The WSL's Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region will cross the Pacific Ocean from Oahu to French Polynesia for a variety of surf events including Men's and Women's QS 1,000 competitions and Men's and Women's 18-and-Under divisions. The first event of the Tahitian leg is the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro, a Men's QS 1,000, with a holding window from March 2 - 6, followed by the Papara Pro Open, a Men's and Women's QS 1,000 and Men's and Women's Pro Junior from March 9 - 13.
The Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro is one of the most exciting competitions on the regional schedule due to its remote location, relatively unknown world-class wave, and lifestyle experience for traveling athletes. The atoll of Rangiroa is located approximately 210 miles northeast of Tahiti and is made up of over 400 small islets and sandbars, making it one of the largest chains of islands in the world. While there are many waves throughout Rangiroa, the competition takes place at Avatoru, the Northern tip of Rangiroa, and boasts a barreling right-handed reef break that has historically offered excellent conditions during the holding window.
Kai Lenny (HAW), a highly acclaimed waterman who recently stunned the world with brilliant big wave surfing at the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge, is set to compete for his third year in Tahiti and looks forward to elevating his QS game among the gifted field of Hawaii and Tahiti contenders. The 80-man format will comprise some of the best in the region, including top-performer Enrique Turo Ariitu (PYF), 16-year-old Eimeo Czermak (PYF), and Hawaiian barrel specialist, Mason Ho (HAW).
"My motivation for competing in the QS events is to raise my level of high-performance surfing in smaller waves," said Lenny. "I love to compete and I find that the QS has such a high caliber of surfers and competing with them raises my level of surfing to greater levels. I really look forward to pushing my high-performance surfing and learning from the best!"
While Lenny is known to chase the biggest waves that the world has to offer, he looks forward to another opportunity to compete in the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro and has enjoyed his experiences in Tahiti over the years thanks to the colorful culture and phenomenal waves.
"I love surfing Rangiroa because the wave is so much fun," Lenny added. "It's also a wave that has so much personality making it really challenging and fun to surf it properly. I love the island as the Tahitians are such wonderful people and the beauty is amazing. Any time that I can travel to Tahiti to surf, I leave feeling like I have learned so much and also feeling like I have a lot more to learn."
Tahitian standout O'Neill Massin (PYF) has been competing on the QS full-time for over five years and has come close to tasting event victory both in Tahiti and in Hawaii. He became the WSL Regional QS Winner in 2018 after an impressive year including two fifth-place finishes (at the Sunset Open and Papara Pro Open Tahiti) and runner-up at the HIC Pro. The Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro signals his first competition of 2020 and the power surfer will likely emerge at the top thanks to his upbringing in French Polynesia.
"I decided to start my 2020 season with the two Hawaii/Tahiti Nui regional events held here in French Polynesia," said Massin. "I am truly happy and excited to be able to participate at the Rangiroa Pro, which offers a magnificent wave, great scenery and a welcoming population."
Following his time in Tahiti, Massin will contend the Challenger Series, the highest-rated tier of QS competition with 10,000 points on offer, for the second half of the year. His other main goal for 2020 is a second regional win for the automatic entry into main QS events for 2021. The Hawaii/Tahiti Nui ranking is currently led by Hawaii phenom Billy Kemper (HAW), who earned a win at the first event of the year, the Sunset Open QS 1,000, and a Round 5 result at the Volcom Pipe Pro QS 5,000. Kemper is not entered to surf in Tahiti and leaves the door open for another athlete to potentially pull ahead.
Ahead of the competition, the Rangiroa community will gather at Avatoru for a rich display of island culture to welcome traveling athletes to the island. Traditional dance, music and food will be presented and the governing body of Tahitian surfing, the Tahitian Surfing Federation, will offer speeches and gratitude toward sponsors, partners and the local community who help make the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro such a valuable opportunity.
The Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro will be webcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com to allow fans the rare occasion of witnessing Rangiroa's beautiful barreling wave from the comfort of home. Tahiti Nui Television (TNTV) is partnering with the Tahitian Surfing Federation and the World Surf League to provide the LIVE webcast with multi-angle views and drone perspectives to enhance the experience, along with replay, scoring, athlete interviews and more.
Tune in when the competition kicks off from March 2 - 6, 2020. For more information, please visit the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro event page on WorldSurfLeague.com.