TEAHUPO’O, Taiarapu/French Polynesia (Tuesday, August 23, 2011)
After three consecutive lay days it appears the world’s best surfers are going to be tested like never before, with a giant four-to-five metre swell tracking directly to Teahupo’o Tahiti, the site of the fifth event on the ASP Men’s World Tour, the Billabong Pro.
Round 1 was completed in pristine two-metre conditions last Saturday, with the likes of Kelly Slater (USA), former event champion CJ Hobgood (USA) and current world rated # 1 Joel Parkinson (AUS) progressing directly to Round 3 with heat wins.
Meanwhile, organisers and surf fans have waited with baited breath for a storm to materialise off New Zealand. As forecast, it has delivered and now there is talk that it may be ‘too big’ prompting a round of contingency meetings amongst event organisers and some anxious days waiting for competitors. Non-essential equipment has been removed from the judging tower, the Tahitian Water Patrol have practiced rescue drills with surfers, photography scaffolds are likely to be dismantled and all boat drivers have been put on high alert.
It’s been four years since contestants were seriously tested in the trials division, but in that time there have been countless tow-in and free surf sessions with the imagery splashed around the world. This time it appears Mother Nature is delivering again, smack-bang in the middle of the Billabong Pro main-event waiting period.
Surfline, official forecasters for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, are calling a major (three-metres plus) south-southwest swell to build throughout the day on Thursday and continue Friday, with an even stronger (four-to-five mtre) south-southwest swell looking likely for the weekend. Wind will be very light though Tuesday, with building and breezy easterly trades for the end of the week.
Prior to the event, organisers created an award in memory of the late three-time ASP Men's World Champion and 2010 Billabong Pro Tahiti champion, Andy Irons (HAW) - given to the surfer who demonstrates the most commitment throughout the tournament. Irons carved a reputation for himself at dangerous Teahupo'o and his performances helped redefine what people thought was possible in such waves of consequence.
It appears as if the Andy Irons award will be hard-earned and the timing never be more appropriate. Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:30am to assess conditions for a possible 7:30am start with Thursday being a likely option. When competition resumes, up first will be Jeremy Flores (FRA), 23, and Heiarii Williams (PYF), 23, in the opening heat of Round 2.
Highlights from the Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui are available via http://www.billabongpro.com