The WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region will centralize on the black sand beach of Papara for a full lineup of competitive surfing divisions including a Men's and Women's QS 1,000 and a Men's and Women's Pro Junior for the Papara Pro Open Tahiti. After an exciting finish to the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro, competitors will fly back to the main island of Tahiti for the second leg of competition at Papara, which has a holding window from March 9 - 13.
O'Neill Massin (PYF), who earned equal third at the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro, will head into Papara brimming with confidence and enthusiasm. While he has yet to earn a victory in his home island, he has tasted triumph when he secured the 2018 WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui QS title after a strong competitive year in the region.
Entered as the No. 1 seed thanks to his 2019 QS ranking, the Tahitian is eager to keep the Papara title on home turf, which it has remained in all except for 2016 when Dimitri Ouvre (FRA) won the event. Massin's best result at the beach break was a 5th place in 2018 when he went head-to-head with eventual winner and fellow Tahitian Taumata Puhetini, who has won the event three times, including back-to-back in 2018 and 2019. However, Puhetini is absent from the 2020 draw and leaves the door open for a fresh face on the podium.
One of the local favorites this year is Kauli Vaast (PYF), 18, who earned runner-up to Puhetini in 2019 along with a second consecutive victory at the Papara Pro Junior. Vaast is now fresh off of a runner up finish at the Sunset Open Men's QS 1,000, which took place in January 2020 at Sunset Beach, Oahu and will be a formidable competitor given his versatility and youthful flair.
A professional competitor on the CT since 2009, Tahitian Michel Bourez will make an appearance in the Papara Pro Open Tahiti for the first time in over a decade. Hailing from the Tuamotu Islands, Bourez will make history this year as the first Tahitian to represent surfing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, surfing under the French flag, and will create a buzz on the ground at Papara as the sole CT surfer in the draw.
Known for his powerful surfing and consistent results, Bourez will be tough to beat and likely the most feared opponent in the draw. He has been sharpening his toolkit this year through free surfing trips around French Polynesia, hunting barrels around remote island chains and finding perfection along the way. Fans will be eager to watch him perform live at Papara, one of the surf breaks where he fine-tuned his competitive savvy, once the event kicks off.
On the Women's side, a mix of surfers from Hawaii, Tahiti, Brazil, Australia, and the USA will make up the field with Oahu's Luana Silva (HAW) headlining after her recent win at the Mothernest Great Lakes Pro QS 1,000 and 5th place finish at the Sisstrevolution Central Coast Pro QS 3,000. Silva has cut her teeth on the intimidating waves along Oahu's North Shore and has had consistently good results as a professional competitor around the world.
At just 15 years old, Silva will compete in both the Women's QS and Women's Pro Junior at Papara in a hunt for her maiden regional win. With last year's winner, Gabriela Bryan (HAW) not entered, Silva has a strong shot at the Papara title but will need to stave off fierce Tahitian competitors the likes of Aelan Vaast and the Fierro sisters.
With fun-sized waves in the chest-high range, light and variable winds and clean conditions forecast for Papara over the next week, competitors will have the opportunity to showcase high-performance surfing and sharp fundamentals at the beach break. Contest organizers will assess conditions and determine a call the morning of Monday, March 9, but all athletes will be standing by for a potential start to their Papara campaign.