The pristine righthander of Rangiroa turned on for the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro, a men's QS 1,000, to determine the finals day draw. A building swell created an afternoon of rifling barrels with five-to-six foot, occasional plus, clean conditions throughout the day. Rounds 2 and 3 were completed in their entirety to set up Quarterfinal duals as competitors relished in the incredible conditions on hand.
Round 2 provided a highlight reel all its own leading into one of the event's premier heats in Round 3 Heat 1 featuring one of the world's most fun surfers to watch Mason Ho taking on fellow event threats Makai McNamara, Tahitian O'Neill Massin and 2018 event victor Sheldon Paishon. Ho started strong heading into the back half of the heat when the wave of the day breached the horizon and the Oahu, Hawaii, native was there to meet it. The 31-year-old locked in and drove through the barrel to emerge with cheers from the beach and a perfect 10 from the judges.
A battle for second unfolded as the remaining three competitors went wave-for-wave with Massin earning an excellent 8.77 to edge in front of Paishon. In the end Massin held on to the elation of the Tahitian crowd on hand with Ho stealing the show.
"Tens, the goal, finally I nailed the goal (laughs)," said Ho. "It was just the most beautiful blue and there was a moment when I thought I wasn't going to get out but it let me out and I was so amazed. That was a crazy heat just having those guys and it's always a bummer when you have to surf against your friends unless it's in the Final. But I wouldn't have got that 10 if it wasn't for Sheldon (Paishon) and Makai (McNamara) pushing me to that."
The flurry of barreling perfection continued right into the next heat with excellent waves as Logan Bediamol put on a jaw-dropping performance. By heat's end, Bediamol replaced a 7.60 and 8.07 with a near-perfect 9.00 and 17.50 heat total. The Maui, Hawaii, competitor surpassed his career-best equal ninth as he moved into the Quarterfinals with plenty of momentum moving into finals day. (Interview in video)
Turo Ariitu salvaged near-elimination and found redemption in the final ten minutes of the heat to represent brilliantly for his Tahitian crowd in attendance. Fellow Tahitian Heifara Tahutini Jnr. also advanced after taking over the advancing position from Brodi Sale in the dying minutes. Ariitu's Round 2 performance was quite the opposite after finding an excellent 8.33 to start the heat. He finished strong, carrying that momentum forward as he looks to bring the event win home.
Adding his name to the thriving Tahitian crew, Tereva David continued to surge with a big Round 2 win before taking on a hefty Round 3 bout against event standout Eli Hanneman, along with in-form competitors Jackson Bunch (HAW) and Makana Franzmann. David held the lead heading into the final ten minutes before Hanneman locked into another Rangiroa gem, after earning a near-perfect 9.00 in Round 2, and came out after the wave regurgitated to earn an excellent 8.17. Hanneman looks to go one better than his Semifinal finish last year and find himself into a first-ever QS Final.