With just days remaining until the start of the Billabong Pro Tahiti for 2005, the world's top 45 men and 17 women have been treated to another day of epic waves at the dredging left hander of Teahupoo with pristine 4m (10-12ft) conditions being touted the best in decades.

The action has been fast and furious in the line-up with Tahitian charger Raimana {{{Van}}} Bastolear putting yesterday's near miss jet-ski accident behind him also being towed into some huge pits alongside world champion Andy Irons of Hawaii, big wave surfers and a host of the Foster's Men’s Tour elite.

In a monumental warm up session, the spitting left played host to another defining moment in the sports history today when Keala Kennelly (Hawaii) became the first women surfer ever to be towed in at the treacherous reef break, slinging in to a huge 4m set wave deep behind the peak and emerging from the barrel to the applause of the star packed channel.

"I've been thinking about it for weeks now and talking myself into it, but you get scared thinking you are going to fall and if you make a mistake it's going to cost you your life," said Kennelly. "I came out here and borrowed a tow board and sat in the channel for like an hour trying to get a tow, just hitchhiking for a ride."

Kennelly is known on the point as the 'Queens of Chopes' having won at the left-hander an unprecedented three times in 2000, '02 and '03. The supremely confident 26-year-old showed little fear, tackling the monster tube rides on offer while many watched from the safety of the channel.

"I let go of the rope, saw it throwing and just did what I normally do when I surf out here and pulled in and started pumping really hard," said Kennelley. "I was trying not to get clipped, you don't want to fall that's for sure. It was the most amazing feeling ever and it was all over so fast I'm still just tripping out on it."

"The wave itself is such a marvel, it's so treacherous and yet so beautiful at the same time. It has so much energy, I just sort of feed off it," said Kennelly. "When I am out there I have so much adrenaline running through my veins, it drives me I love it. I live for that feeling. Basically I just throw myself over the ledge and pray I don't stack it on the drop. The reward is definitely worth the risk."Iron's was privy to Kennelly's rides in this mornings session and rates her as the clear pace setter when the waves are pumping, and a clear favourite for this years Billabong Pro women’s title.

"Keala, she rules out there," said Irons. "I don't think any other girl can touch her at Chopes, she has been the most daring and gun-ho. She really is radical out there and no-one will get her if it's over two feet."

The Billabong Pro Tahiti is regarded as the most challenging and potentially the most rewarding event on the women's WCT and since the 1999 inaugural event, the daunting break of Teahupoo has pushed women’s surfing to an entire new level.

The girls now pull into six foot pits on their backhand without thinking of grabbing a rail and throw themselves into huge sets with little chance of making it. Australian Chelsea Georgeson (Gold Coast) was instrumental in setting the standard in 2004, pulling into barrel after barrel to finish equal third overall.

Reigning world champion Sofia Mulanovich (Peru) didn't hold back to claim the 2004 Billabong Pro Tahiti crown and runner-up Rochelle Ballard (Haw) was sensational in turning the beast of a break into a performance venue for the women. Along with Kennelly, it's Georgeson, Ballard and former six times world champion Layne Beachley (Sydney, Aus) who rise above the pack when the swell turns solid.

2005 'CT rookie Rebecca Woods (Aus, Copacabana) will lead a talented field of Teahupoo young guns into the fourth event of the women’s competitive year, including the untested Claire Bevilacqua (Aus, City Beach), Melanie Bartels (Haw) and wildcard Sheridan Shields (Aus, Bilinga).

Having competed for the past two years as a wildcard, the 20 year-old impressed all after bouncing back from a radical wipe-out suffered as an 18-year-old in her first surfing session at Chopes. Woods is more than aware that the new guard will face a tough test from the more established big wave competitors.

"Obviously all the Hawaiian girls especially Keala Kennelly are going to be hard to beat, said Woods. "KK has won three times and Rochelle Ballard is also very confident out there."

"Chelsea Georgeson is improving every year that I have been here, higher and higher scores and she really took it to Keala last year. It's going to come down to experience out there and people who are actually getting in the barrel instead of just doing face turns. That's what Tahiti is all about, there are only about five girls getting in the barrel."

Unlike previous years, Woods is conscious that this year's event will offer crucial ratings points towards her 2005 WCT campaign.

"It's a do or die approach now, I'll have to go out there with all the confidence in the world and put fear aside," said Woods. "Points are counting and there is no more sitting back thinking you are just a wildcard and it doesn't really matter that you don't have to push yourself over these ledges of water and be pulling into these barrels. Now it's going to count and I will have to push myself into it."

The Billabong Pro Tahiti Girls features the world's top 17 female surfers and lone wildcard Shields. A total of two full days of competition are required to finish the WCT but the tournament has a 10 day waiting period for the best possible surfing conditions from May 5th to 15th.

The Billabong Pro Tahiti Girls event will be staged in conjunction with the men's WCT from April 5th to 17th. The world's top 45 male surfers and three wildcards will contest the third event on the 2005 Foster's men's WCT.

The Billabong Pro Tahiti delivered by Air Tahiti Nui is proudly supported by Von Zipper, Bose, Kustom and The Tahitian Surfing Federation.

Billabong Pro Live Webcast: via www.billabongpro.com each day of the event utilizing live coverage in English, French and Portuguese, with the event websites being translated into these three languages plus, Japanese and Spanish. Various camera angles, highlights and replays, weather and scoring information, direct viewer interaction, celebrity guests, interviews and more are apart of the daily webcast program.

Billabong Pro Tahiti Previous Champions:

2004 Sofia Mulanovich
2003 Keala Kennelly
2002 Keala Kennelly
2001 Layne Beachley
2000 Keala Kennelly
1999 Kate Skarratt