The Billabong Pro in Tahiti still has one more day to run, but it is already chalking up memorable moments that will be talked about for years. Sunday's action was a far cry from Saturday's tow-in extravaganza, with the swell dropping back to a more reasonable 6 to 8 feet for most of the day.
First came the decision to stop the heat between South Africans Jordy Smith and Travis Logie. It had been a lackluster heat for surfing until Smith tried to pull into a 6-foot barrel, wiped out and got nailed on the reef. He came up in agony. The "Impact Drivers" (i.e. water patrol) had him on the back of the ski in seconds, but it was clear by his positioning that he was seriously injured. As the medical staff tried to assess Smith's condition the announcement came over the PA that their heat was on hold. Contest regulars, including a number of surfers, all wondered what was going on. As far as anyone could remember a heat had never been stopped before by an injury to one of the competitors.
Travis Logie, who was winning the heat at the time, wasn't sure what was happening; his coach was yelling to take one more wave. Jordy Smith's trainer was calling out to the officials, "What's going on? Are we on hold?" No one really knew except for the announcer, repeating that the heat was on hold.
Smith looked like he was incapable of surfing, but he wanted to keep going with the heat. Eventually Smith had his ribs strapped up, paddled back into the lineup and they restarted the heat.
Both Logie and Smith seemed rattled by the interruption, Smith with his pain and Logie out of rhythm with the waves. Smith won the heat despite the circumstances and the Quiksilver camp was lodging a protest with the ASP before either surfer had toweled off.
The ASP Tour manager stepped in and explained that the heat should never have been stopped for an injury and it needed to be re-surfed. Logie won the re-surf and made it into the quarterfinals. He needed the valuable ratings points in his quest for a spot back into the top 34.
With the elimination of Smith and Tour front-runners Joel Parkinson, Taj Burrow, Adriano de Souza and Mick Fanning all out of the contest, the door has been pushed wide open for Kelly Slater to take over the No. 1 spot on the World Tour ratings.
Moving away from the re-surf controversy, Brett Simpson took on good friend, house-mate, advisor and former winner Damien Hobgood in a Round 3 match-up and beat him. Hobgood had just advised Simpson on how to beat Parkinson and on Tuesday the apprentice took down the master. Both surfers were hooting for each other's waves, but Simpson on his backhand weaved his way through some open tubes and Hobgood could find no answer.
Simpson survived two more rounds and is lined up against Logie in the quarters. "I couldn't believe I found the right waves today," Simpson said late in the afternoon. "I was trying to pick the ones with long walls, just like everyone else I guess, but the ones I picked just seemed to open up and run."
Jeremy Flores is the current Pipeline Masters champion, a title he won last year at Pipeline in Hawaii. At the time he came under a lot of criticism from surf fans around the globe that didn't think he deserved the coveted title. Over the last days of this event he has silenced his detractors by first defeating local wild-card Heiarii Williams, a Teahupoo specialist, following it up by beating Cory Lopez -- another tube riding specialist and Teahupoo regular -- and finally scoring two perfect 10-point rides against Michel Bourez. The only other surfer to notch up the perfect 20-point heat score at Teahupoo is Slater.
Flores was still buzzing about his perfect score hours later. "I've never got a 10 in my whole ASP career," he said, "and now I've got two in the same heat. Michel was late for the heat and I didn't know what was going on. When he turned up we just seemed to go wave for wave, he got a 10 and a 9-something and I got two 10s. He's one of my best friends on tour and we just had the best heat together. He would have won any other heat today."
On Wednesday there are only seven heats left in the event and organizers have made the call for a 6 a.m. start, as the forecast is for a drop in swell. It could be over by lunchtime, and there seems to be a feeling that if Slater wins this event again, the 2011 world title race could be swinging his way.
Looking at the quarterfinal draw, there are two or three names that could stop Slater's run. Owen Wright has been on fire, Josh Kerr has been charging through his heats, Flores seems to be on a roll and Brett Simpson is defying the odds. Right now it's too tough to call, but watch out for both Wright and Kerr, they are on the opposite sides of the draw and in current form both could make it to the final.
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI REMAINING ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) def. Dusty Payne (USA) – Payne withdrew from competition due to injury sustained during a free surf on Thursday afternoon.
Heat 5: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.77 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.94
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.60 def. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 15.84
Heat 7: Travis Logie (ZAF) 14.93 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.43
Heat 8: Chris Davidson (AUS) 11.77 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 10.86
Heat 9: Brett Simpson (USA) 17.26 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 16.70
Heat 10: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.80 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 5.00
Heat 11: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 12.20 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 6.44
Heat 12: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 12.60 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 7.93
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) 16.30, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.16, Kai Otton (AUS) 8.10
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.77, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 6.50, Michel Bourez (PYF) 2.90
Heat 3: Travis Logie (ZAF) 15.66, Brett Simpson (USA) 15.00, Chris Davidson (AUS) 14.43
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 19.77, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 12.23, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.60
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 20 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 18.13
Heat 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 11.84 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 11.56
Heat 3: Brett Simpson (USA) 17.33 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 14.00
Heat 4: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 15.50 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 15.14
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
QF 3: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
QF 4: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)