Photo: Wildcard Manoa Drollet (PYF) eliminated Kelly Slater in Round 3 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Eight-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) and last year’s World No. 2 Taj Burrow (AUS) were Round 3 casualties to Billabong Pro Tahiti wildcards today.
Bruno Santos (BRA), who eliminated reigning World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) in a tight heat yesterday, beat Burrow in a much more convincing fashion today when he earned an early 8.33 to take a lead he never relinquished.
“It’s so good to surf against the best surfers and beat the guys,” Santos said. “This heat was so different than my heat yesterday. I got a big score at the beginning, got priority and then I got another big score, a 9.27, so I am really happy. Hopefully I can keep going, I really want to make the final.”
Local surfer Manoa Drollet (PYF), who won his Round 1 heat over Slater and C.J. Hobgood yesterday, beat the World No. 1 with a 14.00 heat total despite Slater catching the best wave of the heat, a 9.83, in the dying minutes of the heat.
“To beat Kelly Slater is pretty much as good as it gets but to win the contest would be even better,” Drollet said. “I got lucky, again like in the first round, when I got the best wave right at the beginning. I was in the lead and I was more relaxed and there weren’t many waves at the end of the heat, so he couldn’t do anything.”
Slater was handed a priority interference penalty for paddling for a wave Drollet wanted and had priority on so his second scoring ride wasn’t counted. Even if it had, Slater would have come up short 13.26 to Drollet’s 14.00.
“I paddled probably one paddle too much,” Slater said of the interference. “I sort of judged it like Manoa wasn’t going to catch it and I paddled a little more than I obviously would have and then it was too late. That’s the way it goes, I made a little mistake and out here at Teahupoo the chances of coming back from an interference are almost nil.”
Slater will retain his No. 1 rating after the Billabong Pro Tahiti despite his equal 17th finish today. His closest threats still in the competition are Andy Irons (HAW) and Joel Parkinson (AUS), both of whom are rated 6th in the world right now. Should one of them win the event, they would move to World No. 2 behind Slater.
“We’ll see what happens,” Slater said. “Taj went down and Mick went down so that’s good for me if I’m going to look at the whole year,” Slater said. “It gives Andy and Parko a chance to catch up but the best one of them can do is a 5th I think, because they’re going to knock each other out. Then there’s Bede; we’ll see how Bede goes. This isn’t his strong wave, but he could get a good result.”
Durbidge, who came into the event World No. 2, didn’t get a strong result and was knocked by an in form Chris Ward (USA) in the second to last heat of the day. Ward earned one of three perfect 10s awarded today, but was the only surfer earning one to advance. Tiago Pires (PRT) earned a 10.00 but lost his heat to Parkinson on an interference mistake and Leonardo Neves (BRA) needed more than a 10.00 and a 6.90 to beat Bruce Irons’ (HAW) 18.33 in Round 2.
C.J. Hobgood, the 2004 winner of the Billabong Pro laid claim to the highest heat score of the event moments after watching Ward blitz – he posted a 9.97 and a 9.67 for a 19.64 heat total in the last heat of the day.
“Wardo pretty much laid the groundwork for that,” Hobgood said. “I was just watching him. What do you do when the waves are cooking? More times than not when you are out here right before dark you get this little window and I was just hoping the waves would turn on and they did.”
ASP Rookies Dane Reynolds (USA) and Jordy Smith (ZAF) went head to head in Heat 3 of Round 3. Reynolds, who is the highest rated rookie on tour at equal 11th, got the better of the exchange and is through to Round 4.
“When I saw that I had Jordy I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ I was so nervous just because of all the hype surrounding us,” Reynolds said. “I didn’t really care who won, I just didn’t want to get smoked and be all embarrassed. I’m stoked I won that one, I’m sure there will be plenty of matchups, probably at JBay and then I’m sure it will be the other way around, so it will be fun.”
There are 17 heats of Billabong Pro Tahiti action remaining and contest officials are hoping to finish the competition by 4pm local time tomorrow. An official call will be made at 6am.