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Young Tahitian beats surf great Kelly Slater to make pro final

Monday 22 August 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Regional, Tahiti

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Young Tahitian beats surf great Kelly Slater to make pro final
Brazilian surfer Miguel Pupo. Photo: Facebook

Brazilian Miguel Pupo has beaten Tahiti's Kauli Vaast to win the Outerknown Tahiti Pro in epic surf at Teahupo'o.

It's Pupo's first tour win in ten years of trying.

Local hero Vaast claimed the scalp of Kelly Slater, the 11-time world champion in the semi-finals.

Vaast is just 20, his opponent is 50.

Kauli Vaast 20 year old world champion for surfing.
Brazilian surfer Miguel Pupo. Photo: Facebook

He told La Premiere he was proud of that win and to do so at home.

"The fact that it is at home, the fact that it is on the spot of Teahupoo which I love the most. Especially when I did my semi-final against Kelly Slater which I never surfed against before, beating him is even more unbelievable," he said.

"It was a good experience and I learned a lot and I will come back stronger better and will win it for Tahiti."

In the women's event, California's Courtney Conlogue charged to victory in the final over Costa Rica's Brisa Hennessy for her 13th tour victory.

"It's been a long time since I've had a win and this year has had so many challenges ... I'm just so grateful," said Conlogue.

"I love this wave - this wave is so magical."

The site for the surfing competition in the 2024 Paris Olympics, Teahupo'o is a hydrodynamic freak of nature, where thick swells from the Southern Ocean slam into a shallow coral reef creating some of the biggest and heaviest tubes in the world.

Pupo got off to a strong start in the final, weaving through a long, complicated tube to establish a lead over his young rival, surfing in his first WCT event.

Vaast looked to have got back in contention with a great barrel of his own, only to see Pupo weaving through a bigger tube on the next wave.

"It feels amazing. It took me 10 years to finally win a CT event," Pupo said. "I wanted to get a trophy this year, to see my hard work pay off."

Slater, who is a multiple-time Tahiti Pro winner, was schooled by Vaast in their semi-final matchup, with the young Tahitian local putting on a display of deep, technical tube riding, including switching his stance between forehand and backhand on some waves.

With the 10-stop World Championship Tour now complete the top five men and women will compete in a one-day Finals event in Southern California next month.