Slater pulls out of Teahupoo, potential start today

  • Cestari / WSL

    Thursday’s opening ceremony for the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo kicked off the 2018 Championship Tour event. Lay days were called for Friday and Saturday, but today could have better conditions to get round one underway.

The best Teahupoo sessions may already be behind us because the forecast isn’t looking as promising as many of us would hope. Lay days were called during the first two days of the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo, but the first round could get underway today as a new swell moves in this afternoon, according to the latest Surfline projections.

There’s still potential magic to be made, but it seems like the Trial rounds enjoyed most of the glory. Perfect but treacherous barrels rolled through the lineup for the hopefuls attempting to get themselves into the main draw. If the organizers could have supplanted finals day into that session, they surely would have. But it could end up being a less dramatic wave for the remainder of the contest.

Coming through the Trials were Mateia Hiquily and Tikanui Smith, who each earned wild card entries into round one. Smith has had some competition success in the past, finishing the 2015 Qualifying Series season in 52nd place and earning runner-up at the Australian Open that season. He’ll be taking on current points leader Filipe Toledo and Yago Dora in the opening round.

However, one name no longer in the draw is Kelly Slater, who pulled out of the event citing his foot ailment that has sidelined him for all but one event this season. Slater competed at Jeffreys Bay, but lost his second-round matchup with Jordy Smith. The 11-time world champ seems focused on getting healthy for the Surf Ranch contest next month.

It’s a shame to know that neither Slater nor John John Florence will be in action this week. The pair had one of the best heats of all time with their semifinal matchup at Teahupoo in 2014. They then faced off in the final two seasons later. With both out due to injury, much of the star power is absent this time around. But with the conditions seeming to be less predictable than most years, perhaps some new candidates will elevate their performances and create more memories.

The less traditional Teahupoo is, the more it favors Toledo. With his unimpressive history at this event, along with Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina having lots of success here in the past, there wouldn’t be much reason to think his points lead would be very safe. But if the wave acts like more of a heavy left with not as many barrel opportunities, then Toledo can showcase his dynamic style and remain a threat.

It appears that today and Monday are likely for the early rounds, but things get hazy beyond then. Surfline says the current swell should peter out and a new one should roll in later in the week but the conditions are still difficult to project.

Some lost star power and a questionable forecast have somewhat lowered my expectations, but maybe that will set up some major surprises.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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