Friday, August 10, will kick off Stop No. 7 on the WSL Championship Tour (CT): The Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o. Current World No. 1 Filipe Toledo, 2017 event champ Julian Wilson, World No. 3 Gabriel Medina and local expert Michel Bourez arrived on the island a few days ahead of the waiting period.
Last year, Julian Wilson took a gutsy win over Gabriel Medina - marking his 2017 mid-season comeback and placing him in the World Title conversation. This year though, being ranked No. 2 on the Jeep Leaderboard, Wilson is arriving in Tahiti with significantly more headway. Sitting just 3,940 points behind current No. 1 Filipe Toledo, this event could mark the tipping point in terms of World Title implications.
"Tahiti, is a really special place, and I love coming here," Wilson said. "It feels like a second home and I feel like I have a second family here."
Filipe Toledo is coming off of a dream run at last month's Corona Open J-Bay - Men's. The Brazilian took the win for the second consecutive year in classic conditions - giving him more than enough momentum and confidence heading into the back half of the season. And he isn't taking his current position lightly. Toledo counted out of last weeks Vans US Open of Surfing - Men's QS in order to get to Tahiti early (and has a pretty heavy reef rash to prove it).
"I came over here two weeks ago to train and we've had great waves," Toledo said. "It's been great to get some more time out on the reef and get more familiar with it. I haven't had the best results out here, but I love Tahiti and I'm hoping for a good result this season."
Toledo will take on rookie Yago Dora and local wildcard Tikanui Smith in Round 1.
"It's a super tight race this year and everyone is ripping," Toledo continued. "Every event is important, but I'm feeling confident and prepared."
When it comes to Teahupo'o, Gabriel Medina is well ahead of the game. The World No. 3 won the event in 2014 - the same year he took home the World Title. Last year, he was again poised to take home the event win, until Wilson came back from a combination situation - earning two 9-point rides. It was a whirlwind heat that most are still trying to wrap their minds around. Although he hasn't landed an event win this season - Tahiti could be the place he gains speed.
"It's been an okay year, but I'm still waiting for a Final and a win - that's what you need to be winning World Titles," Medina said. "I feel like I'm surfing well and I'm comfortable at Teahupo'o at all sizes. I'm looking forward to getting some waves."
Michel Bourez has been passionately representing Tahiti on the CT since his inauguration. While he has yet to win the event, his relationship with the heavy wave spot goes unmatched. Bourez will face winner of last week's Vans US Open of Surfing Kanoa Igarashi and Keanu Asing in the opening round.
"I love being home and competing here," Bourez said. "I have all my friends and family here. It's great and great for Tahiti. It's the biggest event of the year for sure."
Watch the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o live daily August 10-21 on the Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.