ASP Frontrunner Smith Eliminated as 12 Surfers Fall Off Tour at Billabong Pro Tahiti
The Billabong Pro Tahiti recommenced today in clean three-to-four foot (1 metre) waves for the completion of Round 2 and the first 12 heats of Round 3.
Event No. 5 of 10 on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Tahiti played host to an incredible day of action, with major shifts in the hunt for the ASP World Title as well as surfers falling off the Dream Tour, the result of the midyear cut-off from the ASP Top 45 to the Top 34 (Top 32 finishers plus two surfer wildcards).
Manoa Drollet (PYF), 29, local Tahitian wildcard, caused the upset of the event today, eliminating current ASP World No. 1, Jordy Smith (ZAF), 22, from Billabong Pro Tahiti competition in Round 3. The quiet Tahitian utilized his intimate knowledge of the break and picked off the better set waves to control the heat and come away from with the win.
“He (Smith) was sitting on priority and he only needed a small wave at one point," Drollet said. “He waited forever and he didn’t catch anything. I have a good knowledge here. I’ve been doing water patrol so I’ve been watching the event and analyzing the guys’ strategies a lot. I managed to get scores and get back in the lead there towards the end. I was expecting Jordy (Smith) to come back with a 9 at anytime."
Despite the loss, Smith remained gracious in defeat and positive as he transitions to the next event in California.
“It was pretty tough out there," Smith said. “Wave-starved a bit and difficult to find the right one. I got an average one in the beginning and the cut my hand on the reef. Some heats go like that. You live and learn, and I’m looking forward to the next one at Trestles."
Immediately following Smith’s ousting, Kelly Slater (USA), 38, past nine-time ASP World Champion scored a sensational come-from-behind victory to overtake dangerous wildcard Heiarii Williams (PYF), 23. Needing a major score with moments remaining Slater failed to emerge from an excellent wave, only to paddle straight into another impressive barrel to secure the 8.80 and the win.
“I knew what he (Williams) was going to do from the beginning," Slater said. “He and Manoa (Drollet) have the same game plan: be patient and they know the wave better than anyone. He was going to play it smart; he did that in the first heat too. I had a couple of average waves before getting an okay one. I took one at the end, probably the best wave of the heat, and I got too greedy and fell. When I came out, there was one that popped up right away and I was fortunate to get it."
With his Round 3 victory, Slater moves from No. 3 to No. 2 in the hunt for the 2010 ASP World Title, but the Floridian is pragmatic when discussing his campaign this season.
“If the roles were reversed from J-Bay to here and I won out here, then we’d be right back where we (Smith and I) were before the last one," Slater said. “It’s especially hard when you go out early and someone else goes to win a contest, like in J-Bay. We’re at the halfway point this season so we haven’t even been dropping results yet so I’m not super focused on it yet. I’ve actually been more focused on my buddies on the bubble. It’s a bummer to see some of them go."
By the end of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, the 2010 ASP World Tour will have completed half the season, and the ASP Top 45 will be reduced to 34 (Top 32 finishers as well as two surfer wildcards) meaning that 13 surfers will be relegated back to the ASP PRIME and Star events.
Today saw 12 of the 13 decided throughout Rounds 2 and 3 of competition:
- Drew Courtney (AUS), 31
- Neco Padaratz (BRA), 34
- Tanner Gudauskas (USA), 22
- Mick Campbell (AUS), 34
- Kieren Perrow (AUS), 33
- Tom Whitaker (AUS), 30
- Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), 25
- Blake Thornton (AUS), 25
- Dean Morrison (AUS), 29
- Jay Thompson (AUS), 28
- Nate Yeomans (USA), 29
- Ben Dunn (AUS), 24
Today’s relegation proved emotional for both the victors and the defeated.
Andy Irons (HAW), 32, past three-time ASP World Champion, controlled his bout against Gudauskas from the outset, and admitted regret at knocking the young Californian off tour.
“It’s really slow this morning," Irons said. “Tanner (Gudauskas) and I probably only had three or four good waves and I got two of them. He’s a really good kid. It’s a bummer and I hate seeing him off tour. But he’s young and I’m sure he’ll be back here really soon. It’s really emotional in the 33rd round. The point spread is so big. If you get in a bad rhythm, you can get a few 33rds and before you know it, you’re on the bubble."
Despite the brevity of his ASP World Tour stint, a disappointed Gudauskas remained positive following his loss.
