Michel Bourez Wins The Reef Hawaiian Pro

CONDITIONS: 3-6 feet and stormy, then clean then stormy again then howling offshore and filthy perfect
HEATS HELD: The rest of Men's Round of 64 clear to the bitter end
NATURE'S CALL: Look who's so moody…must be that time of the year
PREDICTIONS: Forget everything you knew about the 'QS top 15 so long as the Triple Crown has any say in the matter

"Ladies and gentleman," Portuguese ASP announcer Nuno Jonet's voice drifted over the speakers. "There are 5 minutes and 30 seconds of pleasure left." What?

The statement — which could have come from any amount of far more racy activities than a 6-Star Prime WQS event — floated into the thick Hawaiian air largely unnoticed. Surely, someone else must have been snickering at the comment. But on second thought, Nuno had a point. Just moments earlier, a lovely set slinked past the outside buoy, groomed handsomely by the howling offshores, and commenced to swallow Michel Bourez, then release him to the tune of a 9.7 and a commanding lead. In the competitor's area, Bourez's fan club was swelling in size and intensity and sucking every last one of us into its feel-good vibe. Arizona tourists were fist pumping for him out on the sand. And the always-impartial media slugs were becoming partial. Shoots, even Hawaiians were pulling for the 22-year-old kid from Tahiti. It all just felt, well, right.

At dawn this morning, however, things just felt plain wrong. Rain dumped without end and cold onshore winds battered what bit of swell there was in the water. Current No. 6 on the 'QS Josh Kerr sat bundled up and freezing, watching the first few heats of the morning struggle through typical WQS conditions. Having been knocked out in the Round of 64 but already guaranteed a spot on the World Tour next year, Kerzy had planned on staying the day to size up the competition for Sunset next week. "This is sh*thouse, mate," he muttered. "Guess I'm going to the mall with the family or something." Then he took off, just as the winds did an about face and the first barrels of the morning began draining.

By the time Bourez threaded his way to that near perfect 9.7 in the Final, he had already racked up the highest wave score (9.93) and heat total (18.96) of the entire event earlier on. Kaui's Dustin Barca, who glided into the Quarters, had secured a seat on next year's Dream Tour. In Semi 1, California's Brett Simpson almost stalled his way through what would have been a perfect 10 tube had he made it, but settled for an equal fifth and a possible 'CT berth if all goes well at Sunset. And Sunny, well, he's back and on fire and a big result next week (which is very likely, considering the swell models) will put the 2000 world champ back where he belongs.

And that was only half of the 'QS shakedown going on. Because, along with Bourez in the Final, Kekoa Bacalso and Jihad Khodr were looking at a major ratings jump — and a win meant an extra 3,000 points going into Sunset, the final qualifying contest of the season.

Whispers and mumblings and cries were erupting in between the fan clubs cheers: Who's gonna secure a spot on the Tour? Who's gonna drop off? Who's on the bubble now? Timmy Reyes, who had been eliminated in the Quarters in what was the most wave-starved heat of the day, just had a laugh. "I don't feel bad for these guys," he said. "I know what it's like to take it all the way down to Sunset, but I admit, I don't ever want to feel like that again."

Out there in the water, though, Bourez, Bacalso and Khodr must have been feeling exactly what Timmy was talking about. Nineteen-year-old Dusty Payne was the only one in the Final in relaxation mode. Sh*t, the kid had surfed his way here from the very first round: {{{Eight}}} heats and almost two weeks of waiting and competition, waiting and competition. But the three possible 'CTers had no time to crunch numbers. Set after set of perfect Haleiwa poured in and almost every wave opened up. Khodr had a last minute push to second, with an 8 and an 8.5 and secured what had been a threatened seat on the '09 Tour. Dusty went for broke. Kekoa sat on a 9 and a 6.5 and settled for third, knowing it was enough to officially open that long-awaited door to qualification.

And through it all, Bourez just couldn't be stopped. Now, with only one minute left, Nuno's words made perfect sense. The fan club pulled bottles of champagne out of nowhere, rose to their feet and not a soul around couldn't help but bask in the pleasure of the young Tahitian's impending victory. So, nearly on the horn, Bourez bull-rode another tube, fired out, thumped his chest and raised a hand to the sky. A perfect finish to a perfectly surfed heat. The pleasure, indeed, was all his.

"Yes…yes," was all he could squeeze out as he bathed in bottle after bottle of bubbly onshore and fielded hugs from friend after friend. "My whole life I've dreamed of this…there are no words to explain."

And on to Sunset we go with, no doubt, more upsets and surprise qualifications. Stay tuned.

Kekoa Bacalso

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1 — Michel Bourez (PYF) 16.77
2 — Jihad Khodr (BRA) 16.50
3 — Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 15.83
4 — Dusty Payne (HAW) 4.67


Heading on to the next event, the following ASP World Qualifying Series surfers are considered “safe” for qualifying for the 2009 ASP World Tour: Nathaniel Curran (USA), Michel Bourez (Tahiti), Chris Davidson (Australia), Gabe Kling (US), Jihad Khodr (Brazil), Josh Kerr (Aus), Kekoa Bacalso (Hawaii), Nic Muscroft (Aust), Tim Boal (France), Tiago Pires (Portugal) and Dustin Barca (Hawaii).