As the world's best surfers prepare to compete at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, stop No. 7 on the 2015 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), a crop of the best of the rest battled for the two remaining spots in the event at the Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials. The pre-event contest, which ran Tuesday, August 11, saw Teahupo'o specialists Taumata Puhetini (PYF) and Bruno Santos (BRA) triumph. The two will join the WSL's Top 34 men on Tour when the Billabong Pro kicks off Friday, August 14.
The infamous reef pass of Teahupo'o came to life in three-to-four foot surf as 32 surfers fought for a place in the main event. The Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials field consisted of eight top finishers from a pre-trials event, eight Tahitian chargers, eight international WSL trialists who have proven themselves at Teahupo'o and eight of Billabong's most exciting talent that are not currently on Tour.
The winner, Puhetini, and runner-up, Santos, will be seeded into Round 1 of competition in Heats 5 and 6 where they will face three-time WSL Champion and 2012 event winner Mick Fanning (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS), Jeep ratings leader Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Michel Bourez (PYF).
The two Teahupo'o specialists powered through to the Final Tuesday with Puhetini winning the trials for the third time (previous wins in 2014 and 2010) and Santos earning his fifth wildcard into the main event.
Puhetini, who suffered a horrific wipeout in Round 2 at the Billabong Pro last year, is excited to again earn a place in the main event.
"That is in the past and long forgotten," said Puhetini. "I love Teahupo'o and looking forward to the waves. I hope to surf against my good friend Italo [Ferreira] in the main event because I love his surfing."
Santos, who won the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2008, is also looking forward to charging some solid waves this year at his favorite location.
"Today was fun small Teahupo'o with some really workable waves and barrel sections, but we're really looking forward to some bigger swells coming and I'm confident we'll see good waves in a few days for the main event," said Santos, who dedicated his place in the main event to good friend Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA) and two-time trials winner, who tragically died in January this year.
Both Matt Banting (AUS) and Jordy Smith (ZAF) have withdrawn from the Billabong Pro Tahiti due to ongoing injuries. Both suffered freesurf injuries during the J-Bay Open in July and WSL replacement surfers Aritz Aranburu (ESP) and Garrett Parkes (AUS) will compete in their places.
Surfline, official forecaster for the World Surf League, are calling for:
Medium size, mid- to shorter-period SSW swell looks likely over the weekend. Easing swell/surf should prevail early next week. Going into the long range, a series of modest to medium size SW swells look possible during the last few days of the waiting period. Read the full forecast here.
The Billabong Pro Tahiti runs from Friday, August 14 to Tuesday, August 25, and will air LIVE here and on the WSL app.
The world's best surfing is also be broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports in Australia, MCS Extreme in France, EDGE Sports in China, South Korea, Malaysia and other territories and on Globo TV in Brazil.