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|Ricardo Do Santos beat out a star-studded lineup to get his wildcard entry into the Billabong Pro Tahiti.|
Historically, the Air Tahiti Nui Von Zipper Trials champions have a habit of putting a dent in the world title campaigns of their top-seeded rivals. Most notably in 2007 when Brazilian Bruno Santos and local wildcard Manoa Drollet went all the way to the final, finishing first and second, respectively.
Yesterday it was Brazil's Ricardo Do Santos and local hero Heiarii Williams that blazed through a star-studded trials to gain entry into the Billabong Pro Tahiti, which gets underway this coming weekend.
Since wildcards have such a distinguished record at the infamous "Wall of Skulls," a little backstory: it was just after the Teahupoo event four years ago that I first saw Ricardo do Santos. He was hanging with Adriano de Souza, who had remained in Tahiti to fine tune his technique at the infamous lefthander.
It was de Souza's second year on the world tour and his coach had him turning up early to the World Tour breaks and staying after most people had left so he could figure out the waves, the right spots to sit and the types of boards to ride. De Souza was getting a few good waves, but it was the young grommet Do Santos who was nailing enough clean, open and deep tubes for people to start asking his name.
"He's a very good barrel rider," affirmed Jadson Andre after hearing of his fellow countryman's win yesterday. "He's good here, and he spends a lot of time in Hawaii. He knows how to ride the tube."
Do Santos put his tube riding skill to good use in the Air Tahiti Nui Von Zipper Trials' four to six-foot surf, just outlating two-time Trials winner Williams in the 35 minute final.
|Local hero Heiarii Williams (he lives in front of Teahupoo) gained entry into the Billabong Pro Tahiti.|
Williams lives right in front of Teahupoo and spends so much time in the water he knows exactly which wave to pick and exactly the right spot to sit. With a dropping swell, Williams was like a cat on the prowl looking for the right peak to show off his backhand tubing riding skills, while Do Santos used his wave priority to snag most of the open barrels that came through in the final.
There were just two wildcard spots available for the Billabong Pro, whose waiting period commences on Aug. 2. One goes to the winner of the trails, and one to the highest placed Tahitian. It's a bit like Pipeline; nobody in the Top 34 wants to draw a specialist wildcard at Teahupoo. William's has proved dangerous in the past, while do Santos is yet to prove himself at the elite level. Both surfers will draw one of the Billabong Pro's top seeds in Round 1 of the main event.
The surfers in the Top 34 are starting to filter into Teahupoo. Gabe Kling, Dan Ross and the entire Brazilian contingent (bar De Souza, who's still injured) is here. More of the guys will arrive in the next two days, and everyone will be here by Thursday. The swell maps have small waves till later in the week. A "massive 15-foot + tow-in" swell predicted for the Aug. 18 has now been downgraded to a six- to eight-foot paddle-in swell.
The hype at the moment is that the Billabong Pro is finally due some reasonable waves after lackluster conditions over the past few years. With the current weather patterns in place across the lower section of the southern hemisphere the hype could just be right.