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TOP SEEDS FALL TO WILDCARDS IN BILLABONG PRO ROUND TWO
News provided by ASP World Tour on 11 May 2006
While the infamous Teahupoo was churning out some of the most perfect waves of the 2006 season to date, it was a day that many of the top seeds on the Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour would rather forget.
In round two of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, some of the sport’s biggest names such as Mick Fanning (AUS), Phil MacDonald (AUS), Trent Munro (AUS) (who were rated 3rd, 5th and 6th on last year’s ratings) went down to a host of local wildcards and underdogs.
Even three-time world champion and previous event winner Andy Irons (HAW) was extremely close to being given the boot at the hands of another local in Kevin Johnson (PYF).
The three aforementioned "names" who bit the dust were taken down by Heiarri Williams (PYF), Hira Terinatoofa (PYF) and Yuri Sodre (BRA) in the flawless two metre (six foot) waves.
Williams, who has been touted as a future champion by his peers, has fully lived up to his reputation at this event, first, by winning the Von Zipper trials to earn a start in the Billabong Pro, and then by knocking out Fanning in such fine style today.
The 19-year-old natural foot surfer has a fearless approach to Teahupoo and it was highly visible today judging by the way he was standing tall with an air of cockiness inside the deep reef barrels.
The passionate Polynesian youngster was so emotional after the win he burst into tears, such was the magnitude of the occasion.
"Mick Fanning surfed good, but I surfed better than him,” said Williams in broken English. “All my friends and family in the channel were screaming, ‘Go Heiarri, go,’ so I went and I made it. I even cried afterwards. I am so happy."
Williams, in moving through to round three, will have another opportunity to upset as he will now take on Kelly Slater (USA).
Terinatoofa, meanwhile, was also over the moon with his victory over MacDonald.
The two are good friends, having surfed against each other many times in both junior and ASP World Qualifying Series events.
Terinatoofa was casual and controlled right from the heat's outset standing bolt upright inside some of the best barrels seen today.
MacDonald sat patiently in the lineup waiting for anything that would let him crack a big score but it was a case of where ever Terinatoofa went the waves were sure to go.
Terinatoofa locked in the best score of the day – a 9.50 – on a screaming wave where he stood with a slight soul arch as he flew through the tube and then into the channel.
It was then all over for MacDonald while Terinatoofa bowed to the crowd.
"It’s a really great day because three of us Tahitians have made it to round three,” said Terinatoofa. “When the crowd in the channel is cheering it’s very motivating. It gives you confidence.
“My first motivation was seeing the other Tahitians get through because I want to be there with them, I want to enjoy it too. "
Directly following on from Terinatoofa’s win, lesser known Sodre showed Munro the exit door after he grabbed a fantastic tube ride in the dying stages of the heat.
While it looked as though Trent Munro had the wood on Sodre for the bulk of the heat as he slipped in and out of barrel after barrel, Sodre had an ace up his sleeve that he revealed right before the final hooter.
The lanky natural-footer threw himself into an amazing pit for what seemed like an eternity then came out yelling and cheering himself on. He completed the wave by launching into a top turn right over the dry reef before he kicked out.
"It was really hard out there and Trent looked like he was going to beat me,” said Sodre. “I needed an 8.0 and was like, ‘Please God let me make it!’" It was the first heat I’ve made all year, and I am so excited."
At the time of going to press Sodre had been eliminated in the first heat of round three by a rampaging Damien Hobgood (USA).
Narrowly avoiding the event chopping block was Irons who just scraped through his round two, heat one encounter with another red hot local in Kevin Johnson.
Irons was on the back foot for the latter stage of the heat and had to dig deep to grab a wave to cement his progression into round three.
After finding himself in the unusual position of competing in round two after losing to Manoa Drollet (PYF) in controversial circumstances, Irons must have found some compensation in the fact that he was able to surf such amazing waves with only one other surfer out.
He will now attempt to put his world title campaign back on track as he aims to make it through to the business end of the event.
“I was stressing in that heat for sure,” said Irons. “I needed a score at the end and it wasn’t just a little one – I needed a mid-range score, a good score. I got the barrel in those last few minutes and was in there going, ‘I’ve got to make it out, got to make it out, got to make out,’. The score wasn’t way over the mark, but at least it was over."
Irons will now face Drollet again in his round three heat and this time he won’t be taking things lightly.
“This event is such a hyped up event,” said Irons. “Everyone wants to do well here. You think you have an easy draw getting wildcards but really you don’t. They’re a harder draw than most of the guys on tour. Everyone can ride barrels on tour, but not as good as these guys."
As mentioned, at the time of going to press, the first three heats of round three were underway with Hobgood putting on a blistering showing in heat one to defeat Sodre.
Hobgood posted the highest total score of the day, an 18.33 and was indicating that he is in his best form ever for this event.
The Floridian is eager to go one better than last year where in the final against Kelly Slater (USA) he injured himself and had to be dragged from the lineup.
Organisers are eager to push on with the event given conditions tomorrow will be similar to today’s.
They will reconvene in the morning at 6am and will be aiming for a 7am start.
For the full rundown of the day’s play visit www.aspworldtour.com or www.billabongpro.com to find the heat by heat updates in news and for quotes from all the surfers of the day go to the media centre.
Round 2 results:
Heat 1: Andy Irons (HAW) 15.67 def. Kevin Johnson (AUS) 14.80
Heat 2: Heiarii Williams (PYF) 14.33 def Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.23
Heat 3: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.50 def. Steve Pierson (PYF) 8.43
Heat 4: Hira Terinatoofa (PYF) 17.50 def. Phil MacDonald (AUS) 8.13
Heat 5: Yuri Sodre (BRA) 17.07 def. Trent Munro (AUS) 14.00
Heat 6: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 7.50 def. Pedro Henrique (BRA) 7.16
Heat 7: Jarrad Howse (AUS) 5.90 def Tom Whitaker (AUS) 2.76
Heat 8: Mikael Picon (FRA) def. Pancho Sullivan (HAW)
Heat 9: Paulo Moura (BRA) 15.00 def. Davey Weare (ZAF) 10.83
Heat 10: Cory Lopez (USA) 11.60 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 9.83
Heat 11: Luke Stedman (AUS) 14.67 def Peterson Rosa (BRA) 13.33
Heat 12: Victor Ribas (BRA) 12.44 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 9.00
Heat 13: Fred Patacchia (HAW) 16.83 def. Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 7.00
Heat 14: Jake Paterson (AUS) 16.17 def. Nathan Hedge (AUS) 5.50
Heat 15: Darren O'Rafferty (AUS) 10.64 def Bede Durbidge (AUS) 8.83
Heat 16: Danny Wills (AUS) 9.83 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 9.50
Round 3 results:
Heat 1: Damien Hobgood (USA) 18.33 def. Yuri Sodre (BRA) 11.50
Heat 2: Fred Patacchia (HAW) 17.27 def. Paulo Moura (BRA) 11.23
Heat 3: Cory Lopez (USA) 16.17 def Jake Paterson (AUS) 11.50