Tahiti Preview: The End Of The Road For 72% Of The CT - Stab Mag
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It probably won't look like this. But, we can hope... Photo: Matt Dunbar/WSL

Tahiti Preview: The End Of The Road For 72% Of The CT

And hello there, blob of swell.

Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Tahiti’s here.

The event window already started, and runs until August 21. 

It’s the last and longest event period in the back half of the year before the Finals Day playoffs at Lowers. This will be the 22nd CT event Teahupo’o has hosted since 1999, returning 1078 days after Owen Wright won the last crown in 2019. Post-Chopes there will be five men and five women scrapping it out for the two world titles.

By the way, this will be the first time the CT gals compete at Teahupoo in 16 years.

If anyone ranked #6 or below is gonna make a move, now’s the time.

On the men’s side, only two surfers have locked in their Finals day spots: Filipe Toledo and Jack Robinson. Same thing on the women’s side, as only Carissa Moore and Johanne Defay have claimed their spots. So, there are only six spots left to fill and 19 surfers who are mathematically within striking range. 

And the wildcards they’ll have to deal with? See below:

  • Michel Bourez for John Florence
  • Nathan Hedge for Gabriel Medina
  • Yago Dora for Kolohe Andino
  • Kauli Vaast (men’s trials winner)
  • Vahine Fierro (women’s local wildcard)

Some Background

Already read our story breaking down the math behind who can still make The Top 5 Finals? Feel free to skip ahead to the next section. But if you need a refresher…

Nine out of ten results count this year, meaning surfers only have one throwaway event — which already came from one of the opening five contests. Every event after the mid-year cut counts, and the top five aggregated scores proceed straight to Lowers. 

This is the points splay for men’s competition since the MYC. 

  • 1st: 10,000 points 
  • 2nd: 7,800 
  • 3rd: 6,085 
  • 5th: 4,745 
  • 9th: 3,320 
  • 17th: 1,330 

Considering the minimum result is 1,330 points for last place in Tahiti, this means each Top 5 surfer will finish the year no less than the following tally:

  • Filipe Toledo: 54,690
  • Jack Robinson: 49,355
  • Ethan Ewing: 42,300
  • Italo Ferreira: 40,460
  • Griffin Colapinto: 38,130

In order to leapfrog into Finals day, anyone sitting below 5th place will have to leave Tahiti with a point total above the lowest of these numbers. In reality — as Top 5 surfers progress past Round 2, thus racking up more than 1,330 points — the points required to crack the Top 5 will be higher than what’s listed above.

On the women’s side, this is the points splay since the MYC:

  • 1st: 10,000 points 
  • 2nd: 7,800 
  • 3rd: 6,085 
  • 5th: 4,745 
  • 9th: 2,610 

Considering a definite 2,610 points for participation, the current Top 5 will at minimum look like this:

  • Carissa Moore: 55,535
  • Johanne Defay: 50,220
  • Tatiana Weston-Webb: 45,220
  • Stephanie Gilmore: 44,235
  • Brisa Hennessey: 42,895

Again, these numbers will be greater in reality given the fact that Top 5 are likely to perform well. 

You beauty. Photo: Matt Dunbar/WSL

The Men

In: Filipe and Jack are both well ahead of the pack and are locked in for Lowers, though their seeding could potentially flip-flop in Tahiti. 
On the bubble: Ethan Ewing, Italo Ferreira, and Griffin Colapinto.
Hungry like the wolf: Callum Robson, Miguel Pupo, Connor O’Leary, and Samuel Pupo.

Five out of the top seven surfers are under the age of 25 (Ethan, Griffin, Jack, Kanoa, and Callum). Is this a changing of the guard? Or just a side-effect of losing John and Gabby for multiple events this season?

Time will tell. Either way, it is refreshing to have some young calves in the mix. 

What do the numbers say?

Jack Robinson, obvs, is a favorite, after reaching the final in three of the past five events and averaging a 12.30 heat total at reef breaks on the CT (only bettered by his success at pointbreaks [13.92]). Jack has won the second-most heats of any surfer this season (23), and enjoys the third-highest percentage of excellent waves caught (11%). 

