It's game time as the 2019 Championship Tour rounds the bend and barrels into the back half of the season. The waiting period for the 2019 Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o presented by Hurley gets underway on August 21, and after an active summer season, there's a lot to look forward to.
Coming off a win at the Corona Open J-Bay, reigning World Champion and defending Tahiti Pro champion Gabriel Medina will be the man to beat. Since 2014, he's made four of the five finals and won two of them. This is typically where he locks into focus and makes his World Title runs. Sitting in seventh on the Jeep leaderboard, it's a prime opportunity for Medina to vault himself up the ratings
That being said, 11x World Champion Kelly Slater is the winningest surfer of all time at Teahupo'o and appears to be in great form at the moment. Claiming five titles in Tahiti in 2000, his last CT win came in 2016 at the End of the Road. In both 2005 and 2016 Slater surfed perfect, 20-point heats at Teahupo'o.
Currently ranked 8 on the Jeep leaderboard, like Medina, Slater will be looking to get himself into a position where he can chase the World Title at season's end. Added motivation comes in from his chances to potentially bolster his shot at qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Medina and Slater are both playing chase to current ratings leader Kolohe Andino. Over the years Andino has had a fair amount of success at Teahupo'o. First competing in the contest in 2013, where he lost out in Round 2, Andino's only missed surfing on Finals day once since then. He currently holds a slim 565-point lead over World Number 2 Filipe Toledo.
First ridden in 1985, seemingly every year Teahupo'o grows in both notoriety and infamy. The civilian world got its first glimpse of what Teahupo'o is capable of in 1998 during the Gotcha Tahiti Pro. Koby Abberton beat Conan Hayes in a heated Final.
The first Championship Tour event was held at Teahupo'o 1999. The following year, local surfer Briece Taerea was killed surfing there on a 15-foot day. Four months later, Laird Hamilton made history when he was towed into an 18-foot slab that essentially redefined what's ridable. An image of the wave landed on the cover of Surfer Magazine, which simply read, "Oh my god!"
On August 28, 2011, the epic "Code Red" swell caused the contest to be put on hold while a handful of the world's most elite big-wave surfers rode some of the craziest waves in the history of surfing. Nathan Fletcher made the cover of seven different international surf magazines and won the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year and Monster Tube award.
But Teahupo'o is not always death defying. At three feet it's a perfect left-hander that runs down the colorful reef, allowing for high-performance maneuvers. By six-foot the West Bowl starts working and it just gets increasingly more heavy from there. Because of the unique shape of the reef, the wave can hold surf all the way up to 20 to 25 feet. The ideal swell direction is from the south or southwest.
Thanks to the Passe Havae, which has been carved out of the reef by centuries of freshwater runoff from the mountains, the wave is capable of holding its shape regardless of the size of the swell. It grows in girth and power, but it seldom closes out like other big-wave breaks.
3x World Champion Andy Irons distinguished himself here and was widely regarded as the "King of Teahupo'o." Today, the annual CT contest hands out the Andy Irons Award for the surfer that charged the hardest and with the most conviction.
The trials for the 2019 Tahiti Pro presented by Hurely will take place between August 16-18. A one-day event, the 32-man contest will award two spots Wildcards into the main event. The current swell forecast for the trials is impressive to say the least.
Stay tuned to WorldSurfLeague.com and the WSL app for all the latest news and action from the Tahiti Pro presented by Hurley.