HALE‘IWA — Kaua‘i’s Sebastian Zietz and Gavin Gillette won their first-round heats yesterday as the Reef Hawaiian Pro officially got underway in Hale‘iwa.
Of the 16 Round 1 heats that went off in the morning, seven first-place finishes went to Hawai‘i surfers. In the first leg of the Vans Triple Crown, Zietz, Gillette, Daniel Jones, Dusty Payne, Kevin Sullivan, Liam McNamara and Hank Gaskell won their heats, advancing safely into Round 2.
Kaua‘i’s Evan Valiere and Jesse Merle-Jones also advanced with their second-place finishes yesterday, as did Myles Padacca.
The first-time Triple Crowner Zietz of Kilauea got started in Heat 6, finishing with a 13.50 over second-place finisher Gilmar Silva of Brazil (10.84). Zietz went to town in Round 2 posting the highest heat score of the day — 18.27 (9.2 and 9.07).
The wave heights drew to the 6- to 8-foot range making for good surf conditions for Zietz and the rest of the crew yesterday.
Zietz admitted that he probably didn’t have as much experience surfing on the North Shore (of O‘ahu) as much as some of his competitors — he had only surfed this spot three times before this contest — but his 6’6” Boysens seemed to do him good.
“It all started when I went on two stupid waves in the beginning then I got stuck and I was trying to paddle out to the right of the peak,” he said. “I didn’t know you couldn’t really get out over there so it took pretty much half the heat to paddle out there. A set came in right when I got out there and then I got that first 9.”
Zietz said he had mostly surfed Off-The-Wall and Backdoor spots before.
“I would always be so envious of (the Triple Crown competitors) with the badges that said ‘Triple Crown.’ This is my first event and I’m super stoked,” he said.
Gillette also had a successful day, winning his Round 1 heat with a score of 12.17 over fellow Kaua‘i surfer Dylan Goodale (10.40) and Japan’s Teppei Tajima (10.83) He also went on to win his Round 2 heat with a score of 15.80 over Maui’s Flynn Novak (14.67).
Payne, yesterday, posted the highest individual wave score (9.33).
With Zietz and Gillette sitting comfortably awaiting the next round, Round 2 will continue today with 14 more Hawai‘i surfers to go. They include Merle-Jones, Valiere, Payne, Joel Centeio, David Gonsalves, Mason Ho and Makua Rothman.
Mark Occhilupo of Australia put up a good performance finishing with a top 10 score in Round 1 and winning his Round 2 heat.
The 42-year-old retired former world champion had been granted wildcard spots into all three events and in his 20 years of surfing, had only won one of the events — the 1985 Pipeline Masters.
The women’s competition was called off again yesterday.