All photos World Surf League SR/Cestari

“Usually you have to put yourself in the perfect spot and it’s all systems go. Today, it’s a tricky tube ride.” Ross Williams couldn’t have summed it up better. The lumpy south-west swell made for a game of Russian roulette as competitors faced some of the trickiest conditions of the Billabong Pro Tahiti event window many left licking wounds and nursing broken dreams.

No heat was more exciting than of veteran CJ Hobgood as he scuttled Julian Wilson’s bid of climbing to number one on the world rankings with an incredible 10-point ride, showing Wilson the door in round 3. The Floridian later provided the most entertaining post heat interview, describing the wave in classic Hobgood style.

“I took off and thought ‘oh I’m a little too deep’ and then as the foam ball kind of threw me up high I couldn’t really see and so I’m bracing for the lip to hit me square in the head, and as I’m bracing for it it’s just like these two little angels on fluffy little pillows just went aaaah … and I saw the light. But I thought I was getting pushed out the doggy door but I just gently put in the channel. You saw my face after that I was just baffled.”

But before Hobgood it was Jeremy Flores that had centre stage as he knocked Joel Parkinson out of the event with a combined heat total of 18.87 with a pair of nine pointers. Flores, who has been nursing a head injury coming into Chopes was quick to point out how sketchy conditions really were.

“I’ve surfed this wave a million times so I didn’t freesurf this morning and take the risk. I’m still feeling a bit sketchy with my head injury and every time I fall it’s the first thing I think about. It’s hard because I’m definitely scared but I just have to find the right balance. On my best day I feel like I can beat anyone but every single surfer on this tour is so so good. I’m hoping and I’m training hard and if I can win an event then I’m sure I can win another one.”

And we shouldn’t forget Gabe. The defending world champ showed why Teahupo’o is one of his favourite events on tour as he blitzed through the all-Brazilian affair in round 4. Driving hard under the lip he weaved through one of the meatier tubes of the day to roll on into the finals.

“I knew that would be a tough one, against Bruno (Santos) especially. The 9.97 felt really good but then Bruno almost got me at the end. I’m really happy for the win and excited for the next Round. It would mean a lot to win here again because I love this wave. It feels good to be out there and getting a lot of waves and it would be so special.”

Then there was Kelly who stole the spotlight and a place in the quarterfinals off Jeremy Flores in the death of their round 4 clash. The 9.77, appeared to be more of a closeout but Kelly wrestled his way over the bucking ridges to the safety of the channel and screams from a faithful crowd. Should Kelly go on to win the event he will be within 1000 points of Adriano de Souza and have a legitimate shot at that twelfth world title.

“Those first waves out there you don’t really want to catch them because they’re so bumpy and frothy. I was doubting that 9.77 but I just went on the wave anyway. The first foam ball bounced me and slowed me down and then the next one slowed me down even more but then I made it out. I’m stoked to make it through to tomorrow and make it to the final day and I think we’re going to have even better waves.”

Recap: Heat Analyser

Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 3 Results:

Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.97 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 12.50

Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 13.13 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.00

Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 18.23 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 15.70

Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.10 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.83

Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (HAW) 19.00 def. John John Florence (HAW) 18.84

Heat 6: Bruno Santos (BRA) 16.20 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.70

Heat 7: Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 15.17 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 6.67

Heat 8: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 16.83 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 8.66

Heat 9: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.80 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.67

Heat 10: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.06 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 13.33

Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 18.87 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.60

Heat 12: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.60 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.50

Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 4 Results:

Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.84, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.06, Kai Otton (AUS) 12.70

Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (HAW) 17.64, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 17.10, Bruno Santos (BRA) 6.84

Heat 3: Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.20, Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 11.43, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 6.40

Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.60, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.66, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 8.30

Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 5 Match-Ups:

Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)

Heat 2: Bruno Santos (BRA) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)

Heat 3: Aritz Aranburu (ESP) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)

Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)