The Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro saw a fitting Final today as Tahiti's Heremoana Luciani and Hawaii's Olamana Eleogram went head-to-head for the win. Today's Final showcased the profound talent pool within the World Surf League (WSL) Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region. Luciani, 27, fought his way to the podium all the way from Round One and established his reputation both as a dark horse and Rangiroa champion.
The 35-minute Final saw bumpy yet contestable conditions and competitors established their position in the lineup immediately, with Luciani sitting on the inside bowl and Eleogram favoring the point. The Tahitian posted the first solid score of the heat, a 6.75 for multiple frontside turns and took the lead. However, Eleogram was close behind after nabbing the biggest barrel of the Final, which judges awarded a 6.90. The two paddled for positioning and shifted between the various peaks, but Luciani was in the ideal take-off zone for a clean walled-up wave.
"I didn't stress at all, just surf and enjoy," said Luciani after the win. "I knew it was going to be my time… I know everyone was ripping, but I stuck to my game plan and did my best." Luciani scored a 7.75 on his final ride of the heat for the win and cemented his name as a true Tahitian luminary.
Luciani and Eleogram have surfed together in the past during ISA competitions, but the Tahitian has since moved to Lacanau, France for six months out of the year to operate his surf school.
"Living in France to work as a surf mentor for six months and then I come back to Tahiti," said Luciani. "I always wanted to work in surf or make the QS, but I don't have that much money so I decided to go teach everybody instead."
He competes every year at the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro, but without any sponsors to help offset the cost of a competitive career, Luciani splits time between Tahiti and France, competing regionally when he can. This year, however, the surfer has his sights set on a slot into the Vans Triple Crown in November.
"For sure at the end of the year, I will go to Hawaii… I am ready for everything," he said.
Runner-up Eleogram had an outstanding performance, winning every heat from Round Two. This is his first time competing at Rangiroa, yet the surfer possessed a knack for wave selection and positioning throughout the event.
One of the most exciting clashes of the day went to Ola and his brother, Makana Eleogram, both of Hana, Maui. The two made their 30-minute Quarterfinal look like a freesurf session, trading waves on the inside bowl and dropping mid-range scores for power hacks and tubes. Half-way through the heat, Makana took the lead, which motivated older brother Ola to sit at the point and catch the big sets rolling through.
"It was great, it was fun, win or lose I was going to be stoked," said Olamana. "I'm stoked Makana made it here, he is such a good surfer and doesn't do contests. He doesn't have funding or anything, so it was cool to have him come here and show everybody his talent. He's really good and I have a lot of respect for him. His backside hammer turns were scaring me so I had to go up the point and get some barrels."
Ola ended up scoring a 7.00 and a 7.50 for double-overhead barrels, two of the bigger waves of the day, while Makana continued to rack up points on the inside. The brothers put on an impressive performance, especially considering Makana rarely competes, showcasing a friendly rivalry in the warm waters of Tahiti.
"It was really fun, but it was really competitive because he was beating me and I was just so nervous," continued Ola. "He's my younger brother by six years so couldn't let him take me out. But I'm just really proud of Makana for coming here and hopefully he'll be able to get into the Triple Crown if he keeps doing good in the rest of the events. He'll probably be able to get into the HIC Pro now. He had no points whatsoever and it was just open spots for anybody to enter this contest, so I told him to come. He asked his boss if he could skip work and he let him, so it was awesome."
The Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro was an excellent opportunity for first-time visitors to Rangiroa -- like Olamana and Makana -- to compete in the challenging right-hand reef break, while still providing the occasion for a talented Tahitian to shine.