Teahupoo, Tahiti — Keala Kennelly defeated fellow Kauaian Rochelle Ballard to win the 2003 Billabong Pro Teahupoo (Chow-poo). The women’s World Championship Tournament (WCT) resumed in great conditions this morning, running through quarterfinals and semis, before climaxing with the crowning of this year’s champion.
Clean 4-5 ft surf was on offer at Teahupoo this morning. Unfavorable south winds did increase during the fourth quarterfinal, so competition was placed on hold for one hour. As the wind subsided and the sun emerged from the clouds, boatloads of spectators filled the channel to cheer on the finalists.
Kennelly, the undisputed Queen of Teahupoo, today clinched an amazing fourth event title at the life-threatening venue. Having won the first World Qualifying Series (WQS) tournament staged at the shallow reef break in 1998, the 24-year-old has continued to dominate each year, and now holds a stunning record of four victories from six starts. Significant, too, is the fact she finally claimed consecutive crowns, after all previous three had occurred on alternating years.
Against close friend Ballard in the 35-minute decider, Kennelly remained the clear favorite. Unfortunately the ocean failed to produce the goods, and both barrel riding maestros sat for the majority waiting for bigger set waves that never came. After a couple of low scores the goofy footer held a slender lead, then towards the end locked in the final’s best single score of 6.0 with a small tube and committed re-entry over the exposed inside reef. Having earlier posted nine plus scores in each heat, as well as this year’s only perfect 10-point ride in third round, she wanted more of the same but achieved the goal nonetheless – pocketing $10,000 and creating a strong ratings lead after her second consecutive win in as many weeks.
“What a shame it was an anti-climatic final,” began Kennelly afterward. “It just stopped (breaking) and was a real nail-biter. We were waiting for the bombs and the ocean didn’t co-operate. Going up against Rochelle – she’s one of my heroes and inspires me. I wish it could have been more of a barrel contest, but she surfed insane all the way through the entire event, so I was stoked to come up against her in the final.