The idyllic conditions of the past two days were washed away this morning under heavy south wind and rain, forcing the Billabong Pro Tahiti to call competition off after completing the remaining four heats of Round 3.
Stop No. 5 of 10 on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Tahiti is both a pivotal point in the hunt for the 2010 ASP World Title as well as the midyear field reduction; the latter of which was completed today.
Patrick Gudauskas (USA), 24, 2010 ASP Dream Tour rookie, punctuated the morning’s action, executing an incredible Rodeo Flip in the dying moments of his Round 3 heat to overtake Chris Davidson (AUS), 33, and advance through to Round 4.
“It was really tough out there,” Gudauskas said. “There weren’t a lot of waves coming through and I didn’t know if I should wait for the good ones or if there were even any good ones left. I knew I needed to go big at the end there so I thought, ‘whatever, I’ll just try this’. It had a really nice section and when I came out of the rotation, I knew I had it so I just kind of rode out and gave the judges a little thumbs up.”
The Califonian’s advancement to Round 4 of the Billabong Pro Tahiti guarantees an Equal 9th, a career best, and rockets him from No. 32 to No. 24 on the ASP World Title Race rankings.
“My mind is still here for the moment,” Gudauskas said. “But it’s been my dream of mine since I can remember to surf at this level at home and at Pipe, and I’m over the moon. First and foremost though, focus remains here.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), 29, reigning ASP World Champion and current ASP World No. 6, has been in impressive form all season, but has yet to recapture the dominance shown late last season. The Australian remains calm when discussing his ASP World Title defence, citing last year as an example.
“It’s still early days,” Fanning said. “I’m holding a couple throwaways already this season so I need to start looking at putting in results. It’s not all that different to last season really. Anyone can get on a roll at any time and put a few events away. I just need to stay focused on each heat and surf my best.”
Andy Irons (HAW), 32, past three-time ASP World Champion and former winner at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, survived a hard-fought heat with high-flying rookie Matt Wilkinson (AUS), 21, in deteriorating conditions this morning.
“I just tried to catch a lot of waves,” Irons said. “It was real stormy. So I just tried to catch a bunch of waves and stay busy. That kid (Wilkinson) is really wild, he can throw big airs and I knew he could blow the heat wide open with one wave. It was a close one.”
Damien Hobgood (USA), 31, current ASP World No. 13, finalized the ASP midyear cut-off today, eliminating rookie Marco Polo (BRA), 29, in a tightly-fought Round 3 heat.
“It was really close,” Hobgood said. “Marco (Polo) beat Bobby (Martinez) here the other day – anyone can beat anyone out there. I was hoping for more barrels so it would favour me, but it’s just really small. I’m lucky to get through out there. I knew it could potentially be like this. I hope we get some fun waves in the last few days.”
With the elimination of Polo, the ASP’s midyear field reduction is complete. The following 13 surfers have been relegated back to the ASP PRIME and Star events:
– Drew Courtney (AUS), 31
– Neco Padaratz (BRA), 34
– Tanner Gudauskas (USA), 22
– Mick Campbell (AUS), 34
– Kieren Perrow (AUS), 33
– Tom Whitaker (AUS), 30
– Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), 25
– Blake Thornton (AUS), 25
– Dean Morrison (AUS), 29
– Jay Thompson (AUS), 28
– Nate Yeomans (USA), 29
– Ben Dunn (AUS), 24
– Marco Polo (BRA), 29
Moving forward, the ASP World Title events will have 36-man fields comprised of the ASP Top 34 (Top 32 finishers after five events plus two surfer wildcards) and two event wildcards.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 6am to assess conditions for a possible 6:30am start.
When competition resumes, up first will be Dane Reynolds (USA), 24, against C.J. Hobgood (USA), 31, in the opening heat of Round 4.
Surfline, official forecasters for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, are calling for a small mix of south and southwest swell will prevail for the last days of the waiting period along with moderate to strong easterly trades.
Highlights from the Billabong Pro Tahiti will be available via http://www.billabongpro.com/tahiti10/
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI REMAINING ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Heat 13: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.50 def. Tamaroa McComb (PYF) 6.83
Heat 14: Andy Irons (HAW) 9.34 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 9.16
Heat 15: Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.77 def. Marco Polo (BRA) 8.74
Heat 16: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 13.43 def. Chris Davidson (AUS) 13.16
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 4 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Dane Reynolds (USA) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
Heat 2: Tiago Pires (PRT) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Manoa Drollet (PYF)
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 7: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)
Heat 8: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)