Riding high on a wildcard
LENNOX Head's Anthony Walsh has secured a wildcard entry into the Billabong Pro Teahupoo after he finished second at the Air Tahiti Nui Von Zipper Trials event yesterday.
Walsh lost the final to Tahitian Manoa Drollet in the last minute but he will still line-up against surfing's world number one Mick Fanning when the Billabong Pro begins at the end of this week.
In a closely contested final where both surfers were exchanging scores in the eight and nine-point range (out of a possible 10), Drollet beat Walsh to take the win with a near perfect score of 19.13 to Walsh's 18.57 (out of a possible 20 points).
Walsh, 24, is no stranger to Teahupoo, having made the journey from Australia to compete the trials for the past three years.
A respected big wave surfer in his own right, Walsh is off the radar in regards to an impressive contest record however he is one of the best tube riders in the world.
A perfect 10-point ride wasn't enough to steal victory in the final and despite holding the lead momentarily his Teahupoo specialist opponent grabbed it back in the dying minutes with a 9.60 to the thrills of the flotilla.
Walsh defeated French surfer Fabrice Galez in the quarters before fighting back to beat Brazilian Bruno Santos in the semi.
"When I came out of that last barrel in the semi I was just hoping I would be in the main event," said Walsh. "I can't believe this, the waves are insane and I'm through."
Drollet will match up against reigning world champion Kelly Slater in round one alongside Australian Phillip MacDonald.
Walsh will come up against Fanning and Brazil's Raoni Monteiro.
"It would be insane if the waves are like this for the main event and if I can surf a heat against Kelly, Andy, Mick or Joel then bring it on," said Walsh.
The Billabong Pro commences on May 4.