Wednesday 6th May 2009 (Teahupoo, Tahiti): LOCAL Tahitian surfer Heiarii Williams will compete against the top 45 surfers on earth this week after taking out the Air Tahiti Nui VonZipper Trials at Teahupoo and earning the last remaining wildcard into the Billabong Pro.
Williams, 22, defeated Hawaiian tube specialist Mark Healey and 64 of the most respected tube riders on earth in idyllic 1.5m waves to claim victory for the second time.
His impeccable backside tube riding netted him a near perfect 9.17 in the man on man final, easily defeating Healey who had been a standout through earlier rounds.
“It’s so exciting to get in the main event and surf with all of the world tour boys,” said Williams. “I was the last Tahitian in the event, I needed to win and I did.”
“I saw that wave coming and I knew that wave was going to be good, I got a nine and it pushed me into first place, so I was happy,” he said. “Respect to Mark Healey, he is a good charger, crazy boy at Teahupoo!”
The talented natural footer is regarded as one of the best tube riders at the break alongside fellow Tahitian Manoa Drollet who was eliminated in round four of the trials. He has proven himself a dangerous opponent in the Billabong Pro main event having eliminated Mick Fanning in round one of the event in 2006, before narrowly losing out to reigning world champion Kelly Slater in round three.
“I won the trials in 2006, and I am excited for the main event, I will try hard to do my best and I want to catch some great waves,” said Williams.
It is likely as the lowest seeded Wildcard, Williams may face current world number one Joel Parkinson in the second round when the Billabong Pro kicks off on Saturday. Under the new ASP seeding system, Parkinson will forego the sudden death first round and be seeded directly into round two. Having won the opening two events of the year, he admits he won’t be taking any wildcard lightly.
“The local Tahitians know it better than anyone, I have been watching a few heats and taking a few points out of it to use in my own strategy,” said Parkinson. “I have been enjoying my time here before the trials and I’m feeling ready.”
For Healey, 31, the second place result was his best ever at the trials having competed in the event seven times. The stocky goofy footer looked to have Williams’s number on the way to the final, winning through round four, quarters and the semis in fine style.
With the swell fading in the final and his Tahitian opponent holding a commanding lead, Healey could only wait for the ocean to deliver the waves capable of finding the scores he needed. At the heats end he still held priority with the surf failing to materialise.
“I’m happy that I made the final, I just wish I would have had a stronger heat and got some waves,” said Healey. “The way I look at it is that there are 64 guys that are amazing surfers in this event and to make the top two is insane.”
“I knew it was going to be a tough heat when I saw his semi, he picked up a huge score without priority and he did exactly the same thing to me,” said Healey. “He has got a really good connection to this place, and you have to get really good waves to be better than him out here.”
Healey will still be in with a chance to make the main event should any of the top 45 withdraw.
Hawaiian surfers dominated the 2009 trials event with Kalani Chapman and Reef McIntosh both finishing equal third. Respected Pipeline surfers and well known tube specialists, the pair were on fire in early rounds before losing out to Healey and Williams at the Semi Final stage. Chapman posted the only perfect 10-point-ride of the event in round four.
Sunshine Coast surfer Wade Goodall finished as the highest place Australian surfer after bowing out to Healey in the Quarter Finals. Goodall caused a major upset in round four by eliminating event favourite Manoa Drollet but couldn’t keep momentum running through the man on man match-ups.
“I’m disappointed for sure, It was good for me to get as far as I did, but I would have liked to make the main event,” said Goodall.
The best surfers on earth have started to fill in to the small fishing village of Teahupoo for an expected swell on the 9th and 10th of May, the first two days of the waiting period. When the event gets underway on May 9, every heat will be played live via webcast on www.billabongpro.com
A full list of today’s results can be found at this link http://www.billabongpro.com/tahiti09/results.php