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World’s Best Brace Themselves for Tahiti

August 8th, 2015
Gabriel Medina will be hoping for rides like this at the upcoming 2015 Billabong Pro Tahiti  Photo: WSL / Kirstin

Gabriel Medina will be hoping for rides like this at the upcoming 2015 Billabong Pro Tahiti Photo: WSL / Kirstin

Surfing Column for Independent on Saturday – 8 August 2015

By Paul Botha

The world’s best surfers are bracing themselves for the challenge of riding one of the planet’s most dangerous waves when the Billabong Pro Tahiti gets underway at Teahupoo next Friday.

Teahupoo, literally ‘the end of the road’ and colloquially known as Chopes, presents the ultimate test of a surfer’s skill. The long range swells from the South Atlantic rise up out of deep water and hurl themselves over an extremely shallow coral reef, creating some of the hollowest tubes anywhere.

Last year’s event was won by Brazilian sensation Gabriel Medina whose flawless performance in triple overhead perfect barrels amazed everyone. Medina only suffered one wipe-out in the entire event, and that was in the Final where he went on to defeat multiple world and event champion Kelly Slater in a major upset.

South Africa’s Jordy Smith, who broke a couple of ribs at Chopes in 2011, had what he called the worst wipe-out of his life there last year. During Round 2, Smith was annihilated by a huge wave and then had to deal with three more mountains of white-water while scrambling around on the razor-sharp coral before the safety crew on Jetskis could pick him up and drag him to the safety of the channel.

Medina has had a torrid start to the defence of his 2014 World Title but showed a welcome return to form at Jeffreys Bay and will go into next week’s event as one of the favourites again. Others to watch will be the 43-year-old Slater, Hawaiian prodigy John John Florence and Owen Wright whose record setting perfect 20 point heat totals in Fiji demonstrated the Australian’s supreme skills in big, hollow, left-breaking waves.

There is a 12 hour time difference between Tahiti and South Africa so the live webcasts on worldsurfleague.com start around 8pm each evening and will be well worth following.

Bianca Buitendag has elevated herself into World Title contention after placing third in the Vans US Open of Surfing in California last weekend. Missing out on a third consecutive Final on the WSL Championship Tour by just 0.01 of a point when she was eliminated in the semis by close friend and eventual event winner Johanne Defay from Reunion Island, Buitendag nevertheless earned enough points to leapfrog two positions into fourth place on the rankings with four events remaining on the 2015 calendar.

Beyrick de Vries from Umhlanga also boosted his ratings, moving up to No. 43 on the Qualifying Series rankings, while Dylan Lightfoot from Jeffreys Bay placed a creditable 7th in the Pro Junior event at Huntington Beach.

The 50th annual Citroën South African Surfing Championships are currently underway in Richards Bay where competitors ranging in age from 16 to over 60 from eight regions are contesting both individual and team honours. The sport has certainly come a long way since the first official SA Champs which were held at the Wedge at the bottom of what was then West Street in July 1966!


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