Who’s going to be making waves as the tour hits the South Pacific?
It has been a fast year on the Championship Tour, and there have been a handful of very exciting moments so far, but let’s be honest here, nothing too gnarly has gone down. Nothing giant, nothing too scary, and nothing to keep your eyeballs absolutely glued to the pixels. There have been great waves (JBay) and there has been perfection (Keramas) but despite a few moments at The Box, nothing else that has made us wonder goggle-eyed at the thrill of riding scary-looking waves.
We’re five days out from the start of the Teahupo’o Pro Tahiti, and with a more than decent long-range forecast from Surfline, we could be in for a bit of a treat. Officially, Kevin Wallis from surfline.com has said, “we’ll see stronger-than-normal storms to the east of New Zealand during the next two to four weeks. This means there is an enhanced chance for significant SW swell during the event window.”
We want more than that though, we want carnage and we want blood on the reef at the one event of the year where things can get really out of control and gnarly. Apart from Pipeline, Chopes is the only event where things can get seriously life threatening, and become gripping stuff.
It’s a tight cluster at the top of the Jeep Leaderboard right now, but after this event things could look a little different, especially if it does get serious on the reef. Three names that come to mind every time you think of the current crop of contenders at Chopes are Owen Wright, Jeremy Flores and Gabriel Medina. There are always in the game. Obviously John John would be in the mix, but he is out of the game right now. On the fringes for this crew, for various reasons, are Smith and Slater, and Toledo has a question mark next to his name.
Last year the event was won by Medina from Wright, the second win for the Brazilian (he also won in 2014) and it was the second runner-up position for Wright (2nd to Slater in 2011). Both surfers are exceptional at Chopes, getting the good ones, finding the barrels, and surfing with smoothness under pressure. Wright has an uncanny knack of finding the bigger sets every time, while Medina always hooks into the deepest pits.
Flores has the reputation of owning this event in many ways. It probably kicked off in 2015 when he won it wearing a helmet after a severe head-bounce off the reef in Indonesia. It was first suspected that he had brain damage, but that was just a scare, and he charged big Chopes so hard that year that he was like a man possessed. That win was seared into our brains, by the injured man with the helmet on, going for broke on every set. Since then he has become synonymous with the event and with a reputation for a fearless approach as well as an exemplary technique.
Local charger @kaulivaast has been a standout in recent freesurfs at Teahupo’o - looks like all that practice paid off. Here’s his 9.5 from moments ago 🔥 . Watch the #TahitiPro Trials live right now on our Facebook page, worldsurfleague.com or our free WSL app. . The trials stream is being provided by @polynesiela1ere in French only.
Slater is always there, always a contender at Chopes, if he wants to be. He needs a few things to happen however, to do well. He needs to find the hunger, the need for win. If he gets into that mood, he is usually unstoppable. He also needs the right boards. Chopes is probably an easier wave to get the right equipment underfoot – you’re not surfing on the face and you’re not doing massive tweaked airs – so that should be an cinch for him. If he gets those two elements to gel, he’ll be in the game. His 19.67 final heat score against JJF in 2016 is testament to that.
Jordy is always around, and a semi-final in 2017 combined with his current 6th spot on the Jeep leaderboard should be enough of an impetus to get him fired up and charging. He has proven himself to be ready for the big sets, and despite a few scares out there (2011 and the broken ribs carnage, 2014 getting caught inside by a huge set and smeared across the inside reef) he has the gumption and the hunger for a big result this year.
There will be a lot of attention on Toledo this year as well. His zero performance back in the day hasn't gone away yet, and his semifinal result last year didn't really diminish it. He might be 2nd on the Jeep Leaderboard, but he needs to take off on a huge and gnarly wave in a heat and a) get barreled off his head or b) eat some serious shit, for the world to get over that zero score performance. Only when that happens can he move on.
Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o runs from Aug 21 – September 01.
Seeding round heat draw here