Champs Ready for Billabong Pro Teahupoo, Irons Returns to Competition
Pictured: Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion, will look to salvage his 2009 ASP Dream Tour season (following two uncharacteristic 17th place finishes) at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo. Credit: © ASP/ CI/ SCHOLTZ via GETTY IMAGES
TEAHUPOO, Tahiti (Friday, May 1, 2009) – The Billabong Pro Teahupoo, stop No. 3 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, will host the world’s best surfers from May 9 – 20, 2009, with a slew of ASP World Champions looking to capitalize at the infamous venue.
Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion, has suffered two uncharacteristic equal 17th place finishes this season (both at the hands of event wildcards), but the allure of an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title has the Floridian geared up and preparing for an assault on Tahiti.
“The pressure of 10 isn't a bad thing but it's not something you want to think about all the time either,” Slater said. “I'm not happy to have such a slow start, but it's good fuel for doing something if I can get motivated for it. It's all how you view it. I don't expect to have an easy heat at this event to start, more likely one of the hardest heats to begin with. If I can get past at least one wildcard this year, I might actually have a chance to get a result!”
Beginning with his victory last season at the Billabong Pipeline Masters, Slater has displayed a cavalier approach to experimental board design, often shaping his own equipment for competition. This season has seen the iconic natural-footer use both traditional and unconventional equipment, with his selection for the Billabong Pro Teahupoo is still undecided.
“I'm working which boards to take now,” Slater said. “I think this year is pretty much up in the air for me as I really dig into design and a new approach to what I ride. I have been really bored with design for a little while and want a new feel. There isn't enough time to work that out off-season so I'm just going with it.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), former ASP World Champion (2007) and current ASP World No. 2, has been extremely consistent in 2009, posting a 3rd and a 5th in the opening events of the season.
“I'm really enjoying the tour this year and I feel like I'm surfing my best,” Fanning said. “It's been a little disappointing not to get a win in the first two events, but as long as I'm surfing well and not throwing heats away making silly mistakes, I don't let it get me down.”
Fanning’s performances at the deadly break have improved in recent years, with the Australian establishing himself as a real contender in hollow lefthanders.
“I'm really comfortable competing at Teahupoo now,” Fanning said. “I've familiarized myself with the break over the past couple of years and scored some big days. I stay with Alain Riou and his family when I'm there and they're always passing on a valuable local knowledge and that has definitely helped me strengthen my act out there. At the Billabong Pro, the biggest threats are the wildcards because they're all Teahupoo specialists.”
In addition to sparring off against the world’s best surfers in a bid to regain the ASP World Title, Fanning will also have to contend with Andy Irons (HAW), 30, returning to competition for the first time in 2009 at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo.
“I'm looking forward to catching up with Andy (Irons) – I miss the guy,” Fanning said. “Everyone knows he's one of the best backhand tube riders on Earth and he's always going to be a threat at Teahupoo. He's had some time away from the tour so it will be really interesting to see if it's re-ignited his passion for competition.”
Irons, former three-time ASP World Champion and past winner of the Billabong Pro Teahupoo (2002), will don the competition singlet for the first time in 2009 at the Billabong Pro Teahupoo, having accepted an event wildcard. Irons is currently on sabbatical from the ASP Dream Tour, but plans to return to full-time competition in 2010.
“Life off tour has been a lot more active than I thought it was going to be,” Irons said. “In a way, I think it’s been a bit more hectic than before, but it’s all new stuff. Random strike mission trips, movie premieres, award shows, promos, team trips. I’m down in Oz filming right now, and I go straight from here to Tahiti for a Billabong shoot and the event. It sounds like a lot, but it’s been good for me to see that there is a life away from tour, and there are a lot of swells I want to chase down before the year is over.”
Irons’ competitors have noted that despite his absence from competition this season, the Hawaiian’s rapport with the heaving lefthander cements his reputation as a perennial threat in Tahiti.
“Tahiti has always been a special place to me for both the waves and the people there,” Irons said. “I have already been there once this year so far, and am psyched to be heading back to spend some time catching up with all the boys. I’m hoping we finally get some solid swell for the whole event.”
The Billabong Pro Teahupoo boasts a possible start date of May 9 with a waiting period that runs through May 20.
The event webcast LIVE via www.billabongpro.com
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
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