Tuesday, August 17th 2010 (Tahiti local time): Local surfer, Taumata Puhetini (PFY), has claimed the 2010 Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials in solid six-foot waves at Teahupo'o, overcoming an international invite-only field of 64 to guarantee himself a wildcard into the main event of stop 5 on the ASP Men's World Tour, the Billabong Pro, Tahiti which begins next Monday, August 23.
Puhetini looked unstoppable in the all-Tahitian final versus fellow local, Tamaroa McComb (PFY), the 23 year-old registering one of the highest two-wave combined wave scores of the event, 18.17 out of a possible perfect 20, to see him claim the most important win of his career.
"I have had a lot of time to watch the Billabong Pro contest as a spectator and to watch Manoa reach the final (in 2008) was great. I have spent four hours in the water training every day. Now is my chance, I am ready," said Puhetini.
Both Puhetini and McComb will now join seeded wildcard, Manoa Drollet (PFY) in Round 1 of the upcoming Billabong Pro, Tahiti main event. All three Tahitians are certain to draw the world's highest rated surfers; world rated no. 1, Jordy Smith (ZAF), world-rated no. 2 Taj Burrow (AUS) and world rated no. 3 Kelly Slater (USA).
Drollet, a two-time trials champion and former Billabong Pro, Tahiti finalist (2008) believes MCComb and Puhetini are danger-men at Teahupo'o and easily capable of causing a serious upset to the ASP Men's Tour world title contenders.
Finishing third and fourth today was former two-time Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials winner (2009 & 2006) Heiarii Williams (PFY) and Steve Pierson (PFY), making it a clean sweep for the Tahitians in the semi-finals.
Australia's Anthony Walsh (NSW, AUS) saw his run for glory cut short in the quarterfinals against local Steven Pierson (PFY).
The Tahitian, Pierson, had the Aussie on the ropes early, scoring an excellent opening ride of 9.1 points for a long backhand tube ride which he backed up shortly after with another good score.
With just 10 minutes remaining, Walsh required a combination of scores to overtake the Tahitian and managed to answer back with a near-perfect 9.93 for an awesome double-barrel ride to put him within striking distance.
However, with time ticking away, Teahupo'o did not co-operate and still requiring a second good scoring wave Walsh, a former wildcard winner, was bundled out in equal 5th place.
Laurie Towner (NSW, AUS) had more than the wave drought to contend with in his quarterfinal. Earlier today, Towner received medical attention on-site after he head butted the reef during a wipeout in Round 3. He was treated for a gash in his scalp and doctors inserted a stitch in a cut above his right eye.
In his quarter final versus McComb, Towner's right ear copped it next. Towner unsuccessfully negotiated a frothy Teahupo'o tube and during the ensuring wipeout, the fin of his board struck his ear underwater.
He was taken to the nearby Marina by jet-ski and then driven to the nearest hospital immediately after the quarterfinal, a little shaken but otherwise okay.
At the time of writing, it's expected Towner will receive a few more stitches.
The world's top rated 45 surfers are expected to land in Tahiti over coming days for the Billabong Pro, Tahiti which begins August 23rd and runs to Sept 3rd.
Just four full days of competition are required to crown a champion.
Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials
FINAL: Taumata Puhetini (PFY) 18.17 def Tamaroa McComb (PFY) 17.27
SF1: Taumata Puhetini (PFY) 16.67 def Heiarii Williams (PFY) 10.80 pts
SF2: Tamaroa McComb (PFY) 12.10 def Steve Pierson (PFY) 9.07 pts
QF 1: Taumata Puhetini 16.67 (PFY) def Heremoana Lucian (PFY) 6.67 pts
QF2: Heiarii Williams (PFY) 8.87 def Kamalei Alexander (HAW) 1.20 pts
QF3: Steve Pierson (PFY) 16.50 def Anthony Walsh (AUS) 13.43 pts
QF4: Tamaroa McComb (PFY) 13.17 def Laurie Towner (PFY) 7.00 pts