Slater claims sweet victory
THIS year’s Billabong Pro Tahiti will go down in surf history as one of the sport’s most memorable moments thanks to big waves and perfect scores.
The event kicked off with a flourish on day one in perfect four to six-foot-high (up to 2m) tubes and saw standout performances which led to it being rated as the best surfing days seen on the 2011 ASP World Tour so far.
But the biggest was yet to come.
Despite perfect waves in the small to medium range by Teahupoo standards for the first week, organisers stuck to their guns and used up the available lay days in anticipation of the predicted giant swell.
The patient waiting game paid off big time – after five consecutive lay days, the sleeping giant awoke at Teahupoo with a challenging eight to 12ft swell (up to 3.5m) and it was all about making the drop, getting under the lip and going for gold in the Teahupoo green room.
Maui’s Dusty Payne, one of the new guard Hawaiian chargers, was the first casualty as he hit the reef with his knee which left him with 18 stitches and forced him to withdraw from the competition.
He is also likely to miss out on the next event, the Quiksilver Pro at Long Beach, New York.
Coolangatta’s Joel “Parko” Parkinson, the ratings leader, was surprisingly beaten in round two by an in-form Brett Simpson of Huntington Beach. This loss relegated Joel back to number three on the ratings.
Much to Parko’s credit he stuck around for what proved to be one of the biggest swells ever to be ridden at Teahupoo. Saturday’s 15ft swell (4.5m) with up to 25ft (7.5m) monsters turned the big blue beautiful green rooms into dark cavernous Armageddon holes in the ocean impossible to paddle in to and reserved only for the fearless tow-in jet ski assist patrol.
There was quite a bit of controversy about the brother of late Andy Irons, Bruce Irons, not being given a wildcard into the main event in respect of Andy who was the defending champion.
Kelly Slater led the charge on Twitter and called for Bruce to be automatically seeded and while this didn’t happen, Andy’s brother did show up and was towed in to one of the biggest waves of that epic Saturday session as seen in the photo above.
As a total first for the ASP and Billabong event, the historical tow-in session was broadcast live on the webcast offering viewers one of the most exhilarating and terrifying moments in surfing folklore.
The big wave performances of the professional tow-in surfers took surfing to a whole new dimension.
Absolute stand-out performances were put on by Bruce Irons, Coolangatta’s Dean Morrison who rolled his ankle exiting a monster cavern, Yamba’s Laurie Towner who acted like an excitable kid at the Royal Easter Show and his driver Dylan Longbottom.
Most of the World’s top 34 watched on in disbelief and admiration as the big wave matadors took centre stage, dominating proceedings while the Tahitian weather bureau issued a code red warning and safety officers nervously watched on standby.
Jeremy Flores who scored two perfect 10s deservedly received the Andy Irons Best Charger award from Bruce Irons.
Kelly Slater claimed the 2011 Billabong Pro Teahupoo title and the world ratings lead.
It was all about making the drop, getting under the lip and going for gold in the Teahupoo green room.