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Slater threading a Tahitian beast in 2014

Event Preview: Tahiti Pro

With J-Bay a distant memory, and the putrid taste of Huntington still souring our collective mouths, it’s pretty easy to get excited about Teahupo’o. It will be interesting to see how the tour elite handle going left, especially when it’s double-overhead and 1′ deep. Traditionally, Tahiti is where the world title picture starts coming into focus too; with only 36% of the title points up for grabs after the final siren sounds at The End of the Road, the line between rippers and trippers becomes more apparent. As Parko reminds us, at Teahupo’o “there is nowhere to hide and nowhere to run”.

The Wave

If J-Bay is the most respected wave on tour in terms of overall quality, then Teahupo’o has to be the most respected out of raw fear. Surfline’s slightly dated but detailed ‘Mechanics of Teahupo’o’ gives an overview as to the background and physics of the break, and five-times event winner Kelly also weighs in on the analysis with his ‘vision’ series video. Or you could just watch some footage of multiple 10s from years past.

For those uninterested in jumping tabs, here are the basics: Teahupo’o’s unique super-deep-to-super-shallow bathymetry makes for a short, intense left-hand reef-break that can range from small and playful to career defining. Barrels are definitely the main scoring option, which is good because most surfers would be too fearful to attempt anything but a white-knuckle straight line to the channel when it’s big. There is the potential to throw down manoeuvres when the swell backs off, but that’s not we’re watching for and the WSL know it. Importantly, and unlike the former tour event at Fiji, locals and trials winners have traditionally done OK out here. Irrespective of the size, Tahiti rewards surfers with absolute commitment, self-belief, and, of course, a solid left-hand barrel game.

For the purposes of our event metrics, we will be running averages in left-hand reef breaks that offer waves in 4-8’+ range, although the typical wave height is around 6′.


The link to the official forecast is up, but it’s still a little vague on the back half of the waiting period. In fact, their exact words are:

No major swell is on the radar right now but there is high potential for a decent swell to develop within the event window.

That said, there should still be clean head-high-plus waves available for the opening day and, depending on the fruits of the long term models, they may even try to get past the onerous R1/R2 slog in order to then hold out for the quality stuff later in the waiting period.


Surfers OUT :

John John Florence – arguably the greatest surfer in the world, John’s absence is always a big loss. He has undergone surgery for his ACL injury, and is already back in the water (albeit paddling). He will be replaced for the remainder of the season by Caio Ibelli.

Leonardo Fioravanti – still out and recovering from a re-dislocated shoulder. There is no specific return date for Leo, but maybe the limited paddling required at the Ranch event could see him return in the freshwater.

Mikey Wright – Still dealing with an ongoing back issue that has plagued him for around 18 months, so we’re not sure exactly what his plan is for 2019.

Surfers IN:

Caio Ibelli – will be replacing John John for the remainder of the season. It turns out that all of the hand-wringing about injury wildcards for 2019 was in vain; Kelly and Caio get a full season, and only Ethan Ewing seems to have missed out in the whole exchange.

Frederico Morais – again takes a replacement spot for Mikey based on his 2018 CT ranking.

Matahi Drollet – the WSL announced Mahati’s entry in the event once Mikey’s withdrawal was official. It’s good to see them getting in early and making these announcement with plenty of notice, and I have to say that he’s a worthy addition (skip to 2:10 to see his Teahupoo credentials), but I still wonder where the hell Ethan Ewing is in all of this? Why hasn’t the WSL’s 3rd replacement surfer seen a single event despite all of the injuries this season?

Kauli Vaast – the young teen charger has put in plenty of hours at Teahupo’o, and it showed today with a win in the event trials against some quality opposition.

Tyler Newton – the Kuai native was the trails runner-up and earns his 2nd CT berth after a 37th in the 2012 Pipe Masters.

Heat Draw

The wildcards have been seeded and the draw is complete:

Round 1 Heat Draw

Also, If you don’t want to wade through the confusion of seeding, brackets and tiers, but want to play around with possible match-ups in future rounds, then check out fantasy surf bracket.

[table id=295 /]

Selection Notes


Gabriel – it was neck-and-neck between Gabby and the GOAT for bragging rights when it comes to Tahiti, but the Brazilian just edged out Kelly due to his win % and AHS for the season. It is important to note that Medina rates in the top 3 surfers for every relevant statistic for this event. He’s been in 5 of the last 6 finals at this event and should be on your team. Just pick him.

Kelly – while our data sets only go back through the past 7 season, it’s important to note that Kelly has won here 5 times (a record). He ranked in the top 5 for almost every relent metric at this event. He tops several important data sets such as highest AHS in lefts, reefs, 6-8′ waves as well as his win % and AHS at this very event.

Owen – last-year’s finalist represents reasonably good value for our 3rd-ranked metrics-based surfer. He isn’t quite the fearless barrel-tamer that he once was, but he still charges, especially in these waves.

Florez/Ace –  both represent potential within the mid-range price zone. Maybe you can take both?


Jack Freestone – while there are a few other rookies or 2nd-year surfers with similar metrics, Jack has had a little more time on tour than the rest of his cohort. This means that his poor averages are more reliable.

Jadson – he can charge with the best of them on his day, but he’s repping some poor data coming into this event.

Caio – I wanted to recommend him based on the amount of corn dragging action he’s seen in his warm-ups these past few days/weeks, but his averages are too much of a red flag.



Here’s the thing about data-driven fantasy selections: they almost always guarantee you a safe, bankable score. What they don’t earn you is a winning score, a score that takes risks with an against-the odds darkhorse-come-good. For that, you need to back yourself with a solid sleeper pick. Here are my non-data-based suggestions:

Top Seeds

Honestly, there are no terrible picks here (except John, ranked 3rd). The trick is to find someone who isn’t named Robert Slater or Gabriel Medina who will do well enough to justify their selection. Filipe will have few selections and would be an amazing contrary selection if he can do well, but Ryan Callinan has surfed a few trials here in the past is my preferred dark horse tip.


Caio has been in Tahiti for a while, scoring some great waves and getting his bearings. Will it guarantee success? Hell no. But it can’t hurt, and Caio is an otherwise unlikely pick for the masses.

Low Seeds

The wildcards are hard to go past, but they could prove popular for this event. We’re quietly hoping to see some of that 2017 Volcom Pipe Pro magic (beating Bruce Irons and John John among others) from Soli here in the south Pacific.


Fantasy Surf Sessions is just about to begin it’s Phase 3 gameplay upgrades, which will introduce player clubhouses, the ability to view other players’ teams, and make some minor interface refinements. It’s probably the most exciting set of changes we’ve made since our initial launch, and we’ll keep you updated as to when they go live.

Until then, make sure you log in and set your team so that you’re in the running for our event prizes (yep; every single event).

Good luck!

1 thought on “Event Preview: Tahiti Pro

  1. Thanks for the info, as always. Is it just ludicrous not to pick Gaby or Kelly? Also, anyway you could update that bracket to the current event?

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