Five Things To Watch For Tomorrow At The Billabong Pro Tahiti
A finals day primer.
The argument could be made that Round 3 is the best round of a world tour contest. It’s where the plot really thickens. Today the WSL jammed through 20 heats, few of which disappointed, enroute to finishing Round 3. It was a long day and everyone’s fairly sunburned as they sip their well-earned Hinanos. The WSL is gunning to wrap this whole thing up tomorrow, and because time is of the essence, here’s what you need to know before you kick on the webcast:
1. John John’s Redemption
Before John’s heat against Nat Young, he paddled out and sat alone in the water with his head down. There was no chatter in the channel with the caddies or shakas for adoring fans. Some would say he was just finding his head space, but within 30 seconds the wind switched offshore and the ocean started pulsing. Coincidence? We think not. John’s never won at Teahupoo, and now that he can summon the elements on command, we’re guessing it’s at the top of his list of things to do. He lost to Kelly in the final last year and Gabs in the semis the year before. At the moment, he appears a calm, cool, collected and clear favourite to go the distance.
2. Wilko’s Stamina
As you read this Matt Wilkinson’s coach, Glenn Hall, is at home with his wife welcoming a new baby into the world. Congratulations on the Mini-Me, Micro! In years past Wilko left to his own devices didn’t reek of focus, but he learned a lot from his meltdown during the back half of the season last year. He came into Tahiti dead set not to let the same thing happen again this lap around the track. So far, it’s all going according to plan. Ethan Ewing never really had a shot against Wilko in Round 3, even though he held the lead for awhile. Riding a 6’2”, Wilko explained that “it doesn’t really slow me down in the smaller waves and maybe it’ll help me get into a nug or two.” Mission accomplished. Micro can have his baby in peace knowing that his protégé has safely made it to finals day.
3. Owen’s Cinderella Story
Owen Wright’s probably not supposed be surfing Teahupoo. The head injury at Pipe in 2015 was serious, and while he’s long been cleared by the docs and says he’s physically sound, one has to imagine the potential of something happening at Teahupoo is greater given his fragile medical history. He’s not even wearing a helmet and clicked into a good groove in his Round 3 win over Ian Gouveia. He has his partner and their little baby here and he’s just been “cruising and enjoying himself,” but in the back of his cracked cranium one has to think he’s got a win on his mind. If that happens the conversation around the world title race gets a lot more interesting.
4. The Two Conners
Connor O’Leary and Conner Coffin, both winners today, now have a chance to assume the coveted role of dark horse. O’Leary has Wright in Round 4 and Coffin has Florence. Even though it’s no-losers round, moving straight into the quarters is a big deal for both world title contenders. O’Leary has Luke Egan in his corner giving him sage advice and making sure he’s well prepared. Coffin has his dad, Rich, cheering him on and caddying. Both have their benefits, and both surfers are riding a well-earned high. “I got tube at Teahupoo!” Coffin joked with Mick Fanning after his Round 2 win.
5. Jordy’s Last Stand
In the last heat of the day, Jordy Smith was up against U.S. Open champ Kanoa Igarashi. All the other world title contenders had won their heat. He really didn’t have a choice: win or go home. Getting the proverbial monkey off his back at Teahupoo, he’s into Round 4 with a real shot at going deep in the comp.