Sunday, August 15th, 2010 (local Tahiti timeline) Billabong Pro, Teahupo'o, Tahiti): Surfers competing in the Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials, the precursor to event number 5 on the ASP Men's World Tour, the Billabong Pro, Tahiti, have been blessed with the ultimate warm-up at the legendary Tahitian break, "Teahupo'o" today.
Waves in the eight-to-10-foot range (3.5 metres) broke throughout the day allowing dozens of international arrivals to practise ahead of tomorrow's Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials. Organisers are confident the first heat of the prestigious 64-man invitational will begin in similar conditions at 08:00am (local time) tomorrow, Monday 16th August.
Thirty-two internationals including surfers from Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, USA, South Africa, Brazil and Peru have flown in to compete at Teahupo'o and will fight it out against an additional 32 local invitees for just two wildcard spots into the Billabong Pro, Tahiti main event.
Last minute changes to the trials draw sees the inclusion of Nathan Fletcher (USA), Dylan Longbottom, Michael Hopkins (AUS), Makua Rothman, TJ Barron (HAW) and Fergal Smith (IRE).
Local hero Manoa Drollet, a two-time Air Tahiti Nui trials winner, is the recipient of the third Billabong Pro wildcard and has already been allocated a main event seed where he will face off in the first round against the likes of either world-rated #1 Jordy Smith (ZAF), world rated #2 Taj Burrow (AUS) or world rated #3 Kelly Slater (USA).Australia’s Anthony Walsh (Lennox Head NSW) warming up today for the Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper trials which will begin in heavy seas tomorrow.
Competition is fierce with all invitees regarded as fearless tube riders and lovers of big-waves.
The Billabong Pro, Tahiti is unlike any other event on the ASP Men's World Tour. Spectators are afforded an unrivalled view from the deep channel that runs beside the intense, shallow reef break and on big days surfers are known to skim through the cheering crowds, water still dripping from them following incredible tube rides.
In excess of 140 media and personnel are accommodated by Air Tahiti Nui and preparations begin many months in advance. The 12-metre, three level tower that houses the ASP's judges, the Billabong Pro webcast team, commentators and VIP media can only be constructed during calm seas and is built from scratch each year.
Every heat of the Billabong Pro, Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui is webcast live with previous Billabong Pro viewing audiences topping more than 1.5 million people. Millions more will be able to watch the 2010 webcast live via FUEL TV (and its network affiliates) in countries as diverse as Portugal, Australia, France and South Africa.
Pascal Luciani of the Fédération Tahitienne de Surf also anticipates the Billabong Pro will be the first international event to utilise the "Honotua", the submarine communications cable system that connects several islands of French Polynesia via Tahiti to Hawaii, USA.
"We have been working with Mana (Tahiti telecommunications carrier) and OPT (Office des Postes et Telecommunication, Honotua operator) and we expect the Honotua to be fully operational, accommodating for the Billabong Pro, Tahiti's internet demands like never before," said Luciani.
The Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials features a nominal first place prize purse of xfp150,000 (approx US$2,000), however, the real glory for the victor is knowing he has overcome an elite field of surfing outlaws to earn his wildcard into the Billabong Pro, Tahiti. And, of course, the satisfaction of knowing he has tamed the mighty Teahupo'o, albeit momentarily …
The Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trails waiting period is 16th – 19th August.
The Billabong Pro, Tahiti runs August 23rd – Sept 3rd, with just four full days of competition required to crown a champion.
Billabong's award winning production team will again webcast every heat of the Billabong Pro, Tahiti live via: www.billabongpro.com
Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials
2010 Official International Invitee field (updated Sunday Aug 15, 2010)
Ricardo Do Santos
Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials
2009 Heiarii Williams (PFY)
2008 Jamie O'Brien (HAW)
2007 Manoa Drollet (PFY)
2006 Heiarii Williams (PFY)
2005 Manoa Drollet (PFY)
2004 Heimata Carroll (PFY)
2003 Alain Riou (PFY)
2002 Vetea David (PFY)
2001 Bruce Irons (HAW)
Celebrating 10 years of the Billabong Pro, Tahiti!