Big swell greeted the competitors as the Triple Crown officially opened its 2014 season Wednesday at Haleiwa with the Reef Hawaiian Pro. Some surfers in the 128-man field weren’t thrilled that contest organizers were putting them in the water with such a strong rip and heavy water, but it still produced some amazing performances from those who took the challenge head-on. That continued with huge scores on Thursday as the second round got underway and some of the higher seeds got in the water for the first time.
Results were mixed for the Kauai participants as some found the necessary waves to move beyond round one, but the stacked field forced some out after one heat. Gavin Gillette, who had strong results during last year’s Hawaii surf season, managed to put up the top wave score in his opening heat. A 7.33 on his second wave kept him in good position and his modest 3.93 backup was enough for second place and a spot in round two.
Fresh off his HIC Pro championship, Danny Fuller was not as lucky at Haleiwa and could not escape his first-round heat. He and Kanoa Igarashi were topped by Maui’s Dusty Payne and Aussie Brent Dorrington. Dylan Goodale was then eliminated in the very next heat, which saw mostly low scores from all four participants. Sunny Garcia managed to squeak through with just a 5.23 total for second place.
Reef McIntosh came on strong at the end of his opening heat but fell just short of advancing, taking third place in a period dominated by Oahu’s Ezekiel Lau. The charging youngster, who has been compared to Garcia, put up a pair of nine-point rides for an 18.53 total. He stalled into a spitting barrel and was momentarily covered up, emerging unscathed for the strong score.
Koa Smith and Kaimana Jaquias were involved in the same heat, but it was only Smith who moved through. He dropped into a big right and started with a wrap before three huge hacks and a final float into the whitewater earned him a 9.30 score. He backed it up with a 7.53 to win the high-scoring heat. Jaquias was the hard-luck third-place finisher on a 13.83 total. He was overtaken by Portugal’s Frederico Morais by half a point.
Koa’s brother Alex followed up later on with a second place to advance in the final heat of round one. He put on a brilliant performance and tallied a 17.77 total, but Kalani David was the talk of the heat. David first ripped up a medium-sized wave with a few carves and a layback, then jumped from third to first with some more carves and finishing with a clean air. The two rides gave him a 19.43 total.
Evan Valiere had a frustrating go and did not advance despite notching the best wave of the heat. The ocean was a bit quiet during his 25-minute session, but Valiere opened his account with a 6.33 that appeared to put him in the driver’s seat. He just could not find a backup to keep him in the top two, despite needing just a 1.77 to move on.
Round two had completed 10 heats on Thursday as of press time. Pancho Sullivan followed up a dramatic first-round win with another first-place performance. Sullivan notched a late score with only seconds on the clock to pick up a win Wednesday, getting a group hug from his kids once he hit the beach. He kept it exciting Thursday by finishing his heat with a 9.33 to grab the top spot on a 17.26 total.
Gillette came up short in his second-round effort as he finished fourth, despite a 14.14 total. That was the story for much of Thursday. Big scores were required and big scores weren’t always enough. Some of the more well-known competitors who managed to advance to round three include Joel Centeio, Nathan Hedge, Damien Hobgood, Torrey Meister, Garcia, Payne and Lau. The top seeds will get started in round three, including Sebastian Zietz, John John Florence, Jordy Smith and Josh Kerr.
Live action can be seen on Oceanic Surf channels 250 and 1250. Visit www.aspworldtour.com for tournament updates and streaming video.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.