Upsets roll through at unpredictable Teahupoo

  • Cestari / WSL

    Jesse Mendes got just enough in the final minute to eliminate Sebastian Zietz in round two, Monday at the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo. Mendes needed a 4.37 to turn the heat and got a 4.70 to advance into round three. Today is expected to be a second straight lay day, with action possibly resuming Thursday or Friday.

Two days and two rounds are complete with some major upsets having already occurred at the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo. The ocean went flat Tuesday and a second straight lay day is likely today, but a new swell could pick up Thursday, according to Surfline projections.

It hasn’t been your typical Teahupoo contest. The waves haven’t been massive and those picturesque opportunities haven’t been plentiful. That’s not to say there haven’t been any. The barrel is still the boss and those who have gotten into them and emerged cleanly have typically been pulling off the bigger scores and the heat wins. It’s just a much narrower and less heavy tube ride than what we are accustomed to seeing.

Tikanui Smith, a local wild card, pulled off the first major upset of the competition when he outpointed Julian Wilson in the second round. Theirs was a slow heat and Smith earned the victory on just a 7.67 total as Wilson couldn’t even find a backup score. This seemed like a good spot for Wilson to overtake Filipe Toledo for the yellow jersey, but that won’t be happening now. Wilson will have a lot more ground to make up and he could potentially fall out of the second-place position.

Wiggolly Dantas barely survived to upset fellow Brazilian Willian Cardoso in round two. Cardoso needed a 7.23 in the final minute and dropped nicely into a quick barrel. It was a good sized wave and if the ride had been a little longer, he surely would have gotten the score. But he came up fractions short with a 7.17 and will slip down from his seventh-place position in the standings.

Griffin Colapinto will also fall from the top 10 with his loss to Ian Gouveia. It’s just the second time all season that Gouveia has advanced beyond round two, also just the second time that Colapinto has failed to do so.

Conner Coffin was dropped by injury replacement Michael February in another slow heat, with February edging out the 7.67 to 7.60 win. Coffin had been inching towards the top 10 with back-to-back quarterfinal showings, but this one will be a throwaway.

Matt Wilkinson losing in round two is typically an upset, but it happened for the fifth time in seven contests as Kanoa Igarashi pulled off the win. After finishing fifth on tour the past two seasons, Wilkinson is in serious danger of falling off the CT. He entered Teahupoo in 30th for the season and won’t be improving upon that ranking. He hasn’t put in the Qualifying Series work this year and really needs some strong results at the final four stops to try to get into the top 22.

Sebastian Zietz was Monday’s final upset victim as he couldn’t survive a last-minute wave from Jesse Mendes. The two were close throughout the heat and Mendes needed a 4.37 on his last effort. It came through as a 4.70 after the horn had sounded and Zietz heard the bad news as he floated on his board with nothing more he could do.

Round three will feature Toledo taking on Tikanui Smith, as the wild card looks for a second upset to shake up the world title race. Ezekiel Lau won his first-round heat and will take on rookie Michael Rodrigues. Kolohe Andino and Frederico Morais will also battle in what should be one of the more interesting matchups of the round.

Guys throwing airs and carving up the lip isn’t typical Teahupoo but it’s what we have this time around, along with some good barrels thrown into the mix. All skills need to be on display this week and we’ll see who puts together the complete package.

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

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