Kelly Slater wins Billabong Pro in Tahiti. Photos courtest of ASP. This image is ASP/Roberston.
The French Polynesian location of Teahupo’o is one of the most prized locations for surfers stoked on huge, thick waves and is one of Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) most notorious locations on the competition circuit each year. Number 5 out of 11 of the 2011 ASP World Title season events, the Billabong Pro Tahiti lived up it’s incredible reputation with what many pro surfers described as the most epic big conditions ever.
For these reasons, other than Tweets about hurricane Irene last weekend, from an action sports perspective, the Twitterati was all about who’s going to take the crown and how monstrous the surf was getting (at one point, Tahiti called a “Code Red” alert and stopped the competition due to dangerous conditions).
Such heavy, thick surf, Tahiti called a Code Red. Tow-in surfers tested it out anyway.
In the end, yesterday, August 29, 2011, Kelly Slater, 39, the 10-time ASP World Champion beat out Owen Wright, 21, in 6-foot, thick waves to take the win.
Kelly Slater utilized his superior backhand tube-riding technique to post an 18.43 heat total out of a possible 20, which would prove too much for his younger opponent to overcome.
“I felt like I finally hit my stride in the Semifinals this morning,” Slater said. “In the Final, I fell on a couple of waves that were maybe better than what I ended up getting scored on. It put the pressure on me, and took the pressure off him (Wright). He got that really big one at the end that could have gotten pretty close to the score. These are the best conditions this event has ever run in. It’s been a phenomenal week.”
Slater in huge surf at Teahupo’o.
Coming into Tahiti rated No. 6 on the ASP World Title rankings, Slater’s win today rockets the Floridian to the No. 1 spot after a number of top seeds suffered early eliminations at the hands of an unmerciful Teahupo’o.
“It’s one of those weird events where you have to scramble through the early rounds,” Slater said. “Every year at this event, there are few of the top guys that lose in the early rounds and you have to scramble if you want a result here. You have to be in tune with the tides, swell direction and everything to make sure you get those waves that get you the score.”
Today’s win marked Slater’s 47th elite tour victory (out of 67 Finals appearances).
Owen Wright and Kelly Slater at Teahupo’o.
Wright secured the best result of his young career today, finishing Runner-Up at the Billabong Pro Tahiti. The progressive Australian was a standout at Teahupo’o, notching perfect rides and impressive victories with ease.
“I thought it was an incredible Final,” Wright said. “We both got really good waves and I felt like I did what I needed to on them. Kelly (Slater) just happened to find ones that opened up a little better. Congrats to him, and hoping I can get him in the next one.”
The Flotilla at Teahupo’o. Photo by ASP/Kirstin.
Jeremy Flores put in some of the most inspiring performances of the event, bagging the biggest waves and even surfing a Perfect 20 heat in yesterday’s idyllic conditions. For his heroics, Flores was awarded the Andy Irons Award for most committed performance of the event. This is the inaugural year for the award, honoring the late ASP and Billabong Pro Tahiti Champion Andy Irons.
“Andy (Irons) meant everything to me,” Flores said. “He has been the guy I’ve looked up to my whole life. In heavy waves, in all waves, he was the best and to earn this award is so special for me. He inspired everyone on tour and he’s been my inspiration in Tahiti. I know he was smiling on this event. Thank you Andy.”
Top surfers head to the Quiksilver Pro in Long Beach, NY next.
Quiksilver Pro New York Changes
Meanwhile, the long-anticipated ASP event at Long Beach, New York has had to deal with difficult challenges. Hurricane Irene ravaged Long Beach last weekend and the event has had to make some changes:
“Quiksilver is working closely with the City of Long Beach to preserve the heart of the ASP World Tour surf contest scheduled to start on Sunday, September 4 in light of the impact of Hurricane Irene and concerns for the Long Beach community, which suffered significant damage from the storm. The Quiksilver Pro is scheduled to start its 11-day “holding period” on Monday, September 5.
The situation has been changing daily, and we recognize that City resources are focused on hurricane restoration and clean up as first priority. In that context, we have been informed by the City that the festival and music components of the event are no longer achievable.
The Quiksilver Pro NY is first and foremost about the surf contest and Long Beach has an incredible surfing tradition and spirit. We are committed to holding the ASP tour event at Long Beach so that together we can promote the sport by bringing together the best surfers in the world to this terrific community.”
Stay tuned for more from the Quiksilver Pro event, the first ever to be held at Long Beach, New York.