TEAHUPO'O, Tahiti (Friday, August 16, 2013) - The 2013 Billabong Pro Tahiti returned to Teahupo'o today with the world's best surfers reveling in flawless three-to-five foot (1.5 metre) barrels to complete Round 2 and the opening eight heats of Round 3.
Event No. 6 of 10 on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), the Billabong Pro Tahiti recommences this season's hunt for the prestigious world surfing crown and the ASP Top 34 put on an incredible reef pass performance today in pristine barrels at Teahupo'o.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 32, defending Billabong Pro Tahiti winner and current frontrunner on the ASP WCT rankings, earned a crucial heat win towards his 2013 ASP World Title campaign, besting lethal wildcard Ian Walsh (HAW), 30, in the dying moments of their Round 3 heat. In need of an excellent ride with the clock ticking down, the natural-footer dropped into a flawless 10 point ride, earning the win and advancing to Round 4.
"My heart was in my mouth," Fanning said. "I was looking at waves and Ian had priority and played a smart heat. You're looking for a special wave out there, but they're all special. I was just lucky and stoked to get that one. It's times like those when you need those clutch performances when you're going for a title and I've had those in the last couple of events. That's what you train for. It's about staying cool."
Kelly Slater (USA), 41, 11-time ASP World Champion and current ASP WCT No. 2, immediately followed Fanning's efforts with an excellent Round 3 heat, posting a near-perfect 18.97 out of 20 heat total while defeating wildcard Anthony Walsh (AUS), 30.
"I think Anthony is one of the best barrel riders in the world," Slater said. "He's dangerous out there and spends a lot of time out here. He's not a guy you want to draw early and you expect to surf against him later in the event. I got a little too greedy to start and he started off with a good one. Luckily I got that 9 and backed it up. I got some good waves. This is the best Teahupo'o I've surfed in a couple of years for the size."
Jeremy Flores (FRA), 25, continued to cement his reputation today as one of the best tube-riders on the planet, besting Brett Simpson (USA), 28, with a near-perfect 19.33 to Simpson's excellent 17.10. Flores's incredible performance would see the young Frenchman collect the event's second perfect 10-point ride, backed up with a 9.33 on a deadly righthander.
"I think the only 10s I've had have been at Teahupo'o," Flores said. "Every year we come, it's one of the best events in terms of waves. Tahiti is paradise and it's one of my favorite waves in the world. It's perfect and terrifying at the same time, even when it's small. It feels good to get a 10. I didn't expect to get a right like that. It felt like Backdoor. It was a proper right and spat me out. That right was a good wave. I knew if I didn't come out I would get cut up by the reef. There was definitely some pressure to get out of that barrel."
Flores's dominance would continue his form through Round 3, eliminating former winner Damien Hobgood (USA), 34, and advancing through to Round 4 of the event.
John John Florence (HAW), 20, was another standout to put in a near-flawless performance at Teahupo'o today, netting the day's second perfect 10 point ride for a heaving barrel and backing up the ride up with a 9.10 to surpass Miguel Pupo (BRA), 21.
"That 10 was one of those lucky wide ones," Florence said. "To get those wide ones, you have to be so close to peak to get the wave and I was over far enough to get it. I thought I'd be deep and I had to grab my rail. it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster on that one. I was trying to get out of the barrel any way that I could and then I had a nice lip to do a turn on."
Josh Kerr (AUS), 29, current ASP WCT No. 9, exchanged a number of exciting barrels with fellow natural-footer Patrick Gudauskas (USA) ,27, in firing conditions this morning. The Australian would go on to get the best of the American with a 17.17 out of 20 heat total.
"I should have stayed and waited for a set, but I was kind of lucky that Pat (Gudauskas) just couldn't get in to that 9," Kerr said. "That was such a fun heat, that last 20 minutes. I had one really fun ride that I only got a 5 on. After I got that 9 it really took the pressure off and I was able to just make use of the beautiful conditions we have this morning."
Kerr built momentum following his Round 2 win, besting Australian charger Kiren Perrow (AUS), 36, in a high-scoring Round 3 affair in the dying moments of the heat.
Jordy Smith (ZAF), 25, current ASP WCT No. 4, continued his ASP World Title campaign, topping dangerous wildcard (/athletes/212/nathan-hedge)[Nathan Hedge] (AUS), 34, to advance to Round 4.
"I knew that was definitely going to be a tough heat," Smith said. "I watched his heat earlier today and he had some incredible waves today. I'm just stoked to have a good heat and get some waves and surf against Hog. I felt like in the past, aside from that heat againt Trav (Travis Logie), they were wave starved heat, so it was nice to get some waves. Any heat at Teahupo'o is going to be tough and I knew I had to choose the right waves."
"My initial takeoff could have been a mistake, but I just wanted to kill the nerves," Otton said. "Luckily Kolohe didn't go on the other one and I was able to get under it. The conditions are so west today that they give you time to get in and they just open up. I had a bit of a chess game for the rest of it and overall, that was a dream heat. I've never had that many chances in a heat. It's dream conditions. It's four foot perfect barrels."
Event organizers will reconvene at 6:30am tomorrow to assess conditions for a possible 7am start.
Highlights from the Billabong Pro Tahiti will be available via billabongpro.com
Surfline, official forecasters for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, are calling for:
The medium size SW swell that was showing on Friday will be followed by a similar size, mid period SW swell Saturday afternoon/evening and Sunday. Easing surf takes over on Monday. We continue to watch for a medium size or better South swell for Friday the 23rd, although wind may prove to be problematic.
For additional ASP information log on to www.aspworldtour.com