When they first started clearing the lineup at Teahupoo of spectator craft at 4:00pm Friday afternoon there was skepticism that the Gendarmes de Mer (water police) were over reacting to the swell forecasts. There was still one heat to go and up until then the sea hadn't really been that dangerous. Sure there had been some beastly waves and some heavy wipeouts that made the spectators alternatively hoot then squirm, plus there were some waves that couldn't have been ridden by anyone, but closing the spot to all forms of water craft reeked of over reaction.
The last heat of the day between Kia Otten and Adrian Buchan had plenty of waves with Otten getting through on a couple of bombs, but it was almost at heat's end that the ocean began to change.
About 30 free surfers, and some of the best surfers in the world, including the Hobgood brothers, Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, Occy, Taylor Knox, Pat Gudauskas and Dean Morrison paddled into the lineup as a set of waves, bigger and squarer than had come through all day, pummled the reef. No one caught one and that's when the media boats were ordered back to shore. We were all left to wonder what the next hour of daylight would bring.
CJ and Damien Hobgood returned to Popa Teava's house just on dark babbling about the conditions. They'd never seen anything like it at Teahupoo, and they've been coming here a long time. They described set waves draining so much water into the bottom of the wave that the coral reef was exposed. They went on about unrideable waves and waves that nobody wanted to even paddle for. Guys were washed into the lagoon and without rescue skis or boats had to make the long paddle back to shore. Pat Gudauskas scored a 'ten' on one wave, but also got washed into the lagoon and spent the next hour with the ASP Tour Doctor checking whether he had pieces of coral embedded in his foot.
Before the lineup was shut down in the afternoon the Billabong Pro had a chance to complete all of Round Two and three heats of Round Three. Where to start to describe the highlights of today is a problem because there were so many, so maybe it's best to just start at the beginning of a long, long day.
Jeremy Flores and local wildcard Heiarii Williams were the guinea pigs in the morning -- first heat of the day in virtually untried conditions. Grey ocean still chopped up from strong side shore winds, rain squalls belting through the lineup and dark ominous skies. Flores became the crash test dummy early in the heat when he went down on a big set wave. He almost made it through a giant barrel before the wave virtually ate itself from below and Flores, heading for the exit of the barrel, was engulfed by a huge foam ball that dragged him over the falls and rag-dolled him into the lagoon.
The water patrol were to him in a flash, swung him onto the safety sled and got him out of harms way. When he was dropped back into the lineup his eyes were not quite focused, he was rattled by the wipeou, but to his credit he paddled back to the take-off zone. He won that first heat and surfed a second time later in the afternoon, defeating Cory Lopez in Round Three.
One of the heats of the day was the rematch between Josh Kerr and Julian Wilson. Wilson took the honors in Round One while this afternoon the pair traded nines and eights before Kerr took the heat. Watch out for Kerr in this event because he is easily the dark horse contender.
Local favorite Michel Bourez showed his local knowledge while Matty Wilkinson scored the wave of his life -- if you go by his over the top claims at the end of one wave.
On the other side of things three of the top seeds went down, Taj Burrow and Adriano de Souza are both out, and thanks to Brett Simpson who surfed a very tactical heat, number one Joel Parkinson will join Burrow and De Souza on the bench.
Simpson is staying with the Hobgoods and they've sat him down to talk the tactics of picking the right waves at Teahupoo. He put the pep talk to good use.
"The Hobgoods were telling me, 'If you see a wave that looks good to you go for it,' and that's how I approached the heat today against Parko." Said Simpson over a Hinano late in the day.
"The waves I caught today were waves I thought I could get decent scores, maybe they weren't the biggest out there, but that was my theory and it worked," he added.
Parkinson went into the lagoon twice and had to be picked up by the Water Patrol. He lost valuable time and his body also took a battering from the wipeouts.
When asked whom he had drawn in Round Three a big grin crossed his face before answering, "Damo [Damien Hobgood]." So we'll have to wait and see how the apprentice goes up against the master.
Waiting could be the word for tomorrow with the call from the contest organizers set down for 6:00am. As the sun set on Teahupoo with the Red Alert still in place and Surfline predicting the peak of the rising swell somewhere around the middle of the day tomorrow it's highly unlikely the event will run. We won't miss out on a show though with tow-in crews from around the world already on the ground here and gearing up for a memorable day.
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.67 def. Heiarii Williams (PYF) 0.17
Heat 2: Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 14.50 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 8.50
Heat 3: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 17.10 def. Gabe Kling (USA) 6.60
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 11.50 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 1.83
Heat 5: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.34 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.33
Heat 6: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.60 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 6.60
Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF) 17. 04 def. Daniel Ross (AUS) 10.86
Heat 8: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 15.17 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.67
Heat 9: Tiago Pires (PRT) 8.77 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 4.83
Heat 10: Jadson Andre (BRA) 7.40 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 6.53
Heat 11: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.76 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 11.10
Heat 12: Chris Davidson (AUS) 15.73 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 8.67
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 18.63 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 8.96
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 17.70 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.87
Heat 3: Kai Otton (AUS) 13.60 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 10.33
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI REMAINING ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 5: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 8: Chris Davidson (AUS) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 10: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 11: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)