Billabong Pro Tahiti: Who’ll Win, Who’ll Lose & Who’ll Come Close
By Col Bernasconi | 15 August 2012
Josh Kerr on his way to a stand up barrel and the semis in Tahiti 2011. Pic: ASP/Kirstin
A decent amount of money drips through the sordid veins of online betting agencies each time an ASP World Championship Tour event rolls around. While the cash cow in question may be a minute version of the larger NFL and NRL species (which fart golden gas into the pockets of such agencies on an almost daily basis) – its girth and gaseousness is growing.
And why not have a go when non-surfing bookies – on the whole – know very little about surfing and the top thirty-two’s idiosyncrasies. They’re certainly aware that Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, John John Florence or Gabriel Medina are short odd favourites to win each event. What they arguably don’t know is who’s likely to make it out of round two and three and who isn’t – that’s where the smart money is – the multi bet.
But sifting through the low rounds trying to nail the ultimate multi is not a pastime that appeals to the majority of us. We have jobs and time is of the essence. We go for the win. Hitch our wagon to a star and ride that luscious (yet allusive) lady luck through the peaks and valleys in hope of that magical one-in-36 [includes four wildcards] golden ticket.
I’ve mentioned money as the main form of currency here, but I put equal value on pride as a trading commodity. I personally wager nothing more when fiddling with my Fantasy Surfer profile. [Join our Tracks Magazine comp at Fantasysurfer.com]
So, whether you’re parting with that hard earned cash you stole from a 7/11 while wearing your little brothers Ben10 mask, or searching for bragging rights among those jerks you work with – here they are...
My top three hits and misses (including a bulls eye) for stop five on the ASP Tour, the Billabong Pro Tahiti, 2012
Note: First round draw and five day surf forecast for the event is footnoted *
Not every wave at Chopes is a barreling beast from take off. Tiago Pires. Pic: ASP/Kirstin
Tiago Pires: Like tennis players surfers have their strengths and their weaknesses. If you likened Tiago’s frontside hack to a forehand baseline hit he’d be right up there as one of the most powerful and fluid strikers of the ball. His backhand tube riding style however (I have no tennis equivalent of this thankfully), is nowhere near as strong. Taigo won just the one heat here last year in a dreary encounter with Kieren Perrow. An 8.77 heat winning total is nothing to get excited about – period. The Prince of Portugal is however a cluey competitor who’ll make use with what he’s got.
Prognosis: Would’ve been watching Andy Irons videos and planning his outside rail grabs in the lead up but will still struggle to make a splash.
Luck favours the brave; an amazing image of a super deep Matty Wilkinson. Pic: ASP/Kirstin
Matt Wilkinson: Charged last year, but was fairly lucky too. Wilko needs a little luck or shit falls a part. Heck, every surfer on tour needs luck – but if luck were hair Kelly Slater would look like Bob Marley and Wilko would be bald as a badger. Meaning Kelly makes his own luck and Wiko does not. That says something for what Kelly does in his free time and what Wilko doesn’t. Basically Wilko is ripping up the dance floor and loving the life, partying like it’s 1999 (and why not?) while Kelly lives the life of a teetotaler/surf-nazi.
Prognosis: Wilko’s fifth place run in 2011 ended with a thud, he only managed to bank a 6.17, two-wave-total, while eventual winner Kelly racked up 17.5 in the same quarter.
Jadson Andre: Poor old Jadson is struggling (he’s all of 22). The Brazilian sits 31st on the ASP World Championship Tour Rankings and a lowly 80 on the One World Ranking. He needs a big result on the ’CT pronto or he will be relegated for 2013. Unfortunately, I don’t see that result coming at Teahupoo. His heart is not in question, for he surfs with plenty of that,
but his big wave execution is. With a flamboyantly out-there style that is better suited to beach breaks, his journey into the Pacific could be a tough one. My biggest concern with Andre though is his health. He competed at Bells and Margarets severely hampered by a leg injury. Now whether it was bad advice or plain tenacity, he continued to surf events and unfortunately injured himself again in Brazil [pictured], just prior to the Billabong Pro there. Again, went on and surfed his heat. The injury wildcard is hard to come by and it’s a real concern when young talent push themselves so hard through fear of slipping down the ratings
Prognosis: Assuming he’s 100 percent (which I hope he is?) and the waves aren’t massive, he’s a slim chance of making a few heats. Watch him do well at Trestles and France though.
If swell predictions are accurate, this type of tube riding by Mick Fanning will come in handy. Pic: ASP/Kirstin
Mick Fanning: Is on fire! Absolutely loved the fact he got amongst the near nuclear conditions at Cloudbreak (even if he did get swatted). Mick proved himself to be every inch the world championship worthy surfer with his composed win at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells this past Easter. He has the predisposition of a man who knows that if he does everything right his time will come again. With his calculated bravado and finite precision in the barrel he will go close to winning this event. In waves above five feet backside surfers have the advantage at Chopes. They can take off later, sit on the foam ball; drag hands and butts and the judges love all that! Surf in the six-foot range (as predicted) will suite Mick as much as any one.
Prognosis: Finished runner up in 2007 but will need to hunt out those more mutated sets if he’s to score the high nines required to actually win the event.
