TEAHUPO'O, Taiarapu/French Polynesia - The Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui will commence this Saturday, August 20, 2011, and with swell models projecting significant activity for the region, this year's event is shaping up to be one of monumental importance.
Event No. 5 of 11 on the ASP World Title season, the Billabong Pro Tahiti comes at a crucial time in both the 2011 ASP World Title race as well as for surfers looking to solidify their positions amongst the world's elite before the September rotation.
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 30, current frontrunner in the hunt for the 2011 ASP World Title, is cautious when discussing this year's campaign, and with seven events remaining before year's end, the Australian style guru is readying himself for the long road ahead.
"There have been four events and four winners so the ASP World Title race is wide open at the moment," Parkinson said. "The first surfer to get a second win up there will have a big advantage moving forward. We're going to have a pretty crazy run here in the next few months with nearly seven events back-to-back. You can definitely get some momentum going there."
Parkinson will take on C.J. Hobgood (USA), 32, and Adam Melling (AUS), 26, in the opening round of the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Kelly Slater (USA), 39, reigning 10-time ASP World Champion and past three-time Billabong Pro Tahiti winner, is coming off a recent victory in Huntington Beach for the ASP Prime Nike US Open of Surfing. Winning the event on a quad-fin set-up, Slater plans on using similar equipment at Teahupo'o
"I plan to ride quad-fin setups in Tahiti this season," Slater said. "Last year I rode it and it felt great. They're faster in barrels and have enough control. I feel like it's definitely an advantage if you have a good one."
After missing the last ASP World Title event in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, Slater dropped to No. 6 on the ASP World Title rankings, but is admittedly motivated to perform well in Tahiti.
"I feel the motivation when I get there but now I have no room for error for the rest of the year," Slater said. "Only two throwaways left now and I need to just lock in good results to have a shot at the title. It starts this week. I'm in a tighter spot than I thought. Could be a good thing - who knows?"
With the solid swell models projected for the event window, Slater maintains that this will play a major role in those who are successful at this year's event.
"I'm expecting goofies to be a factor this season," Slater said. "The Hobgoods (C.J. and Damien) and Freddy (Patacchia) and Cory (Lopez) to all have a good shot at any heat. It's going to be big and that will factor in for sure. It's going to be good finally and guys are going to be put in positions that are outside their comfort zone. We don't get that often on tour."
Slater will face Daniel Ross (AUS), 28, and Heiarrii Williams (PYF), 23, in Round 1 of competition.
Adrian Buchan (AUS), 28, current No. 11 on the ASP World Title Rankings and No. 6 on the ASP World Rankings, is well within the safe zone regarding the September rotation, allowing the talented Australian to focus on performance at the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
"I'm comfortable with where I'm at on the rankings for sure," Buchan said. "I don't focus too much on them this early in the year to be honest. I'm just trying to do all the little things right that put me in a position to perform well. The back half of the year has been a strong point for me and I'm really looking forward to being on the road for the rest of the year and having no distractions and enjoying the competition. I love Tahiti and feel pretty comfortable there. Last year Kelly (Slater) beat me in the Quarterfinals but I was in the mix there on finals day and that's the goal again this year."
The first proper lefthander this season on the ASP World Title Series, the Billabong Pro Tahiti presents an excellent opportunity for goofy-footers to shine.
"It's great to be at an out and out left because we really lack that balance on tour at the moment," Buchan said. "I've been going there since I left school and although it hasn't been big for the event the last few years, I've put plenty of time in there on good big days in the past so I'm comfortable. You need to put your head down and go out there, but you can't just be a cowboy because Teahupoo will slap you and you'll be in the Lagoon watching your heat from there!"
This year's event will be shrouded in reverence for the defending champ and former three-time ASP World Champion Andy Irons (HAW) who was sensational at the venue. Irons passed away in November of last year.
"Andy (Irons) was the guy that in my mind had the best mix of skills and bravado there," Buchan said. "He showed that again and again over the years. I think Kelly (Slater) is very comfortable there and the Hobgoods (C.J. and Damien) too."
Buchan will battle Chris Davidson (AUS), 34, and Cory Lopez (USA), 34, in the opening round of competition.
Surfline, official forecasters for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, is calling for the first week of the contest waiting period to see plenty of swell. Medium size SW shifting SSW swell this weekend will be followed by slightly larger S swell for early next week. Long range charts indicate a very solid SSW swell could move in around Thursday/Friday the 25th-26th, with even more way out on the horizon.
Any media looking to register to attend the Billabong Pro Tahiti or those who do not already receive event updates should apply here http://billabongpro.com/bbpro/tahiti_media_registration
The Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui will be webcast LIVE via http://www.billabongpro.com
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Chris Davidson (AUS), Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Jadson Andre (BRA), Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT), Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Raoni Monteiro (BRA), Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA), Daniel Ross (AUS), Heiarii Williams (PYF)
Heat 7: Owen Wright (AUS), Heitor Alves (BRA), Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 9: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 10: Damien Hobgood (USA), Patrick Gudauskas (USA), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (PYF), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 12: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS)
PAST EVENT CHAMPIONS:
2010: Andy Irons (HAW)
2009: Bobby Martinez (USA)
2008: Bruno Santos (BRA)
2007: Damien Hobgood (USA)
2006: Bobby Martinez (USA)
2005: Kelly Slater (USA)
2004: CJ Hobgood (USA)
2003: Kelly Slater (USA)
2002: Andy Irons (HAW)
2001: Cory Lopez (USA)
2000: Kelly Slater (USA)
1999: Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
CURRENT ASP WORLD TITLE TOP 10:
1. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 25700 pts
2. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 24750 pts
3. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 22250 pts
4. Mick Fanning (AUS) 19500 pts
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 18250 pts
6. Kelly Slater (USA) 16950 pts
7. Michel Bourez (PYF) 16000
8. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15000
9. Josh Kerr (AUS) 13900 pts
9. Owen Wright (AUS) 13900 pts