Nine Australian surfers are among an elite field of 32 internationals who have been invited to contest the prestigious Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials scheduled to take place at the notorious break of "Teahupo'o" in Tahiti over four days beginning August 16th.
The Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials is a precursor to stop 5 on the ASP Men's World Tour, the Billabong Pro, Tahiti and only the winner is guaranteed a wildcard seed direct into the Billabong Pro's elite main event. A second position is open to the highest placed local Tahitian surfer.
The field of invited Australian surfers includes: Wade Goodall (Sunshine Coast, QLD), Ryan Callinan (Merewether, NSW), Laurie Towner (Yamba, NSW), Nick Vasicek (Gold Coast, QLD), Anthony Walsh (Lennox Head, NSW), Koby Abberton (Maroubra, NSW), Mark Matthews (Maroubra, NSW), Damien Wills (Sth Coast, NSW) and Ryan Hipwood (Gold Coast, QLD).
All have been chosen based on previous performances at either Teahupo'o or abroad, and for their dedication to riding the world's most intimidating surf spots.
The nature of the Teahupo'o break and the intensity of competition make the competition like no other. In surfing circles, the trials winner is lauded as a minor hero – required to put his life on the line inside the huge barrels that break across dangerously shallow, tropical reef – and the respect earned from his peers is on par with the eventual champion of the main event.
From there, further glory lies in overcoming one of the Billabong Pro's top three seeds in Round 1 of the main event. In 2010 those seeds include current world ranked no. 1, Jordy Smith (Durban, ZAF), world ranked no. 2 Taj Burrow (WA, AUS) and world ranked no. 3 Kelly Slater (Fl, USA).
Historically, the Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials champions have a habit of putting a dent in the world title campaigns of their top-seeded rivals. Most notably in 2007 when relative unknown Brazilian Bruno Santos and local wildcard Manoa Drollet went all the way to the final, finishing first and second respectively.
Drollet is a two-time trials winner at Teahupo'o and sits at the top of the wildcard heap. As a result, the 34 year-old has earned a seed direct into the main event in 2010.
Billabong Pro, Tahiti competition director and former world no. 2, Luke Egan (Gold Coast, AUS) says Drollet's performances at the infamous break surpass anything he has witnessed during his career as a competitor and previous four years as Contest Director.
"Manoa's surfing over the years at Teahupo'o is regularly above and beyond anything I have seen from any of the Top 45 rated men," said Egan.
"There is not one world rated surfer in the competition, from Kelly Slater down, who will risk holding back when Manoa is in the water. He is the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons at Teahupo'o. It's very probable that by having him in the competition he could knock out one of the top guys and it will affect the world title race."
Along with 32 internationals, an additional field of 32 local Tahitian surfers make up the total trials field of 64.
The VonZipper Air Tahiti Nui trials begins from August 16th.
A series of pre-event webisodes will be made available over coming days and weeks for websites. Stand by for further info.
Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials
2010 Official International Invitees
Wade Goodall (Sunshine Coast, QLD)
Ryan Callinan (Merewether, NSW)
Laurie Towner (Yamba, NSW)
Nick Vasicek (Gold Coast, QLD)
Anthony Walsh (Lennox Head, NSW)
Koby Abberton (Maroubra, NSW)
Mark Matthews (Maroubra, NSW)
Damien Wills (Sth Coast, NSW)
Ryan Hipwood (Gold Coast, QLD)
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!