Chopes is gonna start tomorrow. No one’s holding their breath for a repeat of the swell we saw at last year’s Billabong Pro, Tahiti (Code Red et al), but WT events are always exciting, regardless of conditions. It’s impossible to have the 34 best surfers in the world in one place and not have fireworks. With the impending launch, the event draw’s been finalised. It includes trials winner, Brazilian Ricardo Dos Santos, and local wildcard Alain Riou. And, would y’believe, Dusty Payne, back from injury! Boy, we’ve missed the finners and Hawaiian braves. Dude was even spotted surfing Straddie with Ryan Hipwood (see the clip in previous post).
For some considered favourites from the draw, Stab asked a man who’s fire made him a dominant competitive force for many years, and who knows the tour’s intricacies better than most, Mr. Jake Paterson. “Well, besides Gab, the bookies have it pretty much right if you ask me,” he says of the event’s betting odds and the long-odded Gabs Medina, who Jake believes is still a danger at Chopes. But, his other favourites are safe choices, too.
Kelly Slater: “He’s won the event a million times and is a super freak, whether it’s small, big, onshore or offshore. He always seems to get himself out of every sticky situation.”
Owen Wright: “Last year’s finalist and loves left barrels, has the longest arms on tour and never misses a wave. You need a good paddle-in when surfing good Chopes and he would have the number one paddle on tour if you ask me.”
John Florence: “He’s grown up at Pipe! Wiz kid in the barrel and has already shown he can win events.”
Gabs Medina is the real wildcard: “The other whiz kid. The bookies haven’t shown any respect to young Gab Medina but after the show he put on in Fiji the kid is half a chance and is paying $21. Worth a bet! (laughs).”
Owen Wright, Jake’s second pick, ain’t afraid to admit he’s scared of the place. “Without doubt I’m intimidated by Teahupoo,” he says. “I still get butterflies every time I’m contemplating taking off. It’s a crazy wave and there is always an element of risk, but I have practised my whole life surfing heavy waves down the South Coast in preparation, so I am as ready as I can be. My preparation for Tahiti this year has been pretty strong. I spent a good amount of time along the Bukit Peninsula in Bali working on my Tahiti boards with my shaper Parrish Byrne. We saw a few swells backing up and thought it was an ideal chance to iron out any chinks in the boards and get me prepared for Tahiti.”
Another man who can’t be counted out at Chopes, since he’s in possession of hometown advantage, is Michel Bourez. “For me, I treat this event like any other,” says the 26-year-old. “Sure, there is an advantage to growing up here and having an event here. I’m comfortable out at Teahupo’o, but the guys in the Top 34 are all very good. Every heat is a challenge and I’m taking every round seriously.”
And here’s the heat draw. Tune in here tomorrow morning to watch it all unfold.
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)