O-Day at the Tahiti Pro small but consequential.
While he’s yet to prove himself in life-and-death conditions, Jeep Leaderboard numero uno Filipe Toledo showed today that two weeks of prep-work have definitely made him more comfortable around the tour’s meatiest wave. The Brazilian surfed his opener with champ-like composure as he posted the highest heat total of the round. Fellow frontrunners Gabby and Italo also bagged comfortable wins while Jules’s title hopes took a kick to the nuts when he went down to local big rig Tikanui Smith.
Toledo looked every bit like he’d done his homework when he showed up for his Round 1 battle with Yago Dora and Tikanui Smith. While Yago picked off scraps and Tikanui went waveless, the Jeep ratings’ leader put himself on the best ones and confidently threaded the tube. Having spent the last fortnight getting closely acquainted with the End of the Road, Toledo easily accounted for his opponents and exuded newfound comfort in and out of the water.
‘It feels good to finally get the rhythm over here," he told Rosie afterwards.
Former winner and three-time finalist Medina also showed his affinity with the place, launching a huge air-reverse out of the bowl on the way to a one-sided victory over compatriots Wiggolly Dantas and Tomas Hermes. Along with Italo Ferreira in the heat before, he ensured all three Brazilian frontrunners avoided the treacherous passage through Round 2.
Aussie hopeful Julian Wilson wasn’t so lucky, first going down in a tight Round 1 battle with the field’s most experienced competitor, Joel Parkinson, before losing out to local wildcard Tikanui Smith with only one wave under his belt. The tactical error from Wilson may wreak havoc on his title campaign as he’s now going to be counting at least one 13th in his total at the end of the year.
Former winner Jeremy Flores and perennial standout in waves of consequence, Owen Wright, also failed to impress in the first round while local hero Michel Bourez might finally shake off his hometown hoodoo and get the result he craves after turning in an impressive win. In a heat featuring some of the best conditions of the day, the thickset Tahitian showed his extensive experience at the place as he negotiated a couple of pearlers to outpoint Kanoa Igarashi and Keanu Asing. While the Spartan grabbed a comfortable win, it was Igarashi who pulled the move of the heat and possibly the day by pulling in on his backhand, falling forward on his board and then re-finding his footing, all while in the tube. It was an unorthodox piece of athleticism, made all the more impressive by the fact he exited it cleanly, but it did bugger-all for his score line and he’ll now face off against a rare and endangered Matt Wilkinson in Round 2.