TEAHUPOO, Tahiti - The Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui, Stop No. 3 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, got underway, with the world’s best surfers contesting the first 14 heats of the elimination, man-on-man Round 1 in pulsing four-to-six foot (2 metre) barrels on offer at Teahupoo.
Dean Morrison (AUS), 28, current ASP World No. 19, took today’s top honors as he displayed sensational form for his Round 1 win over 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie Nathaniel Curran (USA), 24. The Australian exhibited a preternatural rapport with the ledging Teahupoo lefthanders, netting an excellent 9.00 out of a possible 10 single-wave score en route to the highest heat total of the day (a 17.00 out of a possible 20.)
“I just try to position myself well and try to get the set waves or rather the best one in the set,” Morrison said. “Just try to read it right and get deep in the tube. The secret is actually not taking off at the peak, but a little behind the peak so that you can edge into it. Just take off and hold on – that’s all you can do.”
In addition to putting up the biggest scores of the day, Morrison also entertained the throngs of spectators in the channel with the most spectacular wipeout of the round, a late to cart-wheeling inside the tube before being blasted towards the shallow reef.
“That wave was probably pretty funny from the channel,” Morrison said. “It was a bit of a late and I should have came more over my front foot, but I was on my backfoot and did a few summersaults in there. Fortunately, I was pretty deep and didn’t hit the bottom.”
Recovering from a devastating hip injury that saw Morrison sit out the last several events of the 2008 ASP World Tour season, the progressive natural-footer is on the mend and looking to claw himself back to the top of the ASP Top 45 ratings. Despite a disappointing equal 33rd place finish at the opening event of the season, Morrison has since rebounded, collecting an equal 9th at the second event before putting in today’s sterling performance.
“My recovery has been pretty good,” Morrison said. “The last few months, that’s been my main focus, rehabbing. It’s been hard work, but it’s been worth it. I still don’t feel like I’m surfing at 100%, but I am getting there and I feel like I’m getting stronger every day.”
Andy Irons (HAW), 30, former three-time ASP World Champion, is on sabbatical from full-time competition this season, but accepted a wildcard into the Billabong Pro Tahiti, where the powerful Hawaiian dispatched of Brazilian Jihad Khodr, 25, convincingly, netting an impressive 8.67 out of a possible 10 for a sizzling backhand pit
“The win feels good,” Irons said. “It’s been four months since I put a jersey on and it still fits. Surfing fun-sized Teahupoo with one other guy out, there’re no complaints. I’m stoked to get through and looking forward to the next one.”
Irons, a past winner at the Billabong Pro Tahiti (2002), will face last year’s ASP World Tour Runner-Up Bede Durbidge (AUS), 26, in Round 2 when competition recommences.
“It’s going to be really hard against Bede (Durbidge),” Irons said. “He is a really focused competitor. I’m not worried though. I’m not here competing for points or anything like that. I’m just here having fun and I’ll be stoked to surf against him.”
Heiarii Williams (PYF), 22, Von Zipper Trials winner and wildcard in the Billabong Pro Tahiti, continued his devastating roll today, ousting 2009 ASP World Tour rookie and current ASP World No. 9, Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), 23, in Round 1 of competition.
“The Hawaiians just gave me that nickname, “Master”, and I’m pretty happy to get through that heat and I hope to keep going,” Williams said. “I just feel natural out there. It’s great for me because all the locals are here in the channel, screaming my name and it makes me feel really comfortable.”
Williams will take on current ASP World No. 1 Joel Parkinson (AUS), 28, in Round 2 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Kai Otton (AUS), 29, current ASP World No. 19, eliminated defending Billabong Pro Tahiti winner Bruno Santos (BRA), 26, from competition in a hard-fought Round 1 battle. The two goofy-footers went toe-to-toe in one of the more exciting heats of the day, with Otton besting the Brazilian 14.40 to 12.60.
“I knew I was going to have a wildcard heading into this event and I wasn’t sure who, but you just have to stick to your game plan and not worry about it,” Otton said. “Fortunately for me, I was able to get the better of Bruno (Santos) on a few waves and I’m extremely happy. I think you can tell which waves are going to be really hollow – they’re thicker and they stand up on the reef a bit more. Those are the ones you’ve got to get. It was a big heat for me and I’m really pleased to get through.”
Otton will face Taylor Knox (USA), 37, in Round 2 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti when competition resumes.
Marlon Lipke (DEU), 25, 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie and the first German national to ever contest at the elite level of surfing, finally found his feet today, posting his first ever ASP Dream Tour win over fellow rookie Drew Courtney (AUS), 30.
“I haven’t had the best season on tour yet but I’m learning.” Lipke said. “I think being on my forehand here helps a lot. I have never been here before, but we have some pretty hollow waves in Europe and Portugal that I’ve been able to train on and I’ve been to the Mentawais a few times so that has helped with my reef surfing.”
Lipke’s bold forehand approach saw the young goofy-footer collect strong scores of a 7.17 and a 7.83, blending excellent wave sense and tube knowledge with aggressive carves and top turns, as he advanced into Round 2.
“It’s beautiful,” Lipke said. “I think the swell is coming in Easterly so it’s not perfect, but the ones that come through are outstanding. It’s an incredible thing to be here at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, getting barreled and advancing through my heat.”
Lipke will face standout ASP Dream Tour veteran Taj Burrow (AUS), 30, in Round 2 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti when competition recommences.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:30am to assess conditions for a possible 7am start.
When competition resumes, up first will be Heitor Alves (BRA), 27, up against 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie Michel Bourez (PYF), 23, in Heat 15 of Round 1.
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Tim Reyes (USA) 3.90 def. Mikael Picon (FRA) 3.23
Heat 2: Ben Dunn (AUS) 16.00 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 12.97
Heat 3: Dean Morrison (AUS) 17.00 def. Nathaniel Curran (USA) 8.40
Heat 4: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 12.10 def. Chris Ward (USA) 10.56
Heat 5: Marlon Lipke (DEU) 15.00 def. Drew Courtney (AUS) 5.90
Heat 6: Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 13.57 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 12.67
Heat 7: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 13.10 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.16
Heat 8: Heiarii Williams (PYF) 14.17 def. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 5.70
Heat 9: Kai Otton (AUS) 14.40 def. Bruno Santos (BRA) 12.60
Heat 10: Andy Irons (AUS) 14.50 def. Jihad Khodr (BRA) 4.77
Heat 11: Dustin Barca (HAW) 10.94 def. David Weare (ZAF) 6.77
Heat 12: Jay Thompson (AUS) 14.00 def. Greg Emslie (ZAF) 4.37
Heat 13: Tim Boal (FRA) 7.24 def. Nic Muscroft (AUS) 6.93
Heat 14: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.50 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 11.03
REMAINING BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 15: Heitor Alves (BRA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 16: Roy Powers (HAW) vs. Mick Campbell (AUS)
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Phillip MacDonald (AUS)
Heat 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Jay Thompson (AUS)
Heat 3: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. TBA
Heat 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Marlon Lipke (DEU)
Heat 5: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. TBA
Heat 7: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Heiarii Williams (PYF)
Heat 9: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Andy Irons (HAW)
Heat 10: Bobby Martinez (USA) vs. TBA
Heat 11: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Dustin Barca (HAW)
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. TBA
Heat 13: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Aritz Aranburu (EUK)
Heat 14: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Dean Morrison (AUS)
Heat 15: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 16: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. Tim Boal (FRA)