He makes the most of every opportunity and can milk an eights from a six. Kelly Slater 2011. Pic: ASP/Kirstin
Kelly Slater: Like a lot of people I too have ridden the Slater express home on many occasions. He’s an almost even-money bet at locations like Teahupoo – a wild fact to consider. Kelly’s a fail safe back up choice if a solid result is all you want from him. If you’re looking for a win the greatest surfer of all time is as good an option as any. He’s won here a record four times (that’s four wins from four finals). From two foot to 20 his chops and creative know-how on how to adjust his strategic options to best suite the conditions are unparalleled. This can mean anything from waiting for the best waves (at Chopes that’s ones that don’t shoulder but funnel) or selecting closeouts and landing full rotation air 360s (eg New York, Bells). His options are many. At Teahupoo it’s his perfect positioning that allows him to take off as late, but cleanly. Freak surfer + freak wave = freakish outcomes.
Prognosis: The freak will steal the limelight on more than one occasion this year, and he’ll come close – but history shows he’s never gone back-to-back and that won’t change in 2012.
A free surf session to remember, just ask that old guy with his phone in the channel? Ace. Pic: ASP/Kirstin
Adrian Buchan: Ace has underachieved at Teahupoo as far as possibilities go. He knows he has what it takes and has put in some scintillating heat performances here. But that’s the strange curse of the front-side surfer at this unique reef pass, at the foot of the mountains. The end of the road is a place goofy-footers hold dear; it’s the place of dreams and a place where you’re glad you’re on your, “forehand”. But this is a false sense of security on the World Championship Tour. In turn it makes backside surfers feel like underdogs and thus dig a little deeper and, um, get a little deeper. Ace knows this strange phenomenon needs to be flipped on its head in order for him to succeed. When he looks down the line Ace will be looking for waves with plenty of meat on the bone – no easy short shoulder options.
Prognosis: If the waves dip below six feet and Ace utilises the anchors correctly and avoids looking for easy perfection, he may just, with the help of his rail hack, put himself on the podium.
Try find a photo of Josh Kerr not smiling. Pic: ASP/Kirstin
BULLS EYE: WINNER
Josh Kerr: And we have a winner! Yep, Josh Kerr will win the 2012 Billabong Pro Tahiti. As I’ve said previously, a backsider will win at Teahupoo if the waves are over six feet. Assuming the waves are indeed solid or bigger I’ve put all my eggs in Kerrzy’s basket. His calm competitive demeanour and no-fear attitude when it comes to waves of consequence coupled with a late take-off-bum-drag-barrel-prowess that saw him finish third last year will see him go all the way in 2012. An act that has been honed in shifty, shitty big days at Pipe (when he can actually get a lot of waves) will see him through to the final. He’s been close before, only to be shut out by freakish performances… Like Mick, if he stays on this trajectory the planets will align.
Prognosis: Although already my pick for the top spot, confirmation of Kerrzy’s impending Billabong Pro Tahiti win came to me in a dream last night. Put the house on it – Josh Kerr will win! [Although technically in the dream Teahupoo was breaking just to the left of the Huntington Pier and Kerrzy’s highest scoring ride was in fact a right and he wore a pink wig and no leg rope]
Prediction: Numero UnoNote: Obvious 'HIT' omissions: John John Florence, The brothers Hobgood, Julian Wilson, Jeremy Flores, Freddy P, the list goes on... Have to go out on a limb and draw the line somewhere.
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS), Damien Hobgood (USA), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 3: Mick Fanning (AUS), Brett Simpson (USA), Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS), Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA), Travis Logie (ZAF), Alain Riou (PYF)
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 8: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 9: Owen Wright (AUS), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 10: Julian Wilson (AUS), Heitor Alves (BRA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 11: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 12: Jeremy Flores (FRA), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
*Surfline: Moderate size, long period and lully Southwest swell will prevail for the first two days of the waiting period, along with local shorter period south windswell. Another moderate, mid period south swell will fill in for the weekend, before easing early next week. Atthis point, the long range forecast looks slow for the last week of the waiting period.
SWELL/SURF: Longer period, inconsistent/lully SW swell filling in through the afternoon with 5-6’ faces and occasional max sets up to 7-8’. Local, shorter period head high south windswell in the mix to give the surf a jumbled up and stormy feel.
SWELL/SURF: SW swell eases with mostly 5’ faces (head high) and occasional sets running up to 6’++ (slightly overhead) in the morning. Local south windswell easing and wind direction improving so surf gradually cleaning up.
SWELL/SURF: Smaller leftovers from the SW as modest, mid period South swell fills in with surf hanging in the 4-6’++ range on the face and possibly larger. Stay tuned, the small south swell is still dependent on storm development over the next 48 hours. Overall cleaner with better wind and less short period south swell.
SWELL/SURF: Mid period south swell continues with 4-5’ faces and possible larger sets. The swell is still pending storm development, so stay tuned.
MONDAY 20thSWELL/SURF: Smaller, fading mid period south swell in the 4’ range on the face, with some leftover larger waves in the morning up to 5’+ faces. Easing swell/surf through the day.
WIND: SSE/SE trades rebuilding 8-11kts.