It’s hard to say who the star of the show was on Day 1 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Was it Nathan Hedge for sticking the drop on a big set and getting impossibly deep to score the event’s first Perfect 10, or was it Kai Otten for charging through two monster barrels to amass the opening day’s highest heat total? Perhaps it was Kelly Slater for getting the show started with complete control and expertise on his opening ride (see video below), or maybe it was none of the above, because Chopes put on a heck of a performance itself.
Kelly’s opening ride in Heat 1 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti 2014.
Whitewater bubbled and exploded over the reef like porridge boiling on a stove as the broadcast began to stream live. The 8 foot-plus sets were barely rideable, yet the Top 34 were told to get out there and show the judges (and us) what they are made of. Stern stuff apparently.
Following a disappointing result for the 11-time World Champ in J-Bay a little over a month ago, Kelly Slater easily won Heat 1 and proved that he is still the King when it comes to serious waves like Chopes.
There were some brutal wipeouts on Day 1. Wilko went down hard moments after this.
After Kelly’s impressive showing in Heat 1, Matt Wilkinson and Michel Bourez put some perspective on the situation as both got blasted on consecutive waves in Heat 2. The Spartan was obliterated on the first, then Wilko ate it on the wave behind.
For Wilko it was his second heavy beating of the match-up, and he gave a classic post heat interview after Michel went on to win. Floatation vests were given to each competitor prior to the event, which they were encouraged to use should they feel the need, and Wilko discussed this with Rosy in the channel.
The action continued in Heat 3 while hungry seabirds dive-bombed in the background. Taj Burrow completely disappeared from view as he dropped into his highest score of his heat-winning total. The wave spat so hard that the Western Australian could not be seen as he set his line, then by the time he came back into view he was on his way out of the massive tube. That must have made it hard for the judges to score, but it sure was epic to watch.
Parko is a seasoned campaigner on the WCT and looked comfortable in some serious pits.
J-Bay Open winner, Mick Fanning, picked up where he left off at Supertubes by easily winning his opening heat out at Chopes. Both Mitch Colborn (AUS) and Alejo Muniz (BRA) were in a combination situation for most of the match-up. Parko looked in total control in the following heat, before Ace Buchan caught this bomb and skipped directly to Round 3. Rankings leader, Gabriel Medina, then showed that he is comfortable in waves of serious consequence to claim victory in Heat 6.
The Brazilian came gliding out of a solid Teahupo’o pipe standing bolt upright with his hands reaching for the sky on his last ride. He looks determined to hang onto the yellow jersey as he chases a maiden world title.
Jordy couldn’t find the high-scoring bombs in Round 1. This one looks pretty good though.
Although determined to jump straight into Round 3 by claiming the heat win, Travis Logie and Jordy Smith were unable to push their heat totals into double figures. Both will surf again in Round 2, where they will be hoping once again to get barrelled impossibly deep.
We forgot to mention one more star of the show in paragraph 1. The Tahitian water patrol were extremely busy on the opening day and repeatedly plucked surfers in distress from the sharp and unforgiving impact zone with precision. They have their technique absolutely mastered, which must surely give competitors the added confidence that should something go wrong, help is just a few revs away on a jet ski.
The other heroes of Day 1. The Tahitian water patrol.
Local wildcard Taumata Puhetini took a vicious beating in Heat 1 as Round 2 got underway, and within seconds he was rescued, stabilised and rushed to shore for further inspection. It’s possible he suffered a serious case of whiplash after going down hard, and the water patrol were careful to keep his head still as they motored out of the impact zone.
Action was called for the day following Heat 2 of Round 2, and Jordy Smith will be up in the second heat against Brett Simpson when competition resumes at Teahupo’o.
Check out all the heat reviews, highlights and results on www.aspworldtour.com