The Papara Pro Men's QS 1,000 event began today with multiple excellent scores tallied from Hawaii and Tahitian surfers, following an exciting Final day that crowned two Pro Junior winners yesterday at the Papara Pro Junior. The day's top ride, a 9.50, went to 14-year-old Robert Grilho (HAW) for powerful rail-to-rail top turn combinations, while Tahitian powerhouse Hira Teriinatoofa (PYF) earned the next single best score, a 9.35 for a rapid series of explosive, backside turns.
The Men's division was called on in peaky 2-4ft. surf at the black sand beach of Papara and the competition was narrowed down to 32 surfers, all eager for the QS win and a jump in the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui regional ratings. Grilho set the standard for high-scoring rides in Heat 4 against recent Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro winner Sheldon Paishon (HAW), Eala Stewart (HAW) and Zac Hedemann (HAW) with a series of aggressive vertical attacks.
"I was just comfortable, my home break is really similar to Papara," said Grilho who hails from Kapolei, Oahu and surfs White Plains regularly. "If I did fall it wouldn't really matter because I already had two solid waves, so I was just surfing how I surf and I got a 9."
Grilho had an 8.25 and 7.50 in his scoreline, so after dropping a 9.5 he increased his lead on fellow competitors to combo the field. Nearly 40 waves were ridden in the heat, a testament to the contestable conditions, and Grilho advanced into Round 2 along with Paishon. Currently in the No. 3 spot on the regional rankings after his victory last week, Paishon displayed critical, committed surfing for a 7.55 and 7.50 from judges.
The final heat of Men's Round 1 highlighted the lightning quick surfing of Teriinatoofa, who lives five minutes from Papara and is a known standout at the beach break, along with the famed reef break of Teahupo‘o on Tahiti. Teriinatoofa's backside turns garnered an excellent 9.35, which he backed up with an 8.50 for the highest combined heat total of the event, a 17.85.
"I have local knowledge so I know the waves and I know when it's like this it's really tricky, so I was playing with the priority," said Teriinatoofa. "Once I have no priority I just paddle for anything and try to get some waves, try and build my scores and the 9 came at the right moment so I'm stoked."
Teriinatoofa has coached two surfers to success here at Papara - Vahine Fierro (FRA), who took home a win in 2017 at the Papara Pro Vahine Junior TahitiPapara Pro Junior Vahine and Kauli Vaast(FRA), who was victorious at yesterday's Papara Pro Junior Men's division, along with standout surfer Eliott Napias (PYF). Teriinatoofa will go against Vaast in Round 2 once the event resumes and said it is important to remember that they are competitors in the water but first and foremost friends on land.
Defending event winner Ariihoe Tefaafana (PYF) nailed a solid 8.0 for text book style technique on a driving bottom turn into an air reverse in Round One Heat 9. His approach was confident and powerful, and the Papara local now moves into Round 2 where he will meet Cole Alves (HAW), Matahi Drollet (PYF) and Stellio Bobet (PYF).
"I have a little bit of pressure (as defending event winner), I was stressing a little bit to be honest," said Tefaafana. "But I know I feel good and feel confident at home, I just had to pick the right waves and do my job and I did it."
The Tahitian competed in the last two QS 6,000's, the Burton Automotive Pro and Vissla Sydney Surf Pro and plans to travel to Japan for the Ichinomiya Chiba Open in May followed by a string of events in Europe. Last year he qualified for his very first Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a prestigious event that takes place along the North Shore of Oahu from November 12 - December 8, and hopes to make his way to Hawaii again this winter for another opportunity.
"It was my first Triple Crown and it was such a new experience for me," said Tefaafana. "I had never really surfed there in contests and I learned more than anything else. It was a real lesson for me to go there and I can't wait to go again. This is the main goal and maybe to be in the top 100 for the QS 10,000's next year, but first to win the contest and then get into the Triple Crown for sure."
This year has seen the return of Maui's Ian Gentil (HAW) to competition, who posted a strong runner-up result at the opening QS of the region, the Sunset Open Men's QS 1,000. With stylish frontside surfing, the 22-year-old advanced in first from Round One Heat 7 against Logan Bediamol (HAW), Eli Hanneman (HAW) and Makai McNamara (HAW).
"Papara is standard QS waves, it's what everyone is used to surfing and I just want to get a result and surf some of the other reef breaks while I'm here," said Gentil. "Tahiti is really fun outside of the contest. I wasn't expecting to get what we got at Rangiroa and I was so excited; my first heat I got so many waves that by the second heat I was tired and I had already surfed for four hours before then."
Gentil was a strong contender at the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro 2018 last week after posting a 9.00 and 9.25 in Round 1, however was ousted from the competition by 0.15 points in Round 2 by McNamara. His ultimate goal for competing this year is to qualify for the Vans Triple Crown.
"I kind of just stopped surfing for a little while because I did it for a long time while I was pretty young, and I just got sick of it," Gentil said in a candid post-heat interview. "Now I'm back surfing and having fun, going on these trips to compete, but I think of it as a surf trip, especially in Tahiti, and that makes it fun for me. Having to go through the learning process of starting something fresh is a life lesson and it's a humbling thing to do and I'm trying to just apply what I've learned off-season to the QS."
The Papara Pro Vahine women's division saw two heats complete before a tropical storm forced event organizers to call the event off for the day. The highest single wave score was produced by 3x SUP World Surfing Champion Izzi Gomez (USA), an 8.25 for a combination of manuevers on one of the better waves of the afternoon. Also advancing out of Round 1 from the women's QS 1,000 was Aelan Vaast (PYF), Heimiti Fierro (PYF) and Ariana Shewry (NZL).