Filipe Toledo is not known for his Chopes prowess and averages a heat total of 10.97 at CT reef breaks, the lowest average of his career at any break type. Although Fil had a 3rd-place finish at Teahupo’o in 2018, he only has 25th and 9th place finishes across all five other appearances at this location. He’ll have to have a deep run if he wants to prevent Robbo from stealing his #1 spot at Lowers.

Ethan Ewing has not surfed a CT event in Tahiti since 2017. However, he’s coming in hot. While winning J-Bay, he achieved his second-highest career heat total (17.04), fourth highest wave score (9.13 in the Final), and consistently produced high scores despite indexing lowly on wave count (4.8 per heat). Plus, he’s already won nearly double the amount of heats this season (21) than in his previous two seasons combined (11).

Italo Ferreira has a best result of 5th in five previous events at Teahupo’o (2015 and 2018). Italo has not made a CT Final since Newcastle last season, 16 events ago. The last time he failed to win a single event in a season was 2017 — you can be damn sure he wants to break this streak.

Kanoa Igarashi was one of three CT surfers who competed in this year’s Vans US Open of Surfing. However, he lost in the second round, which may have been a blessing in disguise as he’s now had more time to warm up in Tahiti. In his three previous visits, Kanoa has never achieved a better result than a 9th. He’s also never finished inside the Top 5 in his CT career, with his previous best being a 6th place finish in 2019. Points-wise, KI is a grub screw away from Griffin in 5th place with a split of 1,275. Whichever of these two goes further in the event will likely grab the fifth spot at Lowers. 

Griffin Colapinto has only surfed two previous CT events here, suffering a Round 2 elimination in 2018 to Ian Gouveia, and a Round 4 exit at the hands of Medina in 2019. He averages a heat total of 10.92 at reef breaks in his CT career, his lowest average heat total of any break type. Since winning in El Salvador, Griff has been eliminated in Round 2 at Oi Rio Pro, and Rd 3 at J-Bay. 

Callum Robson, Miguel Pupo, Connor O’Leary and Sammy Pupo will need their longbows. If they crush it here and the bottom-top-three flounder, they have a chance. Fond of a low-odds, high-return punt? These are your guys. 

Tati, perhaps on a west (on-Webb) bowl. Photo: Matt Dunbar/WSL

The Women

  • In: Carissa Moore and Johanne Defay. 
  • On the bubble: Tatiana Weston-Webb, Stephanie Gilmore, Brisa Hennessy
  • Hungry like the wolf: Lakey Peterson, Tyler Wright, Gabriela Bryan and Isabella Nichols

The Women’s side of this event is more noteworthy for three reasons. 1.) The girls haven’t surfed a CT competition here in 16 years. 2.) There’s only 7,925 points splitting third place and ninth place. 3.) The local wildcard spot (Vahine Fiero) will have a major ace up her wettie top — experience tail-dropping into bottomless Tahitian drainers. 

The Women’s Pipe event earlier this year was interesting. In many of the heats, we saw the girls going to turns rather than tubes. They paid for it when Moana Jones Wong strutted down the berm, sat deep and got blown out of one drainer after another. 

And, again, the numbers:

Carissa Moore was runner up at Tavarua in 2016 to Johanne Defay. She’s surfed four Finals this season for just one victory (Rio). However, she’s got the highest average heat score (12.01), top two highest scoring waves (9.5 at Pipe and at Rio), and has the most heat wins (19) of any surfer this season. 

Johanne Defay is enjoying the best season in her career. Three of her five career event wins have come at reef breaks (Margaret River, Fiji, and G-Land). She’s also the only surfer to make the quarter-finals at every event this season. 

Tatiana Weston Webb has won as many events this season (two) as she has in her previous six seasons combined. Tati also has the highest heat total (17.50 at J-Bay) of the season so far. She was runner-up at the last CT event at Tavarua to Courtney Conlogue. 

