Large waves are expected for the Billabong Pro Tahiti at notorious Teahupoo, which begins Saturday, and that means thunderous barrels for the world's top-ranked surfers. For most of them, anyway.
Defending event champion Andy Irons died last November and will be honored in memory at the event (see video below, of Irons at Teahupoo last year).
Dane Reynolds essentially has given up on the ASP World Tour and will not compete at Teahupoo. That's too bad because Reynolds is in that small percentage of surfers with enough talent to win a world title, not that he cares.
Bobby Martinez, who probably would not have re-qualified for next season, has quit the tour. A great loss? Martinez, who won at Teahupoo in 2006 and 2009, showed promise as a rookie in 2006, finishing the season ranked No. 6. But that was his best finish and he subsequently slipped into the category of World Tour surfers who would never win or seriously contend for a title.
Thankfully, since the shrinking of the tour in 2010 to 34 surfers and a mid-season cut, there are fewer of hangers-on and more competitiveness in the middle ranks.
So who will win the tube-riding contest known as the Billabong Pro Tahiti?
Kelly Slater, a 10-time world champion who won at Teahupoo in 2005, needs a good result to put himself in better position to win an 11th world title. He's currently ranked No. 6.
With large surf in the forecast, he expects the goofy-footers to do well, with the advantage of facing the ominous-looking lips that will hurl over their heads. They include C.J. and Damien Hobgood, Fred Patacchia and Cory Lopez.
"It's going to be big and that will factor in for sure," Slater said. "It's going to be good finally and guys are going to be put into positions that are outside their comfort zone. We don't get that often on the tour."
The top five, heading into the fifth of 11 World Tour competitions: Joel Parkinson (No. 1), Jordy Smith, Adriano de Souza, Mick Fanning and Taj Burrow. The event will be shown live via webcast on the ASP and Billabong Pro Teahupoo websites hyperlinked above.
Below is some video of Irons last year at Teahupoo. He'll be on a lot of people's minds over the next week or so.