By Garrett Wheeler
Backing up his 2006 victory at Teahupo’o, Santa Barbara goofy-footer Bobby Martinez once again came away with a win at the notorious Tahitian death-slab, taking out Australian Taj Burrow in the final heat. The event ran in less-than-stellar conditions, with semi-clean 3 to 5 foot surf on tap throughout the week. Chopes is famous for its massive days, when the wave produces left-hand barrels square enough to drive a school-bus through, with a lip as fat as the tube is wide. But for the sixth straight year, the contest yielded relatively average surf- nonetheless an exciting venue for the world’s best to duke it out.
The story of the contest was definitely all about the upsets, with everyone from this year’s frontrunner Joel Parkinson to Kelly Slater and Andy Irons getting eliminated midway through the contest. 23 year old Aritz Aranburu, a Basque-Country surfer ranked second to last, became the event’s official giant slayer, taking out Dane Reynolds, former event winner Damien Hobgood, Aussie Tom Whitaker, and finally Kelly Slater en route to an appearance in the semi-final. Watching the live Webcast, I heard Mark Occhilupo (known as Occy in the surfing world) comment that the contest had to be “one of the most bizarre contests in ASP history, I reckon”. Whatever you reckon, Occ.
Viewers lucky enough to be watching the mid-round heat of Mick Fanning versus Benn Dunn were treated to the best of what professional surfing has to offer. Needing a last-minute score in order to advance against Dunn, Fanning took off on a buzzer-beater wave that turned out to be one of the best sets of the day, doubling up over the reef and yielding an overhead tube. Fanning threw himself over the ledge, drop-knee stalled inside the barrel and got spit out twenty yards down the line, earning the highest score of the heat and a berth into the next round.
Bobby M. is quickly gaining a rep as one of the best Chopes surfers in the world, capable of getting shacked on nearly any size wave. Funny that he grew up surfing one of the best rights in the world (Rincon) – wonder where he learned how to ride left-hand tubes? Strand? Pipe? Guess that’s kind of like asking where Slater learned to ride big waves- not Florida, that’s for sure.