Hawaiian Pro opens Triple Crown season today in Haleiwa

  • Heff / WSL

    Ezekiel Lau is looking for another big result at the Hawaiian Pro, which begins its waiting period today in Haleiwa, Oahu. It’s the official start to the Triple Crown of Surfing, though action likely won’t get underway until the middle of the week. Lau is coming off a win at the HIC Pro, which moved him into the top 10 on the Qualifying Series rankings.

It’s officially that time of year again, when the masses descend upon Oahu’s North Shore to settle for the winter. It’s not so much a hibernation process, but more of a hunkering down in the trenches, watching the water, scoping the swells and always remaining on high alert.

Today marks the beginning of the 2017 Triple Crown of Surfing, with Haleiwa setting the stage for the opening leg at the Hawaiian Pro.

[Sings “Haleiwa” in Leonard Cohen voice for 15 minutes…]

Sorry, my mind wandered for a bit there. But unfortunately we may need to keep our brains occupied for a couple of days because it seems very unlikely that there will be much for the pros to surf until Tuesday, at the earliest.

When that does happen, two Kauai notables will be first into the water to begin round one. Koa Smith has the honor of heading out for the opening heat of the Triple Crown, as he’ll be doing so against Finn McGill, Elijah Gates and Aussie Kalani Ball. Immediately following that matchup, Evan Valiere is slated to take on Brett Simpson, Jack Robinson and Raoni Monteiro.

Each of those heats has a very different feel. Smith’s foursome is a group of up-and-comers, three of them hailing from Hawaii. Valiere’s heat is a more veteran crew with the Hanalei product the only Aloha State competitor.

But each should be competitive and include some very different surfing styles. It looks like it should be a great way to kick off the contest and showcase some of the diversity that congregates throughout the Triple Crown.

Kauai’s next duo appears towards the back end of round one when Dylan Goodale and Kaimana Jaquias jump in for heats 11 and 12, respectively. Goodale goes against a few less familiar Qualifying Series faces in the Big Island’s Shayden Paccaro, France’s Timothee Bisso and American Cam Richards. Richards has taken a big step this season and has put together some nice results to creep towards the top 50 in the world.

For Jaquias, he’ll have a few accomplished opponents with Big Island’s Torrey Meister, Aussie Jacob Willcox and Brazil’s Marco Fernandez in the mix. Jaquias hasn’t surfed many of the bigger QS contests of late, but he does have a lot of experience in these events and he’ll need that to shine through against this formidable group.

Kauai’s fifth and final surfer will be Sebastian Zietz, who gets a bye all the way into round three. He and Brazil’s Willian Cardoso have a couple of rounds to watch as they await a pair of competitors to join their four-man heat.

Some other Hawaii notables starting in round one will be Mason Ho, Dusty Payne, Barron Mamiya, Eli Olson, Imai Devault, Billy Kemper and Tanner Hendrickson, among others. Ezekiel Lau and Keanu Asing have byes into round three for what could be a very important contest for both, as they hope to cement their places in the QS top 10 and get back on the 2018 Championship Tour. Lau is coming off a win at the HIC pro, which has moved him into a qualifying position for now.

The biggest attraction of all, John John Florence, sets his sights on a fourth Triple Crown of Surfing title. He picked up number three last year, starting things off with a win at the Hawaiian Pro. But he has to face a large group of hungry and talented surfers also hoping to etch their name into the history books.

The Hawaiian Pro is only episode one in this annual trilogy, but it always sets up the story line for the rest of the winter season. It may still be a couple of days before the curtain actually rises, but the Triple Crown is officially here.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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