The world’s best surfers put everything on the line as they battled the world’s most dangerous wave for an historic Finals day at the Billabong Pro Tahiti, stop no. 7 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour (WCT).
The Final Day's 12-man field took on perilous conditions and monster 12-to-15 foot barreling waves, the biggest of the season, in pursuit of victory. It was Gabriel Medina (BRA) who came out on top to claim the coveted title of Billabong Pro Tahiti Champion after an unbelievable day of competition and what is being dubbed the best WCT contest in history.
An incredible Final saw Brazilian phenom Gabriel Medina reign supreme in huge, perfect conditions at Teahupo'o. The win over 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) is Medina's third WCT victory of the year, after triumphing at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and Billabong Rio Pro, and sees him extend his lead in the World Title race.
The pair were neck and neck throughout the Final, with each posting a series of excellent nine-point scores. Medina held the lead with the tiniest of margins, 0.03, and the heat came down to the last wave from Slater and a nail-biting wait for the score. He needed a 9.33 but came in just shy at 9.30 and Medina took the win to solidify his place as ASP World No. 1 going in to the final four events of the season. The Brazilian previously dispatched Kolohe Andino (USA) and Bede Durbidge (AUS) on route to the thrilling final.
“I don’t really know what to say,” said Gabriel Medina. “I’m so blessed to have these conditions at ‘Chopes and surf against all these guys. This is such a special event and I’m just so happy right now. Kelly (Slater) is a legend of surfing and it’s the best feeling ever to win. The waves were big and perfect and this feeling is amazing. I love surfing and to get these waves is incredible. I want to thank ASP for the event and I’m so happy to be part of this.”
Today marked the first WCT final of the year and best result of the 2014 season for the four-time Billabong Pro Tahiti winner, Kelly Slater (USA). The result moves the 11-time World Champ up from sixth to second place on the ASP WCT rankings, putting him in serious World Title contention. Slater leaves the competition with two Perfect 10s and 14 excellent nine-points rides after topping John John Florence (HAW) and Owen Wright (AUS) before facing Medina in the Final.
"What can you say? The ocean delivered for us today... this week," said Kelly Slater. "It was incredible. I've never seen anything like it and today will go down as one of the best days of surfing in my career, no question. Congratulations to Gabriel (Medina). He was in rhythm all event and specifically in the Final, and he's on fire this year. We switch gears big time for Trestles and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. There's a lot of work ahead."
Fearless charger Bede Durbige (AUS) secured his best ever result at the Billabong Pro Tahiti after making it the Semifinals where he was knocked out by eventual event winner Medina. Despite a number of brilliant performances through the competition and a Perfect 10 in the Quarterfinals he was unable to match the scores of the Brazilian and leaves the competition in equal 3rd. The result sees him move up one place to World No. 13.
“Gabriel (Medina) is such a tactician in his approach and it worked perfectly,” said Bede Durbidge. “It’s such a bummer but I’m so glad to be part of this day. It was so special to surf against one of my best mates (Adrian Buchan) in the heat before and we’ve been surfing together since we were 13. This is such a great day for ASP and I’m stoked to be a part of it.”
Hawaiian prodigy John John Florence faced eventual runner-up Slater in Semifinal number two in one of the most exciting heats ever seen at Teahupo’o. Florence delivered an epic performance and posted four nine-point rides, including a near-perfect 9.90. The heat ended in a tie break, with each surfing holding a 19.70 heat total, but Slater edged the win with the highest single-wave score, a Perfect 10. The equal third place finish puts Florence in 12th place on the WCT rankings.
“I don’t really know how I feel but that whole heat and everything that happened was crazy,” said John John Florence. “I’m so so stoked. My first ride was so good; it was insane. It was so glassy and nice out there.”
2013 Billabong Pro Tahiti winner Adrian Buchan (AUS) was knocked out of the competition by Durbidge in the Quarterfinals. One of the highest-scoring heats of the competition saw the compatriots battle for a Semifinal berth, but despite posting an excellent 18.43 heat total, Buchan was unable to match the Perfect 10 from Durbidge. The result sees Buchan jump up six places to joint 18th on the rankings.
“What a dream to be here,” said Adrian Buchan. “It’s picture perfect and as big as you could ask for. It’s really scary but so rewarding. It’s tough to relinquish my title but I feel like I’ve turned my year around here.”
The Andy Irons Most Committed Performance Award is given out every year to the standout surfer of the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Previous winners include John John Florence (2013), Ricardo dos Santos (2012) and Jeremy Flores (2011). This year’s award goes to Owen Wright (AUS) for his commitment, passion and courage during the event. Wright was knocked out of the competition by Slater in the Quarterfinals, but not before he posted a Perfect 10 in Heat 4.
“This feels amazing and I’m so honored to get this award,” said Owen Wright. “During this event so many guys have gone hard. I’ve watched Andy (Irons) for so long and I can’t imagine what he’d be doing if he was here. To get fifth place here feels so special and this award just tops it off.”
The next stop on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour will be the Hurley Pro at Trestles from September 9 - 20, 2014.
Billabong Pro Tahiti Final Result:
1- Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.96
2- Kelly Slater (USA)18.93
Billabong Pro Tahiti Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.67 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 4.17
SF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.77 def. John John Florence (HAW) 19.77
Billabong Pro Tahiti Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 19.87 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 18.43
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.27 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.27
QF 3: John John Florence (HAW) 19.67 def. Dion Atkinson (AUS) 17.76
QF 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.80 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 16.10
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.40 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.66
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.53 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 6.16
Heat 3: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 19.33 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 14.77
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 19.87 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 12.83
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.66, Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.73, Tiago Pires (PRT) 6.84
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.37, Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.57, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 9.00
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW) 18.16, Kai Otton (AUS) 12.10, Brett Simpson (USA) 8.67
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.44, Owen Wright (AUS) 16.74, Dion Atkinson (AUS) 12.50