The Winners and Losers of the Billabong Pro Tahiti 2017

The Billabong Pro Tahiti is done, in three fast days it was run and won! So let’s hoist up John B’s sail and see how the main sail sets, but before we boat on to the Hurley Pro Trestles, let’s pick the carcass a little more and decipher some winners and losers out of French Polynesia.

Winner: Julian Wilson (1st)

He won the comp! He won Tahiti! He’s a Teahupo’o Champion! And in becoming one he also became the seventh winner from seven events in this crazy CT season. Fired up against Gabriel Medina, it was a great, great final in a relatively average event (by Teahupo’o standards), and was the third CT victory of Julian’s career.

Interestingly, Julian has a pretty spotty track record in finals. Here they are:

Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, 2016 – Lost to Sebastien Ziets
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, 2015 – Lost to Filipe
Fiji Pro, 2015 – Lost to Owen Wright
J-Bay Open, 2015 – Draw to Mick and a shark
Billabong Pipe Masters, 2014 – Won against Gabriel
Hurley Pro Trestles, 2013 – Lost to Taj
Rip Curl Pro Portugal, 2012 – Won against Gabriel
Quiksilver Pro France, 2011 – Lost to Gabriel

Did you pick up the weird little bit of trivia in that list? In all three of Julian’s event wins, he has beaten Gabriel Medina in the final. Every other final he’s been in he’s lost. Isn’t that bizarre? It’s also interesting because Gabriel Medina is a notoriously hard surfer to compete against, but with a 3-1 win loss record, Julian is one of the few surfers who seems to rise to his best opposite Gabby’s intensity. He must get so stoked when he gets through to the final and sees that Gabby has too, instead of say, well basically anyone else on the tour. Julian’s in the Title race now, which is where he belongs.

Loser: Joel Parkinson (13th)

Another year gone without a Tahiti win. How many more bites at the cherry are left in the fantastic career of Joel Parkinson? His Pipe Masters title, his three Bells victories, his 25 Triple Crowns, all his other wins, and his World Title will keep him comfortable with his legacy long into a well earned retirement, but Tahiti sure would be a nice on to tick off, and the taste of that loss to Mick in the final in 2013 is still a little sour.

Winner: Jordy Smith (3rd)

If you gave Jordy the option of signing off on a semi-final finish at Teahupo’o at the beginning of the year, you suspect he’d put a pen to that paper in a heartbeat. He’d probably sign off on a quarter-final finish come to think of it, such has been his form out there in the past. With a third in Tahiti he gets a keeper result, he claims the no.1 spot on the leaderboard (and the yellow jersey which probably suits his swagger more than anyone in the top five), and he heads to the Hurley Pro Trestles as an equal favourite. A Jordy Smith with confidence is a dangerous prospect, and he just knocked out the World Champ at one of the World Champ’s most familiar waves on tour. Jordy’s World Title chances have never looked stronger than right now.

Loser: Mick Fanning (13th)

Well, that’s the 2017 title gone then, isn’t it?

Winner: Kelly Slater (injured)

Question: What’s worse than missing an event you dominate year in year out? Answer: Missing it when it’s absolutely pumping. Kelly couldn’t have timed his broken foot better, a year where for the most part Teahupo’o wasn’t really Teahupo’o.

Loser: Adriano DeSouza (13th)

After starting the year consistently strong, the Billabong Pro Tahiti marked Adriano’s third 13th place finish in a row. That’s a mighty mid year speed-bump, and its tossed him out of the top five and possibly the World Title race too.

Winner: Joan Duru (5th)

Any rookie that claims a quarter final spot in any event has to strike that event up as a win, right? Especially when you win both your three man heats and take down Parko in Round 3 to get there. Solid.

Loser: The WSL Commentary Team

The Billabong Pro Tahiti showed a slight lack of depth in the commentary team. With Ross Williams out of the booth this year to take the role of John John Florence’s coach / go surf in the Maldives Retirement Village Surf Comp Paradise event, Ronnie Blakey subbing out for this leg, and no Barton Lynch or Shaun Tomson style expert added to the mix either, the WSL was spread thin with their on-air talent (not to mention having to broadcast some pretty long, trying days). Subsequently, the broadcast, which usually gets better with every event, suffered in Tahiti.

Winner: Kolohe Andino (3rd)

Kolohe went into his Round 4 heat against two goofy-footed surfers, one a former World Champ and past event winner, the other the World No.1. Kolohe took it out. Gabriel got him back in the semi-final, and Kolohe is still probably a little pissed about that, but a 3rd at Tahiti is a great result for the guy, especially coming off a last place at J-Bay, his second 25th of the year.

Winner: Connor O’Leary (9th)

Round 5 in a rookie year at Teahupo’o?! You’re kidding me? Connor O’Leary is a bloody hero. With four events left in the year, O’Leary’s in the top ten and – based on past years’ scores around the cut-off – has enough points to lock in his spot for next year. Win!

Loser: Jeremy Flores (13th)

There are a couple of waves on tour where Jeremy Flores is truly world class, and they tend to be the most high profile spots on tour. He’s a Pipe Master, and he’s also the owner of Teahupo’o perfect heat, a Teahupo’o event win, and an AI Award. He’d be bummed his Teahupo’o campaign stopped in Round 3 this year, not that he was helped by the conditions.

Video: Happier times with happier music for Jeremy.

Loser: Matt Wilkinson (9th)

While ninth is by no means a disaster of a result for a guy with his eye on the Title, for the second year in a row Wilko went into Tahiti as the World No.1, and for the second year in a row, he left it as not. Good news for Wilko though is that when you strike his two lowest scores off the register, he’s still looking very strong. Let’s go!

Winner: Gabriel Medina (2nd)

It has to suck losing to Julian Wilson in the final. AGAIN. But Gabriel Medina was the form surfer of the event, and for the first time this year Gabriel Medina was back to surfing like the Gabriel Medina. The World Champ. The star. The competitor. It was great to see, and for entertainment value almost filled the big hole at Teahupo’o made with Kelly’s absence.

Loser: Ross Williams (5th)

Speaking of Ross Williams, what ya doing surfing in the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy, Ross? John John, the best surfer in the world, needs you. He came fifth, Ross! Fifth!!! And if John John doesn’t need you, we do. Didn’t you promise us at the beginning of the year that you would commentate some select events? You did, Ross. You promised. I remember. We all remember.

Mike Jennings