Steph Gilmore will surf her 129th CT event here. She’s made it to just one Final in four CT events in Fiji. Since missing the opening event due to COVID, Steph has stormed up the 2022 ladder, reaching the semis or better in two of her past three events, compared to just once in the first six events this season. 

Brisa Hennesey was just four months old when the women first surfed a CT event at Tahiti in May 1999. Bris has won 13 heats this season and has spent plenty of time in Fiji, which will make her hard to beat here.

Lakey Peterson was a semifinalist in Fiji in 2015, her best result at the event. Despite making two Finals this season, she is yet to score higher than a 14.27 heat total or record an excellent single wave — but her best, a 7.83, came at Pipe. 

Tyler Wright is one of just two surfers (alongside Isabella Nichols) to have won an event this season but not sit inside the Top 5. Tyler has the highest % of excellent waves caught (7%), and the highest average wave score (3.99) of any surfer in 2022. Plus, she’ll go.

Personal favs: Vahine, Tati, and Johanne. 

Every time you finish a yoga class, say “Namaste, Slater” out loud. It will make you a better surfer. Photo: WSL

Slater

Yep, he deserves his own section.

Kelly is the only previous champion at Teahupo’o in the men’s draw this year. He holds the record for most event wins at this location (5 – 2000, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2016). He has only competed here once since his last title, finishing 17th in 2019 after losing his Rd 3 heat against Jack Freestone.

This will be his 18th CT event in Tahiti, surpassing CJ Hobgood and Taj Burrow for most all-time appearances. Kelly holds the record for most heats surfed (77), heat wins (61 at 79%), finals surfed (7) and events won (5) in Tahiti. When he does reach the quarter-final at this location, he enjoys a 90% win rate.

Slatz has scored two perfect heats at Teahupo’o — in the 2005 Final v Damien Hobgood, and in Round 5 v Keanu Asing in 2016. He has scored 19.00+ heat totals on 13 occasions since the two-wave total was introduced in 2003, the most of any surfer here. This accounts for 26% of the total 19.00+ heat totals scored at this event in this period, the highest percentage of any individual. 

Got it?

The Forecast

We’re looking at a slow start, then some blob-like behavior towards the end of the waiting period. Only time will tell how we end up color-coding this one but, right now, it seems we have reason to be excited.

Credit: Surfline

Miscellanea 

-The previous two event winners on the men’s side have been goofyfoots (Gabriel Medina in 2018, Owen Wright in 2019). Nine of Tahiti’s 14 different champions have been goofy, with Julian Wilson in 2017 being the last regular-footer to win here. There have only been four Finals that have not featured a goofy — 2000, 2003, 2012 and 2016.

-Keala Kennelly took home three event wins in 2000, 2002 and 2003, making her the winningest woman ever at Chopes. Seven-time World Champ Layne Beachley won the event in 2001, later followed by Sofia Mulánovich in 2004, Chelsea Hedges in 2005, and Melanie Redman-Carr in 2006.

-1998 saw Conan Hayes vs Koby Abberton in the final. Koby scored a 10 for his first wave and then Conan Hayes got another 10 for a wave at least 2 points better. There was no room to go in the scale and Koby won.

-“It is the scariest four-foot wave I’ve ever seen. It can be twice as wide as it is tall at that size. More people get hurt on that inside than on the big days.” – Nathan Florence

Gamble Ramble

So far, Mikey’s Betonline.ag season earnings stand at $850. Here are his picks for Tahiti:

Event winner:
$50 on Vahine Fierro at +1600
$50 on Tatiana Weston-Webb at +800
$20 on Seth Moniz at +1600
$20 on Barron Mamiya at +1800
$20 on Connor O’Leary at +2500
$50 on Kelly Slater at +1000

Round 1 picks:
$20 on Caroline Marx at +150
$40 on Tatiana Weston-Webb at +115
$20 on Vahine Fierro at +135
$40 on Caio Ibelli at +180
$40 on Jadson Andre at +400
$20 on Nat Young at +400
$20 on Yago Dora at +225

Make your own picks here.