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Big swell on tap Monday at Chopes

Unless organizers get restless, it looks like one more day until the Billabong Pro Tahiti gets underway. As the seventh stop on the men’s World Championship Tour, Teahupoo is one of the most iconic waves in the world and can provide just as many waves of the year as it does wipeouts of the decade.

The official surf forecast, provided by Surfline, indicates a building southwest swell that will begin to show itself this afternoon, then grow in size and ferocity early Monday. The morning should see 10- to 15-foot faces with set waves hitting the 18-foot mark. Things will likely calm a bit Tuesday but the early hours could still see at least 10-foot faces.

A second swell appears to be on tap for Wednesday and Thursday, which could be just as good as Monday’s but will depend more on storm forecasts near New Zealand.

Whether the ASP decides to get the first round in the water today or tomorrow, Kilauea’s Sebastian Zietz will open the event in the very first heat, a non-elimination contest with Kelly Slater and Glenn Hall. With five events still on tap for 2014, Zietz enters ranked 19th in the WCT standings. As outlined a few weeks back, he still has one throwaway score to work with, having reached at least the third round in all but the first event of the year.

Last year was an early exit for Seabass at Chopes. He was eliminated in the second round by Adam Melling despite them both finishing with a 14.10 two-wave total. Melling’s top score of 8.33 just outpointed Zietz’s 8.27 for the tiebreaker win.

When it comes to Teahupoo, Kauai has produced some of its most memorable chargers. It was the final contest for Andy Irons, who won the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2010 just two months before passing away. The victory brought Irons full circle to the early stages of his career when he won the same event in 2002 to propel him to three straight world titles from 2002 to 2004.

Irons also credits Teahupoo with the wave that transformed his life, dropping into a monster barrel – just to keep brother Bruce off of it, according to him – and getting spit out after somehow holding his rail and remaining locked upright. All you have to do is search “Andy Irons that wave” online and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about.

Bruce Irons has become so familiar with Chopes that he made a magazine cover by catching a wave while blindfolded. He’s also made a sacrifice to the spot he called the “most beautiful and disturbing wave in the world” during a Surfline interview by unwittingly donating his board shorts during a monster wipeout, then being sledded naked back through the lineup. He became a human metaphor for what the wave can do, but also what can be done on it.

One of the best known women big-wavers on the planet, Kauai’s Keala Kennelly, took a nasty tumble into the reef in 2011, receiving facial lacerations requiring more than 50 stitches. But she was back at her spot in no time and has since gone on to win the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Award in 2013 and 2014. Kennelly said that what she has taken away from her accident is that even on a smaller day, Teahupoo is still a wave of major consequence.

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

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