“It was a tough heat," Gudauskas said. “There’s not a lot coming in and when you get a guy like Andy (Irons), you have to be on your game. Today wasn’t my day. It (being on tour) has made us push as hard as we can. No easy days. We’ve gone as best we can and we’ll just keep trying to go."
Amidst the ASP World Title Race shakeup and the cutoff dramatics, the world’s best surfers quietly mounted and assault on one of the world’s most pristine lefthanders.
Fredrick Patacchia (HAW), 29, current ASP World No. 15, past runner-up at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, posted the highest heat score of the event this afternoon, an 18.50 out of a possible 20, including an incredible 9.57 for a throaty barrel followed by a massive carve.
“I don’t know what to say," Patacchia said. “I watched Owen (Wright’s) heat and it didn’t look consistent so I tried to start with turns, then a few gems came to me. That was probably the best surf I’ve had since I’ve been here. I feel really comfortable out here at Teahupoo. I’ve had a bit of bad luck in the past couple of years. So now I just have to make my own luck. I really feel one with Tahiti here. I feel at home. The family I stay with here shows me a lot of aloha. I have a bike, I have a boat, I have a kayak and all my dive gear here. So I have a lot of things to keep me busy here."
Adam Melling (AUS), 25, 2010 rookie and current ASP World No. 19, continued to exhibit his maturity, dominating his Round 3 clash with fellow rookie Dusty Payne (HAW), 21, posting the highest single-wave score of the event, a 9.80 out of a possible 10, en route to his emphatic win.
“It was good to get on a roll out there," Melling said. “A couple of wider ones that opened up for me and it felt great to get a couple of scores. Dusty (Payne) is such an amazing barrel-rider that I knew I had to be on my game from the outset."
Dane Reynolds (USA), 24, current ASP World No. 4, continued to show the world why he is one of the best surfers in the world, dominating Teahupoo to the tune of an impressive 18.00 out of a possible 20 to take a Round 3 victory.
“There was just a flurry of sets there for us," Reynolds said. “The waves that came in the beginning of the heat were better than most of the day. Blake (Thornton) probably picked the wrong ones and I was always in position for a better one. It’s frustrating when that happens and you’re on the receiving end. I got two 8s on today’s scale and then a better one came in and I got a higher score. It was a lot of fun and I hope the waves hang around a little longer."
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6am to assess conditions for a possible 6:30am start.
When competition resumes, up first will be reigning ASP World Champion and current ASP World No. 6, Mick Fanning (AUS), 29, up against wildcard Tamaroa McComb (PYF) in Heat 13 of Round 3.
Surfline, official forecasters for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, are calling for a small mix of south and southwest swell will prevail for the last three days of the waiting period along with moderate to strong easterly trades.
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI REMAINING ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 7: Jay Thompson (AUS) 14.50 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 7.77
Heat 8: Chris Davidson (AUS) 9.77 def. Drew Courtney (AUS) 8.60
Heat 9: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.50 def. Neco Padaratz (BRA) 7.00
Heat 10: Andy Irons (HAW) 15.06 def. Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 5.20
Heat 11: Adam Melling (AUS) 14.44 def. Mick Campbell (AUS) 14.40
Heat 12: Travis Logie (ZAF) 14.16 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 6.33
Heat 13: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.20 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 10.74
Heat 14: Dean Morrsion (AUS) 17.23 def. Tom Whitaker (AUS) 15.10
Heat 15: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.83 def. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 10.17
Heat 16: Dusty Payne (HAW) 12.77 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 11.93
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI REMAINING ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Dane Reynolds (USA) 18.00 def. Blake Thornton (AUS) 12.67
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 9.84 def. Luke Munro (AUS) 4.37
Heat 3: Tiago Pires (PRT) 16.03 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 15.66
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.10 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 11.00
Heat 5: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.33 def. Jay Thompson (AUS) 2.17
Heat 6: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 18.50 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 14.07
Heat 7: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.87 def. Luke Stedman (AUS) 5.07
Heat 8: Manoa Drollet (PYF) 15.10 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.36
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.73 def. Heiarii Williams (PYF) 15.64
Heat 10: Adam Melling (AUS) 17.83 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 6.84
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.13 def. Nate Yeomans (USA) 15.77
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.17 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 4.50
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI REMAINING ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 13: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Tamaroa McComb (PYF)
Heat 14: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 15: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Marco Polo (BRA)
Heat 16: Chris Davidson (AUS) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)