TEAHUPOO, Tahiti (Friday, May 4th, 2007) – All but one of the biggest names in pro surfing made it through their Round 1 Billabong Pro Tahiti heats today. Perennial favorites Kelly Slater (USA), Andy Irons (HAW), Mick Fanning (AUS) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) advanced to Round 3. Taj Burrow (AUS) who sits current equal No. 1 on the Foster's ASP World Tour ratings aside Fanning was not so lucky.
Burrow, who drew Teahupoo specialist and Billabong Pro Tahiti wildcard Bruno Santos (PYF) and French rookie Jeremy Flores, finished second in the three man heat and will now have to negotiate Round 2 to stay in contention for a Billabong Pro crown.
Flores, a Foster's ASP World Tour rookie, won the heat – his first ever at the dredging left reef break. He also tied Dean Morrison (AUS) for the third highest heat total of the event thus far.
"It felt good, definitely, to surf in my first heat here and to win it," Flores said. "I couldn't wish for better. When I saw the heat I had I was like, 'Whoa, it's going to be tough one,' but I think this is a wave where anyone can beat anyone."
Flores is Europe's only representative on the Foster's ASP World Tour. He finished first on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) to earn his elite tour spot and currently sits 14th on the ratings after finishing 9th on the Gold Coast and 17th at Bells Beach.
"I'm still learning; I'm only 18," Flores said. "I did okay in the first comp but I got a little unlucky since the start of the year. I had problems with missing waves on the Gold Coast and I got really sick in Bells so hopefully I can keep on a roll and everything stays normal this event."
The surfer who stands to benefit most from Burrow's possible Round 2 elimination is Fanning who has owned the ratings lead from the start of the year but has been forced to share it since the Bells Beach event wrapped up in mid-April.
Fanning failed to find a barrel in his 30-minute heat, a rare occurrence given the nature of the wave, and exited the water unsure of whether or not he'd earned the score he needed to overcome Aussie wildcard Anthony Walsh. He text messaged his mother to find out.
"I'm 6,000 miles away and I'm waiting for a text from my Mum to either say, 'Well done,' or 'You idiot!' luckily it was, 'Well done!'" Fanning said. "I knew it was going to be close, I only needed a 2.0 or a 3.0 or something, and I got a good little wave but I only got to do turns on it – I didn't get a barrel the entire heat. Anthony had a 7.00 and I didn't have anything so it was basically a five-minute heat."
The highest scoring wave and heat score of the day (a 9.50 and an 18.17 respectively) went to current eight-time ASP world champ Slater. Slater won the contest in 2000, 2003 and 2005 but bowed out of the event in the semifinal last year after suffering a repeat rib injury.
He left his opponents Phil Macdonald (AUS) and wildcard Mano Drollet (PYF) needing a combination of scores to catch him today.
"It's kind of a real wind-swelly sort of swell – it's got a little east in it so it's coming deep from the reef and there were some good ones," Slater said. "My plan was to start up there and get a couple but I ended up swing wide and getting my first one, a 9.5, that sort of set the pace. Manoa passed up another one, a got an 8 something and that was sort of it – there wasn't much left out there for those guys."
Slater will enjoy a break between now and when Round 3 hits the water – depending on how the wildcards fare in Round 2, it is likely he will meet one of the Tahitian specialists once again.
"Obviously the wildcards surf their way through the qualifying event to get here but getting out into these heats is a little bit of a different story – guys don't make the same mistakes on this tour as they do in the qualifying events," Slater said. "The pressure definitely steps up a notch for those guys and they are generally the best surfers at breaks like here and Pipeline. The wildcards that come through are the guys you want to beat and you beat them early on and you feel like you can win the event. To get one over on Manoa early on feels good, but he'll probably have a mid-range high seed in Round 2, and if he can beat him I'll have Mano again."
The day's other stand-out performer was Pancho Sullivan of Hawaii. The second-year tourer, who amassed the days second highest heat total after Slater, had a disappointing South Pacific leg last year, but looks to be bettering those results in 2007.
"Obviously last year, I got a 33rd here and then in Fiji so it wasn't a good run through the hollow lefts that I was hoping for," Sullivan said. "But Tahiti is so similar to Hawaii that I love coming here. The intensity of the waves and the power of the ocean are really similar and it's so laid back – the people are just amazing. Obviously we all wish it was the big, heavy Chopes that we're all used to seeing, but with the limited waiting period, we have to get this day under our belt in order to wait and hope for bigger swells to come."
Brazilians Adriano de Souza and Bernardo Miranda won their respective heats, as did South African's Travis Logie and rookie Ricky Basnett. Californian's also fared well with Bobby Martinez (USA), Chris Ward (USA) and Taylor Knox (USA) each advancing.
There is a chance that Teahupoo may be swell deprived for the next few days, but a call will be made tomorrow morning at 7am to see if Round 2 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti will run.
ROUND 1 BILLABONG PRO TEAHUPOO RESULTS:
Heat 1: Bobby Martinez (USA) 14.00, Trent Munro (AUS) 6.23, Cory Lopez (USA) 4.23
Heat 2: Bruce Irons (HAW) 11.84, Victor Ribas (BRA) 8.22, Josh Kerr (AUS) 7.63
Heat 3: Chris Ward (USA) 12.84, Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.66, Troy Brooks (AUS) 7.34
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.33, Tom Whitaker (AUS) 5.96, Neco Padaratz (BRA) 2.60
Heat 5: Gabe Kling (USA) 8.87, Leonardo Neves (BRA) 7.70, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 6.83
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.16, Luke Munro (AUS) 8.36, Greg Emslie (ZAF) 7.17
Heat 7: Andy Irons (HAW) 12.50, Hira Teriinatoofa (PYF) 9.67, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 6.90
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.17, Manoa Drollet (PYF) 12.50, Phillip Macdonald (AUS) 9.66
Heat 9: Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.44, Anthony Walsh (AUS) 7.67, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 2.47
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.67, Taj Burrow (AUS) 8.50, Bruno Santos (BRA) 5.93
Heat 11: Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 15.93, Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 14.90, Daniel Wills (AUS) 9.50
Heat 12: Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 8.27, Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 6.80, Michael Campbell (AUS) 6.26
Heat 13: Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 12.57, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 10.17, Ben Dunn (AUS) 9.14
Heat 14: Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.70, Kai Otton (AUS) 9.80, Dayyan Neve (AUS) 1.30
Heat 15: Taylor Knox (USA) 8.92, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 3.90, Michael Lowe (AUS) 1.44
Heat 16: Dean Morrison (AUS) 15.67, Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 14.33, Luke Stedman (AUS) 9.10