The Billabong Pro Tahiti had to run today. At 6:30 in the morning it didn't look like it was going to. The wind was bad, the ocean gray and ugly, and the swell not one hundred percent there. But by midmorning the trades had clocked around from onshore to sideshore and it was on.
"We had to get today out of the way, it puts us in a much better spot for the rest of the waiting period," noted contest director Luke Egan.
And consequently, it turned out to be a pretty entertaining day out on the reef at Teahupoo. "It was tricky, but there were some good ones," smiled Joel Parkinson after making his round one heat. "Those three-man heats, they're competitive, you have to have eyes in the back of your head and know where everybody is because there's no priority or anything."
Kelly Slater followed suit, making short work of South African Travis Logie and wildcard Alain Riou.
But the heat of the day went to Adriano De Souza, who totaled a near-perfect 19.43 heat score, breezing past Brazilian countryman Willian Cardoso and Australian Bede Durbidge.
"I just got into a really good rhythm right from the start," said De Souza afterwards, "and I was able to capitalize on it. I'm really stoked to go right into round three and hopefully I can keep the momentum going."
As if that weren't enough, John Florence started off the day by dominating his heat. Taj Burrow, up in the next heat, slipped past Damien Hobgood and Dusty Payne, who was surfing in his first event this year after finally recovering from an ankle injury.
"The ankle felt great, it was good to be out in a heat again. I would have liked to have had a better result, obviously, but just the same, it's good to be back," told Payne, prior to a free surf session with Joel Parkinson and Shane Dorian at the end of the day.
And while Mick Fanning lost his round one heat, he put in a commanding performance in round two, moving on handily.
"Round one, it's sometimes hard to really get focused for it because you know you'll have another chance, but I was able to buckle down and get the job done," said Fanning.
So, with all of the major world title contenders all advancing on into round three the chase for the 2012 title continues.
"It's a different ballgame from here on out," said Egan, "It's man-on-man, and that makes a world of difference."
The swell is expected to peak tonight, and slightly drop through the day tomorrow, but if it's clean and four-foot there's a good chance we'll be back on again. There are signs of swell at the very end of the waiting period, but things change quickly down in this part of the world, and what's here today on the forecast charts could be gone tomorrow, so the plan's to run as much as possible when possible.
All told, given the way the ocean looked in the morning and the way the day ended, the start of the Billabong Pro Tahiti has to be considered a resounding success. We fired all the way through round one, and knocked out two heats of round two, so that buys Egan and the contest crew some time to really hone in on the forecast and conditions and maximize their waiting period, because after all, there's a world title race on the line, and it doesn't look like anybody's letting up anytime soon.
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) 17.34, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.50, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 10.50
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.77, Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.23, Dusty Payne (HAW) 7.00
Heat 3: Taylor Knox (USA) 11.83, Mick Fanning (AUS) 8.87, Brett Simpson (USA) 5.50
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 19.43, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 10.60, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 9.13
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.50, Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 11.33, Kai Otton (AUS) 2.83
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.00, Alain Riou (PYF) 8.30, Travis Logie (ZAF) 8.10
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS) 16.23, Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.67, Tiago Pires (PRT) 3.93
Heat 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.83, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 7.60, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 4.40
Heat 9: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.96, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 10.53, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 6.90
Heat 10: Heitor Alves (BRA 9.50), Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 9.46, Julian Wilson (AUS) 2.57
Heat 11: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.43, Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.77, Adam Melling (AUS) 3.27
Heat 12: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.93, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.77, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.70
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.60 def. Alain Riou (PYF) 16.63
Heat 2: Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 15.37 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 9.67
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI REMAINING ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 6: Alejo Muniz (BRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 7: Tiago Pires (PRT) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 8: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 10: Brett Simpson (USA) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 12: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)