The (sponsorless) Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o is by far the most important contest of the Championship Tour. Not Pipe, not Surf Ranch, but Chopes. Let’s have a look why.
1. We’re on the slide.
The Championship Tour has six events under the belt, and there are only four more to go after this tournament. Lines are being drawn in sand, strategies are being applied, and the experienced competitors know at this stage exactly what needs to be done to requalify, or to have a final big push for that world title or top five finish. No other event is more important to set a surfer up for the following year, and if you blow it in Tahiti you might be looking down the barrel of a gun by season-end. Then again, paddle out and grab a few bombs and snag a big result and your confidence will be so tangible you’ll be the danger person from then on out. Jeremy Flores comes to mind here as one surfer who throws everything into Chopes, even surfing it with a helmet and a brain injury in 2015, and forcing a requalification that same year from a good result at Chopes.
2. It can break balls and boards.
There are some surfers out there, no matter how good they are, who just prefer waves that are not too massive. Maybe they grew up at a small – wave beach break or maybe they bounced hard on a reef somewhere along their surfing path and they are now a little bit skittish when the water gets shallow and the waves get larger, but they’re not going to like big Teahupo’o. Toledo has a bright red zero next to his heat score back in 2015, something that is going to besmirch his place in history for all time. Teahupo’o with the cameras on is Prime Time, and if you’re not ready, it’ll break you.
3. It is a pre-cursor for Pipe.
If you have the eye of the tiger going into Tahiti and you feel the strength and the energy transmitted by big waves and shallow reefs, there’s good chance that you’re going to have a level of confidence going into Pipe. Confidence is what everyone wants and needs. Pipe is officially still the most intimidating venue on the Championship Tour for many reasons apart from the bone-crushing waves that hammer down 50 meters from the shoreline, so arrive here with a bustle of confidence and you’re already winning. If you’re good with getting down some of those concave Tahiti faces with the reef gleaming back up at you, then you’ll be good at Pipe.
4. It is time for the rookies to impress.
Make or break time boys! If you’ve been drifting around your first year on the CT, not sure what’s going on, adjusting to a different lifestyle than The Grind, and getting whipped by surfers with more experience but less flexibility than you, this is you time to shine! A good showing by a rookie at decent sized Teahupo’o will show the world and the rest of the tour that you’re serious and that you’re determined no matter how heavy the situations get. Throw yourself over a few steep ledges to oblivion and you’ll be even more respected.
5. It is often the turning point for retirees.
This is one that I can just imagine. The first round of the 2015 event was thick and lumpy, strong offshore and every inch of twelve foot. It’s just the most terrifying, unpleasant, survival-mode surfing conceivable. Imagine if you’re on your last year on tour, and you want to finish off in clean style with a good presence all the way through to the last event. All you have left is two beach break events, a wave pool event, and then Pipe. Then a Code Red kind of swell approaches Chopes for the start of the contest waiting period. Parko could find himself in such a situation, and it’s not ideal. Maybe he pulls a muscle or twists an ankle, just in time.
6. It injures people.
In 2014, in a close heat against fellow South African Travis Logie, current Jeep Leaderboard world number five surfer Jordy Smith broke four ribs and tore cartilage after getting belted by a ten foot set after one particularly gnarly wipeout. The injury was bad enough on the day, but it put him out of the next few events and the world title run. He sat out Europe and he had a poor effort in Hawaii to finish the year off at 28th spot. A wipeout at Chopes has the ability to change the stakes for the world title. It’s that intense.
Follow the Teahupo’o Pro on the WSL Event site for 2018.