2015 World Surf League Billabong Pro Tahiti recap
Back on top in Tahiti
Jeremy Flores' road to victory at the Billabong Pro Tahiti was fraught with adversity, but ultimately the former rookie of the year overcame to post perhaps the most inspiring win of the 2015 season. Battling back from a head injury to beat 2014 world champ Gabriel Medina in the final, Flores proved that a win on the WSL World Tour means a lot more than a big pay day and some ratings points.
Near perfect opening
Opening up the final of the Billabong Pro Tahiti with a near-perfect 9.87, Jeremy Flores took an early and convincing lead. Gabriel Medina would battle back, with the last 15 minutes of the heat becoming a dogfight, but ultimately it was the Frenchman that took his first win at Teahupo'o.
Medina's near miss
Suffering a bit of a competition hangover after his 2014 world title, Medina's results for most of this season have been forgettable. But on a bit of a roll as of late, he handled all comers in Tahiti with renewed poise and competitive hunger. Finishing runner-up to Flores, Medina narrowly missed the chance to become the first person to win back-to-back contests in Tahiti.
Years in the making
Flores' win in Tahiti was his first world tour victory since he took out the Pipe Masters in 2010. "It's like a second home to me here," he said on the podium.
A few last barrels
After announcing that he would retire at the end of the 2015 season, 17-year world tour vet CJ Hobgood came into the Tahiti Pro with the hopes of getting a few last barrels and saying goodbye to a place where hes enjoyed considerable competitive success. Going one better, he locked in a perfect 10 for the most memorable wave of the event and was awarded the A.I. Award for his commitment. "Last time I made the final out here was with Andy Irons (in 2010) when he won and he was really emotional," said Hobgood. "That moment I shared with him will be with me for the rest of my life."
Extended waiting period
Dealing with seven consecutive down days and a fair amount of wind and rain, WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow was forced to play the waiting game at Teahupo'o, but when the waves came he was ready. "We've been waiting for this swell -- it's arrived, it's building and getting better throughout the day. Right now there's some great tube rides out there and we're excited," he said as the surf finally came up at the end of the waiting period.
Hoping for the best
Hoping to prove himself at Teahupo'o after a dramatic win at the U.S. Open, this year Filipe Toledo posted his best finish at the Billabong Pro Tahiti. After advancing all the way into Round 5, a handful of nagging injuries caught up with him and the run came to an end.
Earlier this summer, Flores suffered a heavy wipeout while on a surf trip in Indonesia and smashed his head on the reef. Still suffering from a fractured skull, doctors and family advised him against competing in Tahiti, but instead he strapped on a helmet and went out and won the event.
A game of millimeters
"Teahupo'o is sometimes a game of millimeters," said Owen Wright, who ended his run with a crushing loss to Medina in the semifinals. "There were two waves that I fell off on right at the exit that I believe would have got me the scores to get me through the heat."
The water patrol and webcast teams got their sweat on while the contest was on hold. Kai "Borg" Garcia leads by example.
Best of the year
John John Florence faced Gabriel Medina in a heat that Kelly Slater called "the best of the year." Trading nine-point rides, Florence was barely edged out by the 2014 world champ.
Coming up short
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Year in and year out, Josh Kerr is one of the best at Teahupo'o, but somehow he hasnt been able to break through for a win. This time around, he came up short against his longtime "friend and inspiration" CJ Hobgood in the quarters.
Slater's 2015 woes continued in Tahiti. Solid in the early rounds, Flores put him in the hurt locker in their quarterfinal duel. While he hasn't made a final this year, and only made one semi. He's sitting sixth in the rankings, and if he can get on a roll, he could be within striking distance of a record 12th world title.
All on the line
Kai Otton puts it all on the line every time he surfs a heat in Tahiti. Bouncing off the bottom and suffering reef cuts on his feet and hands, he kept pushing through until the end, when Medina dispatched him in the quarters.
A "playful" day
Medina fades into the pit on what would be considered a relatively playful day by Teahupo'o standards.
End of the road
It's the end of the road in Tahiti for 2015. And it's not a such bad place to spend a couple of weeks, even with an extended waiting period.