed paddling interference when he inadvertently ped a chandelier of water on Manoa Drollet mid heat. It was touch and go, if it was anyone other then Manoa or Andy or one of the Teahupoo masters the judges probably wouldn't have given the benefit of the doubt, but it turned out to be a shocker for the 8 times World Champ.

Of course, fate turned this event on its ear, and this mini disaster for Slater was softened immeasurably by the unceremonious exit of contenders Bede Durbidge, Taj Burrow and Mick Fanning, coupled with wildcards scooping the pools. This resulted in nobody garnering the major points, especially the bonus points factored into the 1200 points for winning. There was some movement in the camp. After benefiting from the Tiago incident, Joel Parkinson went on with the job, having a wail of a time (18.50) against Dane Reynolds (who has slipped quietly into #10), then dominating the sets in his Quarter against Andy Irons.

With the board cleared of the top seeds the Andy/Joel Quarter affixed the most attention. This season, neither had passed this juncture before and both were desperate to break out of the malady. You see, 5th place is a good finish, but everyone knows that it is tantalizingly close to major points and is not going to win a World Title, unless utilized as back-up. So Joel left Andy in the rut, but the former king of Teahupoo took it in his stride, Andy's outlook remaining positive going into the Globe.

Great to see {{{CJ}}} Hobgood back on the podium. I mean, his track record out here is imposing, a former winner, perennial top 3 finisher CJ is a guy to avoid in the draw for sure. He had to battle past Ricky Basnett in Rd 2 then got it all going against Luke Munro, Chris Ward and Bruce Irons before getting slammed by Bruno Santos in the Semi's. My thought was definitely with Damo Hobgood. Co-Contest Director Chris Callaghan described the wipe-out Damo had at 12' Teahupoo while preparing. It was horrendous, not only were bones broken but he suffered a head injury and was lucky to escape with his life. Get back soon Damo.

The two finalists are just phenomenally nice guys. They are very similar in temperament, very friendly, warm human beings. They share something else too. COURAGE. These guys are gladiators. I made one distinct observation. Both Manoa and Bruno are dangerous customers at 10' Teahupoo or when it is inconsistent and schitzy. It was the latter on the final day, inconsistent with swing sets and one-off bombs. Being Johnny on the spot was turned into an art form by these guys.

Manoa looked deadset gone so many times it was ridiculous, only to turn it around with a 10 and a 9 in like a {{{90}}} second flurry. He did it against Tom Whittaker, Adrian Buchan and Joel Parkinson to reach the Final. For the locals and visitors Manoa was the sentimental favourite, the prince of Teahupoo looking to be coronated as king. Both Manoa and Bruno were riding with mana, they were receiving gifts from heaven as required.

I have seen a lot of contests but I have never witnessed someone who was so pre-ordained to win then Bruno Santos. Everything that needed to happen did, in every single heat. Don't get me wrong, the guy is a brilliant tube master who is fearless out at Teahupoo and Pipe, but if an opponent needed a mediocre score he did not get it yet when Bruno needed a 4 he got a 4.5. It was amazing to watch it unfold. Look at this stat. Against Mick Fanning he won 10.00-9.17. Vs Adriano he won 9.83-9.07, a veritable “bees dick”, and in the Final, when he got his nose in front, he just said that's it, there will be no more surfing, beating Manoa 9.16-6.83.

He did have some slashing wins as well, knocking up big scores against Taj Burrow and Timmy Reyes. Bruno got really badly gashed in the Trials and surfed the final against Jamie O'Brien with 30 stitches in his leg. He had already qualified but wanted to surf one on one with the great O in a final. He was out for 15 days, having his first surf in his opening heat, where he took gas like a dozen times, then he beat World Champ Fanning and get on a roll.

It really was mana. Both Manoa and Bruno were blessed all the way through. They are both very impressive surfers, congratulations on well deserved success. This is what is possible at these specialist reef breaks, in 97 wildcards Johnny Boy Gomes and Michael Ho dominated the Pipe Masters, so it was not without precedence. But with the calibre of surfer in the Top 45 the achievement of Bruno and Manoa is significant.

Okay, coming into the second leg now, all ready for the Globe Pro Fiji. Be ready for the web cast from Sunday, there is talk of a bumper swell. This will be an insane event.

Good luck to all.