Photo: Bruno Santos takes a victory lap through the channel after winning the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Brazilian wildcard Bruno Santos has defeated local wildcard Manoa Drollet (PYF) to win the Billabong Pro Tahiti and become the first Brazilian to win an ASP World Tour event in five years.
“I’m really happy, my dreams just came true,” Santos said. “Today is not the perfect day to surf the final, but I don’t care I’m still happy. It’s still the best day of my life.”
Santos, who earned his spot in the Billabong Pro Tahiti with a runner-up finish in the Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials held prior to the main event, got the better of local Teahupoo specialist Drollet in their low scoring affair. Santos beat Drollet 9.16 to 6.83 on a borrowed surfboard in inconsistent three-foot (one metre) waves.
“I got two little barrels and then there were no more waves, I don’t know, maybe Mother Nature was trying to help me,” Santos said. “Today is so small and my 6’3 was too big so I borrowed a board from a French guy in the channel. He saved my life, I want to keep the board.”
Santos defeated last year’s World No. 1 Mick Fanning (AUS), World No. 2 Taj Burrow and 2001 ASP World Champion C.J. Hobgood (USA), among others, en route to his victory.
“I’ve surfed more than 10 heats if you count the trials,” Santos said, “The waves in the trials were so perfect and I have surfed the best barrels of my life in this event. I got injured in the trials and had to get 15 stitches and not surf for 15 days. My first heat back was the one against Mick Fanning that I won in the last minute so I knew from then that luck was on my side.”
The Billabong Pro Tahiti was the eighth ASP World Tour event for both Santos and Drollet – both surfers have enjoyed multiple wildcards into Pipeline and Teahupoo events among others.
The last Brazilian to win an ASP World Tour event was Neco Padaratz in France in 2003.
Drollet’s best result previous to today, was a semifinal showing at Teahupoo in 1999. He is widely regarded as one of the best surfers at Teahupoo but conditions in the Final weren’t exactly the big hollow barrels he is used to surfing.
“The waves were small but they were small for him too,” Drollet said. “He did better in the final and he deserved to win. Getting so close to winning the event gets you nervous and there were not many waves. Bruno was putting pressure on me and he had priority. I was paying more attention to him than the waves. I let him take that first one which was a big mistake – he won there.”
Drollet beat World No. 1 Kelly Slater and earned two perfect 10s in the Billabong Pro Tahiti but victory at home eluded him.
“Before the final I said to myself, ’it doesn’t matter if I win the final because I have had such a good event and surfed so many amazing heats, I shouldn’t put pressure myself to win,’” Drollet said. “If I don’t win, it’s still a good day of surfing and in the end that is all that matters. I would have loved to have won though. It won’t be easy to ever make it that far again – I think I got quite lucky to get the waves I got in this event.”
Drollet beat Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.33 to 10.27 in the semifinals – the same heat in which he earned the second of his perfect 10 point rides. Parkinson caught four waves to Drollet’s eight.
“The swell was definitely dying so I was trying to be selective,” Parkinson said. “I still thought I could get a 10.00, anything is possible, but there was only one other wave that came through, right through the inside, and I was up the top with priority. Manoa got it and got an 8.00. I’m stoked I got a third and good for Manoa, it takes the points away, so that’s a good thing.”
Parkinson moves to World No. 2 behind Slater with the result. Behind him, Bede Durbidge (AUS), Andy Irons (HAW) and Mick Fanning (AUS) sit in third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Former winner C.J. Hobgood suffered a similar fate to Parkinson when he lost to Santos 8.67 to 14.34.
“If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Hobgood said. “Fifteen minutes left, I had priority and I needed a six so I sat there. If you did that again, nine times out of 10 a wave would come in. A wave didn’t break for 15 minutes. Yea, I’m bummed and I wanted to break my board into a million pieces and kick and scream and cry, but I’m just going to smile.”
Hobgood moves to World No. 12 with the result, but after opening the season with two equal 17th showings, was hoping for more. The fact that ratings points for 1st and 2nd place weren’t doled out since the wildcards aren’t rated surfers was of little consolation for him.
“Two wildcards in the final, if you are Kelly Slater you are laughing,” Hobgood said. “But if you’re the rest of us, it’s a missed opportunity.”