News

South Pacific Pressure Cooker

Round 2 is dicey. It's emotional. Winner moves on, loser goes home. It's a pressure cooker. And today at the Tahiti Pro, the difference between winning and losing was razor thin.

Owen Wright and Yago Dora both ran away with their respective heats, but besides those two, the average margin of victory in the other seven heats was a mere 1.03 points.

Look no further than Michael February's last-ditch effort against Conner Coffin to see how close things were. Much like World No. 2 Julian Wilson's heat yesterday, February needed just a minor score to turn the heat. Unlike Wilson, February found a wave with no time left on the clock. Sitting in the channel waiting for the judges, he melted with relief when the announcement came: a 2.50. He pulled it off by 0.07 of a point.

High Score: Yago Dora's Tweaked Air Reverse
0:58
The rookie earns the highest single-wave score of the day with an 8.50 and a Round 2 win over Tomas Hermes in Tahiti.

"It's the worst feeling, needing a 2.4 when there's only three minutes left," said February. "It's the last thing you want, to need a score like that…it's kind of grindy."

Riding a wave of momentum after his second consecutive U.S. Open title, Kanoa Igarashi found himself paired up against Matt Wilkinson. Trading scores, Igarashi's heat strategy in the fickle conditions proved to be the difference.

"Tahiti's a really tricky spot," said Igarashi from the channel. "It can be pretty lully and you have to adapt to the conditions."

Matt Wilkinson at Tahiti Pro: "This Year is Frustrating"
2:00
Currently sitting outside the CT qualification cutoff, the Australian talks through a tough Round 2 elimination at the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o.

Former World Title contender Matt Wilkinson was visibly rattled by the 25th-place result as he finds himself sliding down the CT ratings and currently out of the qualification picture for 2019.

"It's been pretty frustrating for me," admitted a defeated Wilkinson. "I've had some pretty good heats that have just not gone my way. And that one there, I don't, it was pretty tough."

Former Andy Irons Award winner Jeremy Flores and Patrick Gudauskas also found themselves intertwined in a nail-bitter. Gudauskas hasn't made a CT heat since Bells, and like Wilkinson, was hoping for a result at Teahupo'o to boost his ranking. But Flores is one of the most consistently dangerous competitors in Tahiti. Gudauskas made a couple of unfortunate unforced errors. Flores capitalized. And like that, Flores lives to surf another day, while Gudauskas is headed to the airport in Papeete.

Jeremy Flores (FRA) advances to Round 3 of the 2018 Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o after winning Heat 10 of Round 2 at Teahupo'o. Turns or tubes, Jeremy Flores is always dangerous at Teahupo'o. WSL / Kelly Cestari

With the swell waning and onshore winds picking up, experience played a large role in who won and who lost. Ian Gouveia got the best of rookie Griffin Colapinto. Neither of them have vast amounts of experience competing at Teahupo'o, but Gouveia clearly held the slight edge.

"I think it just comes down to me not having any experience out here," said Colapinto, who lost by little more than a point. "I think I'm going to have to make a trip down here in a few months."

The big winners on the day were the Wright brothers, as well as Dora. Despite dry-docking himself on the reef, Mikey Wright kept his wildcard dreams alive in the first heat of the day. A couple heats later, older brother Owen snapped into form and made short work of Joan Duru.

Owen and Mikey Wright (AUS) both advance to Round 3 of the 2018 Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o after winning their respective Round 2 heats at Teahupo'o. The Wright brothers flew through Round 2 today. WSL / Kelly Cestari

In the final heat of the round, Dora launched a huge, tail-high rotation, earning himself an 8.50 for the effort. The highest score of the day, the high-risk maneuver speaks to the versatility the judges have been looking for. Yesterday, Filipe Toledo got the same score for a deep tube ride. Given the schizophrenic nature the surf forecast for the next week, the more well-rounded the surfer the better the chances of going deep in this comp are.

By midday, Commissioner Kieren Perrow made the call to put the contest on hold as the winds picked up and the swell continued to decline. There's potential for a new bump in swell for Thursday.

The next call for the Tahiti Pro will be Tuesday, August 14, at 7:00am local time.

World Surf League
Download it for free on the App store. Download it for free on Google Play.
Download
Download