The Billabong Pro Tahiti, Event No. 5 of 10 on the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour, recommenced today with Rounds 3 and 4 being completed in rapidly-improving three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) waves at Teahupo’o.
Ricardo dos Santos (BRA), two-time Von Zipper Trials winner and wildcard into the main event, caused the upset of the day in eliminating reigning 11-time ASP World Champion and defending Billabong Pro Tahiti winner, Kelly Slater (USA), 40, with an incredible down-to-the-wire performance in Round 3. Needing a major score with 10 seconds remaining in the heat, Dos Santos threaded a lengthy forehand barrel to attain a 9.87 out of a possible 10 and the emotional win.
“That wave came to me at the very end and I was just hoping for a chance to show what I can do,” Dos Santos said. “That wave was so good and it just allowed me to pull in early and keep running through it. That was my last chance – it was either make it or go home. I knew I had to get the best waves and get as deep as I can. I knew Kelly (Slater) was going to post high scores so I just had to do my best. I’m really happy right now, but there’s a long way to go so I need to focus.”
Dos Santos, after an afternoon loss in Round 4, has been relegated to Round 5 where he’ll face Taj Burrow (AUS), 34, tomorrow morning.
While Slater bowed out of the Billabong Pro Tahiti uncharacteristically early in Round 3, the iconic Floridian remained ever-gracious in defeat and will return to competition at the upcoming event in California
“I honestly don’t know a whole lot about Ricardo (dos Santos),” Slater said. “I know that he won the Trials last year in huge surf and won the Trials this year in small surf so he’s obviously very competent out here in any kind of conditions. I’m disappointed to lose early, but more so because tomorrow could be really good. I think that tomorrow could be really classic conditions at Teahupo’o and hopefully I’m able to get waves somewhere.”
Slater, who currently sits in second position on the ASP World Championship rankings may see his position drop following the tomorrow’s completion of the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 31, two-time ASP World Champion (2007, 2009) and current ASP WCT No. 1, survived a tight heat against lethal goofy-footer Fredrick Patacchia (HAW), 30, in Round 3 this morning, but was able to confidently best Taj Burrow (AUS), 34, and Julian Wilson (AUS), 23, in this afternoon’s Round 4 heat.
“The conditions are night and day between the two heats today,” Fanning said. “This morning wasn’t classic Chopes and it was more turns than barrels, and then this afternoon, the wind came good and the swell was pulsing. It was so much fun. I’m into the Quarterfinals now so that’s a pretty good result for me historically at this event. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
C.J. Hobgood (USA), 33, former ASP World Champion (2001) and current No. 12 on the ASP WCT rankings, is one of the most respected Teahupo’o surfers on the planet and the Floridian goofy-footer proved why today with solid wins in Rounds 3 and 4 to advance directly to the Quarterfinals.
“I definitely felt like I snuck through there at the end of the (Round 4) heat,” Hobgood said. “Three-man heats at Teahupo’o can be tricky because everyone has the tendency to push each other up the point and out of position. I was fortunate that I ended up being in the right spot for the good ones that came through. Waves are starting to pulse now so hopefully they only get better for the remainder of competition.”
Jeremy Flores (FRA), 24, last year’s recipient of the Andy Irons Forever Award, continued to show the world that he is one of the preeminent tube-riders on the planet taking down Heitor Alves (BRA), 30, this morning and then punctuating the afternoon by posting the event’s first Perfect 10 for an incredible no-hands backhand barrel.
Despite the impressive performance, it was a rampaging Joel Parkinson (AUS), 31, who steamrolled through to an impressive Round 4 victory over Flores and Damien Hobgood (USA), 33, with the highest heat total of the round, a near-perfect 18.23 out of a possible 20.
“That was a really good heat to be in,” Parkinson said. “It was gentlemen’s rules and plenty of waves. It was probably the best three-man heat I’ve ever surfed out there. It was just so enjoyable and that’s why I surf and compete. Really happy right now.”
Parkinson has advanced directly to the Quarterfinals of the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Gabriel Medina (BRA), 18, competing in his first ever Billabong Pro Tahiti, proved that he is one of the most comprehensive young surfers on the planet in collecting the event’s second Perfect 10 in the final heat of the day, an incredible forehand drop into a bowling barrel at Teahupo’o.
“I’ve gotten a few 10s before but nothing like that wave,” Medina said. “It’s an honor to be here competing at Teahupo’o and I have a lot of respect for John John (Florence) and Kieren (Perrow). They are both great tube-riders so I knew I had to do my best. Very thankful to get through and looking forward to tomorrow’s finish.”
Medina advances directly to the Quarterfinals.
The Billabong Pro Tahiti will culminate tomorrow. Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:30am to assess conditions for a possible 7am start.
Surfline, official forecasters for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, are calling for a much larger, long period South swell for tomorrow with easing winds.
When competition resumes, up first will be wildcard Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) up against Taj Burrow (AUS), 34, in the opening heat of Round 5.
Highlights from the Billabong Pro Tahiti can be viewed here>>
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.17 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 8.34
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.83 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.37
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.04 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 11.00
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 18.30 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 17.50
Heat 5: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 18.30 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.17
Heat 6: Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 18.34 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 16.44
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.83 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 4.47
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.60 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 12.60
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) 15.10 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.93
Heat 10: John John Florence (HAW) 13.30 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 13.17
Heat 11: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.60 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 4.73
Heat 12: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 16.87 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.67
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.60, Taj Burrow (AUS) 9.10, Julian Wilson (AUS) 2.80
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.76, Owen Wright (AUS) 15.60, Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 9.67
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.23, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 17.77, Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.47
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.83, John John Florence (HAW) 7.00, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 3.23
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 5 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)