The first two rounds of the Billabong Tahiti Pro happened so long ago—almost a week now—that they seem more like qualifiers than the actual contest. But with the official Surfline forecast showing a promising swell for this weekend, it looks like there’s a chance of finishing up the contest in some pretty good to great waves. Here’s a look back on what happened in those first two rounds and what to expect when the contest resumes.
One third of the field was eliminated in round two, and the biggest surprise is probably Jordy Smith’s quick exit. Actually, it’s probably not that surprising—after Jordy’s injury in Tahiti last year he’s had trouble finding a competitive rhythm. It could be the lingering effect of the injury, it could be complacency, or it could be that the new kids on the WT (mainly John John and Gabriel Medina) are making the tour all that much more competitive. Whatever the cause, it’ll be interesting to see how Jordy fares on the back half of the tour.
The waves in some of the round-two heats were inconsistent with long lulls, and that’s what undid Jack’s team rider Pat Gudauskas. In his heat against Michel Bourez, Pat only managed a total heat score of 3.4. If you’ve seen Pat surf, you’d probably guess that the only way he’d get a score that low is if he was riding a chunk of sheetrock or if he didn’t get any waves. In this case, it was the latter. He waited the better part of the heat for a decent wave, but the only wave that came was a shoulder-high crumbler without a barrel—and it wasn’t enough to get much of a score, no matter what Pat did with it.
If the competition continues to see heats like Pat’s without many scoring opportunities, it probably won’t come down to who’s the best tube rider or who’s willing to take off on the heaviest wave. It’s more likely that success will come to the savviest competitors. Typically the tour veterans have an edge when it comes to competitive strategy, but some of the younger guys—Gabriel Medina in particular—have shown a knack for knowing how to win even when the waves don’t cooperate. So if the surf is inconsistent, the drama might be less about deep barrels and more about priority and positioning (and maybe even some hassling), which is still fun to watch, in its own way.
But the forecast shows that the waves should be okay by Tahitian standards—that is, hollow and overhead—so if the weather cooperates and the swell stays consistent, hopefully the rest of the contest will be decided on the waves. Strategy and savviness are an important part of surfing—ever try to catch a wave at Lowers on a summer afternoon?—but at Teahupoo it’s way more fun seeing who can take off deepest on the biggest bomb.