Four straight days of surf in just about every condition possible kicked off the Triple Crown season, setting a pretty difficult standard to match for the remaining two contests. Saturday was finals day at the Reef Hawaiian Pro in Haleiwa as 36 surfers continued to show off on some glassy bombs while also utilizing the winds to take to the air. In the end it was Maui’s Dusty Payne who outlasted the rest and has taken the top spot on the Triple Crown leaderboard.
The final heat provided everything imaginable. Payne was in a huge combination situation to Australia’s Julian Wilson with about 12 minutes remaining. Within two minutes he had erased that deficit, following a pair of near-perfect scores for a 19.64 total. That number held up and an emotional Payne, whose past couple seasons have been ravaged by various injuries, was carried up the beach to accept his title. He’s now the man to beat after the first jewel of the Triple Crown.
Looking to just keep himself in the mix, Payne first paddled into a huge wave and showed a giant turn with full commitment, following it up with a float off the lip and a clean landing, then scorching the final section with a perfect turn. Receiving a 9.77, Payne seemed re-energized.
It got him back in contention, but that was only half the battle. Still needing an 8.87, Payne found another bomb and started with a swooping wrap, turned sharply off the top of the lip and finished with a third carve and a small layback. It looked good, but the judges took their time. The beach finally erupted when the 9.87 was announced.
While it seemed to be Wilson’s title to lose, all of a sudden the Aussie now needed a 9.97 to jump back into first place. Wilson had made Saturday his own personal air show, initially taking over the final by putting his three opponents into combination positions with just two rides. He got airborne after picking up some serious speed on his second wave and landed with ease and flow for a 9.67 to add to his first effort, which netted a 9.07. The pair of excellent rides put him at an 18.74 total with more than 20 minutes to go.
That made three straight rounds that Wilson accrued at least one nine-point ride, most of them coming with outrageous aerial finishes. He deserved to have his name etched into the Reef Hawaiian Pro trophy as its 2014 champion, but Payne ripped it away in memorable fashion.
Payne adds $40,000 to his bank account, as well as 6,500 ranking points. That propels him all the way from 97th place in the World Qualifying Series to 24th place. He’ll have a chance to jump into that necessary top 10 with another big result at the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach.
France’s Jeremy Flores took third place and Australia’s Adam Melling took fourth after winning all three of his previous Saturday heats.
The Big Island’s Torrey Meister was close to joining Payne in the final but came up one heat shy. As the only other Hawaii surfer to reach the semifinals, Meister needed a 6.33 in the closing moments. He took off on a big air reverse that he initially landed but became unstuck at the last second. It would have been enough to get him to the final, but Meister showed he belonged with an Equal Seventh place finish.
Two years ago it was Kilauea’s Sebastian Zietz who won the Reef Hawaiian Pro, launching him on his way to becoming the 2012 Triple Crown champion. Zietz got through his first heat in the Round of 64 on Friday, but he couldn’t find that same magic Saturday. The ocean didn’t help out much and Seabass managed to get just one wave during his fourth-round paddle. An early 5.50 kept him alive and needing an 8.71 to jump from fourth to second, but nothing came through and Aussies Bede Durbidge and Mick Fanning moved into the quarters. Zietz will take an Equal 25th place for $2,250.
Pancho Sullivan, a Taylor Camp baby who has since become an Oahu North Shore stalwart, saw his early success come to an end in round three when he finished third behind Vasco Ribeiro and Keanu Asing for an Equal 33rd. Kilauea’s Alex Smith also exited in round three for an Equal 49th finish. Alex’s younger brother Koa had a tough heat in round two, taking an Equal 81st result.
Oahu’s Asing, who is fighting for a spot on next year’s World Championship Tour, had his event halted in round four. His fourth-place finish behind winners Meister and Frederico Morais give Asing an Equal 25th and 1,200 ranking points. Coming into the event ninth in the world rankings, this result will give Asing 11,400 points for the season.
That’s right around the projected cut line, so with one more chance to improve at the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach, Asing has kept himself in a solid position.
That next event is scheduled to get under way Nov. 24 and will be broadcast live on Oceanic Surf channels 250 and 1250.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.