Despite some foul weather and somewhat mediocre six- to eight-foot waves (in relation to the 12-foot-plus monsters Teahupoo usually serves up), the Billabong Pro in Tahiti has been anything but a disappointment.
Heavy wind and rain caused the power in the judging tower to go out a few times, but that didn’t stop the world’s finest surfers from charging, or me from checking every half hour to see if the webcast was back up. I’m not sure if this is the first year the event has been webcast, but it’s definitely the first year I knew about it and to say I’ve been mildly infatuated would be a tragic understatement.
Round three of the men’s competition Monday was a day of 10s, with Cory Lopez, Paulo Moura, Kalani Robb, Kelly Slater and Tom Whitaker all getting perfect waves. Seems like the judges may have been slightly lenient in their scoring, but I suppose no one’s complaining. Well, except the losers, but no matter.
Because the competition started so late in the holding period, four rounds were held back-to-back Tuesday, beginning at 7 a.m. Tahitian time. The time difference and delay in web posting had a couple of sports editors ready to mount my head on the top of Storke Tower, but they let me push my deadline in exchange for a better column and a few “favors.” The fourth round was full of upsets, with popular favorite Andy Irons ousted by young Aussie Dean Morrison and current World Championship Tour (WCT) leader Trent Munro defeated by Nathan Hedge. Other powerhouses eliminated in the fourth round were Bruce Irons, Cory Lopez and Marcelo Nunes, which made the final rounds of the competition practically anyone’s to lose.
The quarterfinals were full of close heats. CJ Hobgood lost to Slater by a measly .09 points and Dean Morrison was eliminated by Taj Burrow by .83. Fred Patacchia also lost by less than a point to Damien Hobgood, and Paulo Moura was eliminated by the biggest margin, a full two points, by Nathan Hedge.
The semifinals went pretty much as I would have expected. Slater handed Burrow his ass on a silver platter, with a side of several near-perfect waves, and Damien Hobgood did just about the same to Nathan Hedge. The final was a showdown between the two Florida boys, Kelly Slater and Damien Hobgood, and both had already scored perfect waves earlier in the day.
Hobgood put up a valiant effort and finished with a respectable score of 17.50, but he was no match for Slater’s perfect score of 20 points. Let’s face it; he’s Kelly Fucking Slater. Sorry Damien, but you never had a chance. It’s been a few years since he’s won a world title, but Slater still has to throw down a perfect score here and there to show the kids what’s up.
The women’s portion of the competition was held early in the waiting period in consistent three-to five-foot surf and heavy rain. Australia’s darling Chelsea Georgeson took the title, which was a big upset considering she defeated veterans Rochelle Ballard and Melanie Redman-Carr as well as defending world champion Sofia Mulanovich and big wave connoisseur Keala Kennelly.
So, the 2005 Tahiti showdown is over, which means this surf columnist can resume her normal life; at least until next week when the WCT moves on to Tavarua. God bless the summer competitions for taking my mind of the sorry-ass waves we’ve been getting in Santa Barbara.
Nexus assassins will hand Daily Nexus surf columnist Kristina Ackermann her ass on a silver platter today.