TEAHUPO’O, Tahiti (Saturday, August 15, 2015) - The world’s best surfers took to the water today for the start of Stop No. 7 on the 2015 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Competition ran through the opening eight Heats of Round 1 in challenging conditions at Teahupo’o before being called off for the day with inconsistent surf.
Jeep ratings leader Adriano de Souza (BRA), who saw a return to form at the recent J-Bay Open with a fifth-place finish, was delivered an upset defeat today. Dangerous wildcard and 2008 event winner Bruno Santos (BRA) stole the lead from De Souza with a 5.17 in the final minutes and advances directly to Round 3. Michel Bourez (PYF) wasn’t able to find anything over a 1.37 and will join De Souza in elimination Round 2.
“I was excited because Adriano (de Souza) is number one and Michel (Bourez) is a local here so he knows a lot about this wave,” said Santos. “The conditions are hard right now. There are some really good ones but it’s hard to be in the right place at the right time. I was lucky and I got one good one. I’m super happy to be here again, the last time I was in the main event was in 2009.”
All eyes were on three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) in Heat 5 of Round 1 today as he made his first appearance in competition since being attacked by a shark in the Final of the J-Bay Open. The 2012 event winner did not disappoint, posting a 5.50 on his second wave and going on to improve with a 6.67 to leave opponents Adam Melling (AUS) and Taumata Puhetini (PYF) each in need of two good scores. Melling managed to escape from the combination with a 4.83 but Fanning could not be beaten, and sailed through to Round 3.
“It was great to get back in the singlet and focus on surfing again,” said Fanning. “There’s been so much hype about the incident in J-Bay and so much media attention and I just want to move on. It happened and will be one of those stories when I’m old. It was really tough out there and there weren’t too many opportunities and I lucked out with a 5 and a 6. I feel pretty confident but there’s so much that goes into a World Title. You have to be on at all times and you have to focus on yourself and try and do the right thing at the right time.”
Earlier in the day 11-time WSL Champion and four-time event winner Kelly Slater (USA) faced Jadson Andre (BRA) and Brett Simpson (USA) in Heat 1. Slater was first to post a score of significance and earned a 7.83 for an early advantage. Slater, who arrived in Tahiti just 12 hours prior to his heat, looked confident and at ease in the lineup despite a heavy wipeout and backed up his first score with a 7.27 to leave the field in a combination situation. The win sends Slater directly to Round 3 while Andre and Simpson, who were unable to find any solid scores, move on to elimination Round 2.
“I slept a lot on the plane and then got all psyched and was up waxing my boards until late,” said Slater. “I went out and surfed for about an hour and a half before my heat to get familiar with what the sets were doing and the lineup. That one wave lurched and landed on my back. It slammed my face into the water and I thought I lost a tooth. I’m surprised I didn’t hit the bottom.”
World No. 3 Julian Wilson (AUS) faced Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and replacement surfer Garrett Parkes (AUS) in Heat 4. Wilson, who has made three Final appearances so far this season, dominated the match-up with an excellent 8.33, the highest single-wave score of the Round so far.
“The wind really went more South in my heat and there weren’t too many opportunities out there,” said Wilson. “When the sets come they’re good, there just aren’t that many of them. I really want to put a full year together and I don’t think I’ve done that yet. I look forward to each event and putting on good performances and getting the chance to surf against the best guys.”
Replacement surfer and former CT competitor Artiz Aranburu (ESP) was another wildcard to cause an upset today by sending Jeep Leaderboard No. 4 Filipe Toledo (BRA) and rookie Keanu Asing (HAW) to elimination Round 2. An excellent 8.17 from Aranburu at the halfway mark was enough claim victory and a pass directly to Round 3.
“I thought it would be the best thing to wait for the good ones,” said Aranburu. “The waves are not hollow enough so I was waiting for the ones that were bending and getting deep into the barrel. I’m really happy to be part of this event. I’m sorry that someone had to get injured for me to be here but now I have a chance and I want to make the most of it.”
Owen Wright (AUS), Dusty Payne (HAW) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) also won through their Round 1 heats today and will advance directly to Round 3.
When competition resumes, up first will be Josh Kerr (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and Kolohe Andino (USA) in Heat 9 of Round 1.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 7 a.m. to assess conditions and make a call for competition.
The world's best surfing is also broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports in Australia, MCS Extreme in France, EDGE Sports in China, South Korea, Malaysia and other territories and on Globo TV in Brazil.
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.10, Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.23, Brett Simpson (USA) 4.70
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 11.67, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.50, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 9.67
Heat 3: Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 13.10, Keanu Asing (HAW) 7.16, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 5.37
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.66, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.00, Garrett Parkes (AUS) 1.30
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.17, Adam Melling (AUS) 6.26, Taumata Puhetini (PYF) 1.33
Heat 6: Bruno Santos (BRA) 8.67, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 5.30, Michel Bourez (PYF) 2.44
Heat 7: Dusty Payne (HAW) 10.00, Nat Young (USA) 5.14, Kai Otton (AUS) 1.30
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.83, Taj Burrow (AUS) 4.77, Glenn Hall (IRL) 2.96
Upcoming Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 9: Josh Kerr (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS), John John Florence (HAW), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 12: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA)About the World Surf League
The World Surf League (WSL) organizes the annual tour of professional surf competitions and broadcasts each event live at WorldSurfLeague.com where you can experience the athleticism, drama and adventure of competitive surfing -- anywhere and anytime it’s on. The WSL sanctions and operates the following tours: the Junior Tour, Longboard Tour, the Qualifying Series (QS), the Big Wave Tour and the crown jewel of the sport, the WSL Championship Tour (CT) which determines the sport's undisputed world champions. The organization is headquartered in Santa Monica, California with Commercial Offices in New York. The offices are supported by regional centers in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Hawaii, North America and South America.