"Historical!" "Epic!" "Incomparable!" These often get tossed around in surfing conversations. But the Billabong Pro Tahiti, Stop No. 7 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), lived up to the hype. Here are 10 reasons why:
10. Gabriel Medina Broke Three-Way Tie
Heading into the event, Gabriel Medina (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF) and Mick Fanning (AUS) were in a three-way tie with two event titles apiece. With Medina's win in Tahiti, he breaks ahead, but the three still hold a monopoly on event wins this season.
9. Title Contenders Ousted Early
Both Bourez and Fanning came to Tahiti with good odds; Bourez with local knowledge of the break and Fanning hot off his win at J-Bay. But as fate would have it, neither fared well at Teahupo'o: Fanning registered his third poor result (a 13th place finish) and Bourez left in equal ninth, unable to make it past the preliminary rounds.
8. New Record For Highest Heat Average
Kelly Slater (USA), with 14 nines and two Perfect 10s, finished the event with an unprecedented average heat score, a near-perfect 18.97.
7. Down to the Wire: Tiebreakers
There were long, tense moments even after heats ended. Three heats in Tahiti weren't buzzer beaters, they were tie breakers: Adrian Buchan (AUS) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) at 16.30 in Round 1, Bede Durbidge (AUS) and C.J. Hobgood (USA) at 13.10 in Round 3, and Slater and Florence at 19.77 in the Semis. Additionally, 11 heats had a final point spread of less than 1.00, including the Final at the end of which the surfers were 0.03 points apart.
6. The Drops
There's nothing like watching a surfer take off on a wave that's the height of a three-story building. The action on the lip was just as exciting as time in the barrel.
5. Slater's Round 3 Performance
Kelly Slater (USA) reminded us why he's one of the icons of professional sports. Up against Jadson Andre (BRA), 18 years his junior, Slater hit five consecutive nine-pointers. His Round 3 heroics were an incredible display of athleticism -- his last wave was the highest of the heat, a 9.87.
Teahupo'o was, at times, triple-overhead, and the contest saw some of the worst wipeouts of all time. Aussies Bede Durbidge, Dion Atkinson and Owen Wright all suffered cringe-worthy wipeouts as fees for entry.
But risk led to reward: Durbidge took out the defending event champion, Adrian Buchan (AUS), in the Quarterfinals and Atkinson took out reigning World Champion Fanning. Wright's courage and commitment, meanwhile -- including an insane pummeling -- earned him the Andy Irons Most Committed Performance Award.
3. Riding High (Scores)
By the time the Billabong Pro Tahiti concluded, surfers tallied 57 nine-point rides in all. Eleven heat totals were 19.00 or higher.
2. Kelly and John John Semifinal
The Semifinal battle between Slater and Florence was one of the best of all time. The veteran and the young Hawaiian tallied five nines on seven waves and one Perfect 10 between them. The most anticipated heat of the event, Slater and Florence were tied at 19.77. Slater won, having notched the highest single-wave score of the bout. But Florence scored nothing but nines for the entire battle; he left the island with 10 nine-pointers overall and a Perfect 10.
1. Seven Perfect 10s
The Billabong Pro Tahiti saw seven Perfect 10s, more than the previous six stops combined.