Damien Hobgood: solid tube rider

Dane Reynolds has withdrawn from the 2011 Billabong Pro Tahiti and will be replaced by Cory Lopez. No reason has been provided as of yet for Reynolds’ withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Brazilian Ricardo Dos Santos and local Heiarri Williams have been awarded two wildcard positions for the famous surfing event held in Tahiti.

Lopez will take on Adrian Buchan and Chris Davidson in the opening heat of competition. Tahiti's world-famous lefthander will host the world's best surfers as they battle it out in the fifth event on the 2011 ASP World Title season.

The surf forecasters for the Billabong Pro Tahiti are calling for favorable storm track in the Southwest Pacific will likely set up fairly solid surf for most of the first week of the contest waiting period, with a good chance for overhead to well overhead waves on the larger days.

Damien Hobgood, current No. 14 on the ASP World Title rankings and holding a Runner-Up finish from the 2010 Billabong Pro Tahiti, will look to go one better this season at Teahupoo.

“I love Tahiti and it’s one of the best waves in the world,” Hobgood said. “That’s really all the motivation I need to go there. The fact that I’ve had a pretty good run there over the years makes it that much better. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people and I’m always excited to go back and get barreled.”

Jeremy Flores is no stranger to heaving barrels, having taken out the 2010 Billabong Pipe Masters. Flores’s strong support network of family and friends in Tahiti, combined with his heavy water pedigree, makes him one of the more dangerous surfers in the event.

“I’ve been going to Tahiti for a long time now and the place feels like another home,” Flores said. “I have very special friends there. I really love Tahiti and it’s definitely one of my favorite place in the world. I like getting barrels – it’s a very challenging wave we’ll see if it gets big this year. If it does, things could get very interesting and scary.”

The young Frenchman has had a rough start to the year, missing the opening event after suffering a knee injury during a warm-up surf, but has rebounded in fine form, finishing Equal 3rd in Rio de Janeiro and sitting at No. 4 on the ASP World Tour rankings.

“I haven’t had a great year so far at the ASP World Title level so I hope to do better in the next events,” Flores said. “Lately, I’ve been a lot more motivated to surf reef waves barrels like Teahupoo so I’m really looking to do good there. Hopefully the waves deliver.”

BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Chris Davidson (AUS), Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Jadson Andre (BRA), Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT), Bobby Martinez (USA)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Raoni Monteiro (BRA), Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA), Daniel Ross (AUS), Heiarii Williams (PYF)
Heat 7: Owen Wright (AUS), Heitor Alves (BRA), Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 9: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 10: Damien Hobgood (USA), Patrick Gudauskas (USA), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (PYF), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 12: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS)