For those who have yet to witness, Da Hui has taken to YouTube to share their feelings regarding Billabong and the ASP. Their point of conflict lies with a trials format that only allows 1 local surfer into the main event of the Billabong Pro Tahiti; a far cry from the 16 spots allotted by the Pipeline Masters. In the letter addressed to “Tahitian surfers of the Tahitian Surfing Federation and all it may concern”, a spokesman for Da Hui eloquently refers to the ASP and Billabong as “money-hungry pig idiots” and informed the Tahitians that “its time to stick out your chests, not your asses.”
I’m not going to pretend to know the inner-workings of the ASP and Billabong’s arrangement with Tahiti or their apparent monopoly of Teahupo’o. And no one would argue that there isn’t more than just 1 local surfer capable of hanging with and beating anyone on the Dream Tour. All you need to do is look at Manoa Drollet’s brilliant 2008 performance as evidence of how talented and dialed in the native surfers are when it comes to their wave. Over the years, Billabong has no doubt reaped a hefty reward from the natural wonder that is Teahupo’o. Opening the door for a few more local surfers to prove themselves under the bright lights of the ASP World Tour would certainly go a long way to further show their appreciation.
Where the stance taken by Da Hui gets confusing is their citing of the 16 wildcard spots allowed at the Pipeline Masters. They say that “all Polynesians should be allowed to have their talent shine and not have it blemished by foreigners”. Yet if you look at the list of the 14 wildcards who have already been confirmed for the 2009 event, it would be a stretch to say that even 50% would qualify as native Hawaiians or Polynesians. Considering it’s a system that’s left out past Pipeline Masters Rob Machado and Bruce Irons for this year’s event, it might not be a bad idea to re-evaluate the format being used at Pipeline as well. The ‘peer poll’ method used to select 6 of the final 16 especially leaves a lot to be desired. When Jamie O’Brien barely squeaks in at number 6 for the Pipe Masters, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.
While there’s no question changes could be made to allow more of the top native talent into the main event at Teahupo’o, I’m not exactly sure the Pipeline Masters has proven itself to be the gold standard on this matter.