- 19 May 2009 | Surfing
Basque surfer Aritz Aranburu (Zarauz, EUK), 23, caused the upset of Round 2 at the Billabong Pro Tahiti last night by eliminating nine-time and reigning ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (Florida, USA), 37, in Round 2 of competition.
Aranburu, who found his rhythm in the three to four foot (1 to 1.2 meter) waves breaking over the infamous sharp reef of Teahupoo, not only defeated Slater but also posted an impressive 17.27 point heat score (out of a possible 20), the highest total of the day, to finalize his exceptional performance.
"Kelly (Slater) is the best competitor and the best surfer in the world and I was just trying to stay focused out there so I could get my own waves," Aranburu said. "Once I got that first score I almost felt more pressure because I was surfing against Kelly and I know what he can do with his priority. I just tried to put the pressure off and luckily I got a second good score and it worked out."
By besting Slater, Aranburu follows the footsteps of fellow European surfers Jeremy Flores (Capbreton/New Caledonia, FRA), 21, who defeated Slater on his first year among the ASP Top 45 at the same venue of Teahupoo in the Quarterfinals of the 2007 edition, and Tiago Pires (Ericeira, PRT), 27, who took the best over Slater in Bali last year.
Aranburu, a former ASP European Junior top competitor who qualified for the ASP World Tour in 2007, had not made it through to Round 3 of any event since the season started in February and was looking to eventually break the bad roll, something he achieved in style at Teahupoo nailing a near perfect 9.77 point ride (out of a possible 10) in the first minutes of his encounter with Slater, the best single wave score of the Billabong Pro Tahiti thus far.
"I was lucky to get that first wave," Aranburu said. "I paddled deep because I knew I was going to need a big score against Kelly (Slater) and when I was paddling into it, I thought I was going to fall, but I made it, so I'm happy."
The 23-year-old Basque surfer and Zarauz resident will now face other event favorite Damien Hobgood (Florida, USA), 29, in Round 3, another tough test for the young man who is slowly confirming his ability in lefthand reef barrels, a talent that emerged last year in Fiji and at the Billabong Pipeline Masters where he placed equal 9th wrapping up his rookie year with a promising run.
Other European surfer still in contention for the prestigious Tahitian crown was ASP Top 45 rookie Tim Boal (Anglet, FRA), 25, the French representative facing experienced elite surfer Tom Whitaker (AUS) in the last encounter of Round 2 where the lack of wave and a smart wave choice from the Australian top seed saw Boal exit the event with an unusual low heat result of 4.50 points. Boal still takes another equal 17th place finish.