They called it day eleven, but the Billabong Pro Tahiti has only got through four rounds. Eight consecutive lay days at the End of the Road leaves plenty of time for Bocce ball, extreme hammock swinging, billiards, fishing, hanging with the locals, beautiful sunsets and the member of the World Tour spending some quality time getting to know each other better.
And then just before everyone lost his mind, a new three to five-foot south swell arrived to set the event in motion again. Sunday saw round three and non-elimination round four in a morning that saw two different sides of Teahupoo. The early heats looked more like a left pointbreak than the cheese grater that claimed so much skin and bones in 2011. But by the afternoon, the offshore wind and rising swell turned it back into the celebrated tunnel of love.
And the story of the day, among many great stories, was the early exit of Mr. Kelly Slater. Slater was in good position in his round three heat against Ricardo dos Santos, the Brazilian supercharger who won the Von Zipper trials last year and this year.
Think back to 2008, when Slater lost to then-wildcard, Manoa Drollet. That was somewhat of a mental error. This year, Slater put up a 9.17 backing it up with an 8.47 while dos Santos had a seven-second barrel. In the closing minutes, Slater had one of the biggest waves of the day, but got clipped on the way out. That gave dos Santos priority. Then, to everyone's surprise, dos Santos picked off a wave with 10 seconds remaining and threaded his way out for a 9.87 to send Slater packing.
Dos Santos lost the following round and will now face Taj Burrow in round five. Slater, will, no doubt, find some other reef that goes off its face today while the contest finishes at Teahupoo.
The Hobgoods have proven, as they have for the last fifteen years, that they are just master chaps at Chopes. CJ Hobgood held off Michel Bourez on Bourez' home court including a 9.47 that he wasn't even sure he wanted to take off on. He then cruised through a goofyfoot stacked round four heat against Owen Wright and dos Santos. Damien stepped past Josh Kerr in round three, but will have to surf round five against John John Florence -- not a draw you want in 2012.
There were a few perfect 10s dropped as well. The first went to Jeremy Flores in round three for a backside no-handed trip through the barrel. The second went to Gabriel Medina in round four. Flores faces Kieren Perrow today and Medina floats on to the quarters.Joel Parkinson, who spent his time between contests relxing on the Molokai Channel, is also looking tough as nails, with his 18.23 heat total in round four.
"That was a really good heat to be in," Parkinson said in a press release. "It was gentlemen's rules and plenty of waves. It was probably the best three-man heat I've ever surfed out there. It was just so enjoyable and that's why I surf and compete. Really happy right now."BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.17 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 8.34
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.83 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.37
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.04 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 11.00
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 18.30 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 17.50
Heat 5: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 18.30 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.17
Heat 6: Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 18.34 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 16.44
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.83 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 4.47
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.60 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 12.60
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) 15.10 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.93
Heat 10: John John Florence (HAW) 13.30 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 13.17
Heat 11: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.60 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 4.73
Heat 12: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 16.87 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.67
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.60, Taj Burrow (AUS) 9.10, Julian Wilson (AUS) 2.80
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.76, Owen Wright (AUS) 15.60, Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 9.67
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.23, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 17.77, Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.47
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.83, John John Florence (HAW) 7.00, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 3.23
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 5 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)