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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.