Tahiti's Bourez takes Haleiwa


POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tahiti's Michel Bourez used a combination of deep tube-riding and critical turns to win the Reef Hawaiian Pro yesterday at epic, barreling Haleiwa.

In the process, Bourez gained entry into the 2009 World Championship Tour and shot to second place on the World Qualifying Series rankings. He's only the second Tahitian surfer to qualify for the tour and was excited to represent French Polynesia on it.

“;It means a lot to just be in the 'CT. I've been dreaming about this my whole life since I start to surf,”; said Bourez, who is a 22-year-old Mataiea native. “;It's a good opportunity for me and all the Tahitian surfers.”;

Bourez posted a 9.77 out of a possible 10 points on one of his scoring waves in the final with a gaping overhead barrel.

He wasn't the only surfer who qualified for the tour yesterday.

Brazil's Jihad Khodr, 24, and Mililani's Kekoa Bacalso, 23, also gained entry with their finals appearances. Khodr was the runner-up and knew he was destined for greatness when he flew into Honolulu Airport.

“;It was real hard for me to get a good result this year,”; said Khodr, the lone Brazilian in the finals. “;When I got to Hawaii I knew something was going to change and I got second place.”;

Finishing behind Khodr was Bacalso, who entered the event as a wild card and was relieved to finally make it on the world's biggest stage.

“;What a great day. What a stressful day. It was just so clutch because everyone was ripping and the points were just so close to get out of those heats,”; said Bacalso, who grew up surfing at Alii Beach Park. “;The waves were pumping. That was probably the best heat I ever surfed at Haleiwa. The best waves ever.”;

Haleiwa looked more like Off the Wall with tubing rides and 6- to 10-foot wave face heights. From the quarters to the final, the first jewel of the Triple Crown was all about getting shacked and hitting lip.

Bourez was giddy from so much tube time.

“;Everybody was getting barreled, I was screaming my head off and it was so sick,”; Bourez said. “;I was having so much fun out there and that's what I call a good contest.”;

It was fun for competitors, but dreadful for spectators, as cloudbursts drenched the beach and chilly winds blew umbrellas and tents. But it was those frigid, offshore breezes that held open the tubes and gave the audience plenty to cheer. This year's Reef Hawaiian Pro will go down in the history books as one of the best Haleiwa events in the 26-year history of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

The final heat was a gnarly exchange of barrel riding and lead changes, with Bourez getting the better of it. Khodr and Bacalso kept it close for the majority of the heat, while fourth-place finisher Dusty Payne failed to get any momentum going.

Kauai's Dustin Barca, 26, also qualified yesterday with his semifinals appearance and will join Bourez, Khodr and Bacalso on the 2009 world tour.