THE world's top surfers return to Tahiti this week to contest arguably the most captivating event on the ASP World Tour.
The famed Teahupoo break showed last year why it is considered one of the most demanding waves on the tour, serving up an unbelievable few days of big swell, which included one of the most epic tow sessions ever staged.
While the competition was on hold, a handful of the world's best braved the monster swell, including Julian Wilson, who added another bow to his big-wave credentials with a barrel to remember.
When competition resumed, the 23-year-old finished 13th in his first appearance at the event, which was certainly not disastrous.
Teahupoo is no ordinary wave. It has the capacity to supply some of the most beautiful images on tour, while also providing the sort of breath-taking scenarios that attract worldwide attention in the mainstream media.
World number 10 Wilson, who won the US Open of surfing last week, will return to Teahupoo much more confident and keen to bridge the gap between himself and the tour front-runners, namely Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater.
After his strongest start to a tour in recent years, world number one Fanning has impressed in his pursuit of a third crown, but he was reluctant to read too much into rankings.
"The advantage is knowing that I'm in the race and I'm collecting the kind of results that could count toward a title," Fanning told the ASP.
"I've had pretty average starts to the past few seasons and managed to finish pretty well, so it feels good to have some early momentum for a change.
"Being at number one at this stage though means very little. It's a long year and there's nothing separating me and the rest of the guys in the top 10. I don't get too worried about who is chasing, I just try to collect big results at every stop."
As the defending champion at Teahupoo, all eyes will be on 11-time world champion and world number two Slater, as well as proven Teahupoo chargers CJ and Damien Hopgood.
Meanwhile, Caloundra's Wade Goodall was granted an invitation to the event trials, along with the likes of Hawaiian stars Bruce Irons and Jamie O'Brien.
The winner of the trials will be granted a wildcard into the main event.
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