The Billabong Pro Tahiti is one of surfing's most coveted trophies. The magic of Tahiti, the beauty of the local people and, of course, the deadly perfection of Teahupo'o combine to upscale a win here beyond that of most CT events. While Kelly Slater is the undisputed King, with five event wins, many of the world's greatest surfers, and best tuberiders, have failed to nail a win. It is these five however who have come the closest.
"I look back at the Final in Tahiti with Mick that I lost and, well, I think I won. So that was the one that got away," Parko told the WSL of his runner-up finish in 2012. "Winning Tahiti would mean a lot. It's the one that has always eluded me. I'm running out of time, but the Billabong Pro Tahiti, that's special and I'd love to win that one." Parkinson has been coming to Tahiti since 2001, both for freesurfing trips and for the event (and his honeymoon) and has developed a special affinity for the place. He's made the Quarterfinals numerous times and had that close call with Fanning in 2012. A perennial contender, could 2017 finally be his year?
John John Florence
The World Champ has practically trademarked the title of best backhand tuberider in the world, and it remains an anomaly that in six years of competing at Teahupo'o he hasn't managed to win. Kelly Slater has been one issue. Last year he defeated John John in the Final to gather a record fifth title. Also in 2014, in a heat described as the best ever in pro surfing, Florence logged a 19.77 heat total and still lost to the Floridian. Kelly's broken foot removes at least one stumbling block and there doesn't seem to be any others for Florence to overcome. Surely, the time is now?
When Owen Wright charged some of the heaviest waves ever seen at Teahupo'o in 2011 to make it to the Final, it seemed it would only be a matter of time before he claimed a Billabong Pro Tahiti. That he hasn't done it yet hasn't been for a lack of commitment. In 2014 he won the Andy Irons Award for his maniacal courage in perfect, 12-foot Chopes, even if his Quarterfinal finish wasn't a just reward for the bombs he packed. Now, coming back to Tahiti for the first time since 2015, it will be interesting to see if his injury will change his approach to Teahupo'o. All indications from his surfing this year indicate that it won't. That means when Chopes gets solid, Wright will always remain a favorite.
In 2011, when Teahupo'o bared its real teeth for the competition for the first time in eons, it was Josh Kerr who emerged as one of the unsung heroes. A third place that year has set the template, however, for a consistency few have matched since. He's made the Quarterfinals in three of the last four years, providing many an event highlight along the way. Sure the jump from fifth to first is a mighty one, but over the last decade Kerr has shown that he has what it takes to go over the ledge, and all the way to victory.
The Tahitian is simply one of the best ever surfers Teahupo'o has ever seen. On any serious day, it will be Bourez that inevitably scores the wave of the day. However despite growing up about 10 miles from the break and having put in more time there than any other surfer in the Top 32, success has been elusive. That he has never done better than a 9th has been a matter of trying too hard, rather than not enough. If the Spartan can relax, surf the wave like he does when he's freesurfing, then a win at his home break will come soon enough.