The world’s best surfers returned to the world’s most dangerous wave for Round 3 at the Billabong Pro Tahiti yesterday and, with a steadily rising new swell going on to deliver yet more solid 10-to-12 foot Chopes drainers, saw some electrifying performances as well as some very big upsets.
The first surprise of the day came in the form of Tiago Pires’ win over Taj Burrow (the ASP keep jinxing poor Taj) in the opening heat of Round 3. Posting two near-perfect score, the Portuguese natural footer once again demonstrated how dangerous he can be in heavy left-hand barrels.
“I really like these kind of waves and barrels,” said Tiago. “I love Tahiti and it’s been a few years since I got a result here. My plan was to be selective and it worked. I think it’s safe to say that was my first good heat of the year so I’m really psyched and excited for my next heat.”
In Heat 6 ranking front-runner Gabriel Medina put on an inspired tube riding clinic to eliminate on-form wildcard Nathan Hedge in their excellent scoring head-to-head bout, Medina notching one of the highest heat totals of the Round.
“This is my third time in Tahiti and every time I come it’s so fun so I’m always excited to come back,” said the world number 1. “I was worried about facing him. He surfs this wave so well and he’s a tough guy to beat. I’m stoked and I’ve never got so many barrels, I was claiming every single wave.”
After winning his first heat of the year in Round 1, Brett Simpson caused the next big upset of Round 3 by eliminating world number two Joel Parkinson. Despite suffering a heavy wipeout and hitting the reef, Simpo recovered with two high-scoring waves to take the win.
“I definitely gained some momentum from that win,” said Brett Simpson. “My main thing is to look at the waves and think about whether I can make them. It’s not about charging for me. I couldn’t kick out of my first wave so I hit the bottom. I hit pretty hard but was able to bounce back and got my best wave shortly after.”
In another highly-anticipated match-up, Hawaiian chargers John John Florence and Sebastian Zietz took to the water for the highest scoring heat of the day, but it was Florence who’d end up edging out Seabass thanks to a perfect 10 point score. In nearly any other heat, Zietz’s performance would have earned him a heat win but not against fellow Hawaiian rival John John.
“I just went for it out there today, I’m really stoked it picked up and I’m so happy to get some waves,” said Florence. “The last few heats I’ve had I haven’t really got too many waves. The ten-point wave I got was crazy, I just hoped for the best and it worked out.”
The next heat yet another perfect 10 point ride but this time from Australian Kai Otton, with by far the deepest barrel of the day, allowing Ottz to best Nat Young for his best result of the year so far.
With the massive swell continuing to pulse, Kelly Slater put on yet another Teahupoo clinic posting three nines in the opening 10 minutes, and finished the heat with five nine-point rides which Jadson Andre never even got close to catching.
“This is probably the best I’ve ever surfed Chopes,” said Kelly Slater. “It’s just big enough for that outside ledge to go hollow. I would say it’s almost safe out there. It’s 15 feet or so and this is where it gets beautiful.”
Australian rookie Dion Atkinson then delivered the final upset of the day when he eliminated Mick Fanning in the last heat of Round 3. A slow first half of their heat finally turned around at the 18-minute mark, and it was the rookie who got the best of the exchange following a huge drop to post a 9.50 while Fanning suffered a brutal wipeout.
“It feels bloody good,” said Dion Atkinson. “I’m surfing for my survival but these guys are surfing for the title. I’m out there to win it, and I’m stoked I did, and got barrelled in the process. I’ve got the lineup more dialled now but I’ve taken a few days of floggings.”
With Surfline calling for more very solid mid-period swell to continue today, make sure you stay tuned for Round 4 to kick off tonight (UK time).
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 2 Results:
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.27 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 8.83
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Tiago Pires (PRT) 18.67 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.57
Heat 2: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.33 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.73
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.90 def. Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 14.77
Heat 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) 18.10 def. Mitch Crews (AUS) 10.17
Heat 5: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 13.10 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.10
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.80 def. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 13.44
Heat 7: Brett Simpson (USA) 16.23 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.17
Heat 8: John John Florence (HAW) 19.93 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 18.50
Heat 9: Kai Otton (AUS) 18.17 def. Nat Young (USA) 18.06
Heat 10: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.44 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 6.43
Heat 11: Owen Wright (AUS) 18.36 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.36
Heat 12: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 16.50 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 5.94
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Tiago Pires (PRT), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Heat 3: Brett Simpson (USA), John John Florence (HAW), Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA), Owen Wright (AUS), Dion Atkinson (AUS)