How the World Title hopefuls dropped the ball at the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
All photos World Surf League SR/Cestari
Sure, it wasn’t the chunked out Pacific we’ve grown accustomed to in recent weeks but there was plenty at stake during this year’s Billabong Pro Tahiti. For instance, despite losing in round 3 almost a week ago, Adriano de Souza has managed to retain the yellow jersey. How? Well, those chasing him down failed to capitalise and let a huge opportunity go astray leaving the world title race wide open.
You could forgive Mick Fanning for having a shocker after the month he’s had. The mental anguish he suffered after that “encounter” at J-Bay made the fact he competed in Tahiti an accomplishment in itself. His loss to tube pig Aritz Aranburu may have been uncharacteristic but given his track record in Europe he continues to edge his way closer to a fourth world title. Mick remains in second position on the world rankings and is now within 250 points of ADS.
Then there was Julian Wilson who fell victim to veteran bogeyman, CJ Hobgood. The Floridian displayed his supernatural experience in the tube and with the angels on his side blitzed through the draw before falling to eventual event winner Jeremy Flores. It was a pressure cooker moment for the Aussie who had has been one of the form surfers for the year. Jules now sits at number four on the rankings.
Owen Wright was another world title hopeful that took his eyes off the prize. Despite being born in the barrel The Big O couldn’t manufacture the same lightning form he had at the Fiji Pro as Gabriel Medina iced out his dreams of climbing to number one on the rankings. That said, Owen is looking ominous as he makes a run towards his maiden world title and is only 550 points of overtaking Adriano.
Filipe Toledo. Underwhelming is how you’d describe his performance here. He will be remembered mostly for his 0.00 heat total against fellow Brazilian Italo Ferreira in round 5. Toledo will have to find his wings at Trestles and pray to God that the Europe leg is riddled with the small beach break conditions most suited to his game to be once again considered a legitimate threat. He shares fourth position on the rankings with Jules.
Kelly swiped but fell to Flores in the semis but his hopes to claim his 12th world title remain intact. If anyone can pull a rabbit out of the hat it's Kelly but you get that feeling his chances are slipping further and further away. A fifth at Chopes sees him scoot up to sixth on the rankings.
But don't forget Gabriel Medina. The kid has got his hunger back and was in devastating form throughout the event. Sure, it's unlikely he'll factor into the world title but he could certainly spoil it for the gang and walk away with a Top 5 finish.
Special mention must go to CJ Hobgood. The perennial underdog who won our hearts as he hovered over foam balls and trucked through barrels with grisly determination. He walks away from his last ever performance at Teahupo’o with his head held high and the recipient of the AI Award for the most committed surfer of the event.
Here are the highlights:
Billabong Pro Tahiti Final Results:
1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) – 16.87
2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) – 13.20
Billabong Pro Tahiti Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.63 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 8.70
SF 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.86 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 8.93
Billabong Pro Tahiti Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.93 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.94
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.64 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 11.00
QF 3: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.90 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.16
QF 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.83 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 15.66
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.00 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 00.00
Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 13.50 def. Bruno Santos (BRA) 11.76
Heat 3: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.36 def. Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 14.00
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.37 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 13.21
2015 WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (after Billabong Pro Tahiti):
1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 34,950 pts
2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 34,700 pts
3: Owen Wright (AUS) 34,400 pts
4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 33,200 pts
4: Filipe Toledo (FRA) 33,200 pts