Opening Day At The 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti

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All Photos: Brent Bielmann

Where did we leave off?
Bells? Brazil? No and no; it was firing J-Bay! Men, women, children and lioness alike were tossing every superlative in the book at the final day of the 2014 J-Bay Open. The best waves of the year! The best waves I’ve ever seen! Maybe the best this and totally the best that! Today, we learned that no it wasn’t. The 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti started and nobody lobbed any superlatives at it. Instead, the conditions forced superlatives down our Hinano-stained throats. It was, quite frankly, the best. Gorgeous walls of swell collapsed over that shallow reef -- untainted by wind for a good chunk of the day -- and the best surfers in the world shunned both logic and instinct by throwing themselves over the ledge hoping to catch a judge’s eye. Often times, it worked.

Arrogant Beginnings
There was nothing humble about the start of the event. The risk was high. The reward was high. Even CJ Hobgood must have been high when he paddled for that wave. Still, in all the thunderclaps we saw in Round 1, these men glimmered like bolts of fearless lightning.

Kelly Slater: Kelly hasn’t been Kelly this year, but Kelly was Kelly today. The king has candidly said that his interesting in competitive surfing is waining -- but if there’s anything that can relight a flame, it’s madly perfect Teahupo’o. We saw smoke today, folks.
Michel Bourez: Curse be damned, Michel is tired of losing on his home court. He started things off on almost the right foot today by beating Matt Wilkinson and Raino Monteiro. Albeit, he did it with a 9.66 heat total but still…
Taj Burrow: Taj’s heat was another (relatively) uninteresting affair, but he leapfrogged to Round 2 at the cost of Brett Simpson and Adam Melling.
Mick Fanning: Where did Mick Fanning leave off? Oh that’s right, with double 9s in both the semis and the final at J-Bay. And where did Mick Fanning pick back up? With double 9s at Teahupo’o. Something tells us this man won’t be falling out of the world title race anytime soon.
Adrian Buchan: Ace beat Joel Parkinson and Nathan Hedge, but mostly beat the foamball to earn a preposterous 9.7.
Gabriel Medina: Can’t stop. Won’t stop. You want him to stop, don’t you?
Dion Atkinson: We wouldn’t have pinned Dion as a heat winner at Teahupo’o when it’s this big, but the 15.33 points he put up sure don’t lie. It’s nice to see Dion win. The naked real estate on his nose makes it a feel-good moment, and no we will not use the term blue collar.
Nat Young: Nat won his heat with confident, calculated surfing but CJ Hobgood was the story of those 35 minutes. CJ, bless his heart, sat for half the heat waiting for the most undomesticated wave that the ocean would bring him. Eventually, it came. CJ put his head down and stroked, then realized that the wave was legitimately trying to kill him -- but it was already too late. He got sucked over, minced his belly on the reef and immediately paddled back out and got an 8.27 on his next wave. Idolize him.
Kolohe Andino: This 20-year-old is turning critics into crickets each time his feet find the wax. Today, he sent Aritz Aranburu and Freddy P. to Round 2 in waves that didn’t look anything like Lowers.
Jadson Andre: Jadson eats 9.17s for breakfast. He eats Julian Wilson and Josh Kerr for lunch, probably cooks a piece of fish for dinner. When in Tahiti right?
Owen Wright: Owen won his heat with a grand total of 6.34 points. Might want to skip that one in the Heat Analyzer.
Kai Otton: Kai won his heat with 18.24 points -- more than Owen, Bede and Logie combined for in the heat prior. And did we mention he did it against John John Florence and Jordy Smith? Probably worth noting.

Take 2
The plan was to run 4 heats of Round 2, but plans are for the unimaginative. We only made it through 2 heats before the white flag was raised and they were won by…

Joel Parkinson: Parko posted two excellent scores, but he did it mostly in a heat against himself. Trials winner Taumata Puhetini left the heat in a stretcher after a drop that didn’t go according to plan (told you plans don’t work). His neck was the biggest medical concern, but early signs were good and he’s expected to make a full recovery.
Nathan Hedge: Hog nabbed the day’s lone 10 -- a late drop into a barrel the size of Rhode Island, climatic exit and all. Problem is, he could only back it up with a 2.00 and was almost snipped by Adriano de Souza. Because if anyone’s gonna beat the guy with a 10, it’s gonna be Adriano de Souza. Just not today.

They say that tomorrow…
It’ll be slightly smaller, but still worthy of a few superlatives. We’re gunning for nicest smile. We’ll be streaming the contest on from first step to last breath. --Brendan Buckley