It was Tahiti’s Michel Bourez who took home the the title during Friday’s final day of Vans World Cup action, but it was Maui’s Dusty Payne who has taken a huge lead in the Triple Crown ratings while also securing a surprising spot on next year’s world tour with his runner-up performance at Sunset Beach. Payne has now taken first at the Reef Hawaiian Pro and second at the World Cup — a feat that has afforded him 11,700 ratings points and propelled him from 98th in the world to 10th, assuring him a place on the 2015 World Championship Tour. It’s a similar run to what Kilauea’s Sebastian Zietz accomplished in 2012, when he won the Reef Hawaiian Pro and took third at the World Cup to win the Triple Crown and earn his rookie jersey on the CT.
Zietz was back in the mix on Friday, reaching the final and taking third place during a pumping last day at Sunset Beach. That result puts Seabass into fifth place for the Triple Crown, but Payne (11,700 points) has a hammerlock on that title, at the moment. Bourez (8,700), Julian Wilson (7,400), Matt Wilkinson (5,800) and Zietz round out the top five (5,650) heading into the Billabong Pipe Masters, which gets under way Monday.
Bourez came up with signature turns at just the right time on his way to a World Cup championship. The day was a showcase for the chargers to take on huge faces and perform their craft. There were some epic wipeouts but it was all part of the story line the Triple Crown always creates, with the unique waves of Oahu’s North Shore interacting with the competitors in a both humbling and uplifting fashion. The Tahitian standout saved his best work for the last 35 minutes, getting into a big right tube ride and emerging unscathed for a 9.93 score. His 18.13 two-wave total had Payne (14.60), Zietz (8.93) and Maui’s Ian Walsh (4.90) in combination territory up until and through the final horn. Bourez won three of his four heats on the day and that 18.13 final heat total was the best of the event. He takes home $40,000 for the result.
After injuries knocked Payne off the WCT for the past two seasons, he will be back for his fourth campaign next year. He needed at least a semifinal appearance to make that possible and he made that a certainty by absolutely destroying his quarterfinal heat. None of his opponents were within shouting distance of his 17.33 total. The semis were much closer and Payne could never find a solid backup after an early 8.77, but he still finished in first with an 11.27 total.
Zietz showed off his strong and committed surfing all day, earning even further comparisons to the late Andy Irons with the way he dropped in and got low on the Sunset faces, moving up the wave with sharp power and flow. He made it through a tough round four heat with very few scoring chances, but he crushed his quarterfinal and received a magnificent 9.60 score that was the day’s third-highest from the judges. The third-place finish earned Seabass $12,000 in prize money, but he still has his eyes on a bigger prize, which would be re-qualifying for 2015.
The Pipe Masters will determine this year’s world champion, as well as all the final qualifiers to make it next year. Zietz comes into the contest right on the cut line. He’s 22nd on the WCT leaderboard with just the top 22 earning a return invitation. There probably aren’t many places he’d rather be needing a result, but there are some hungry challengers who all know this is their final chance. Seabass will start his event in the non-elimination first round against the obviously in-form Bourez and Brazil’s Raoni Monteiro.
Gabriel Medina will be hoping to give Brazil its first-ever world champion, but he’ll have to hold off Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater to do so. If Medina reaches the final, he clinches the 2014 ASP world title. Finishing third or lower keeps Fanning alive with various possible scenarios. Slater’s route is more straightforward. The 11-time champ needs to win the Pipe Masters and Medina would need to be eliminated in the second or third round for Slater to earn ASP title number 12.
Not many would have predicted it, but this has been Dusty Payne’s winter season to this point. Not only is he making heats, he’s standing out from his competitors by way of just the eye test. If he’s able to add his name to the prestigious Triple Crown champions list, it will be the fourth straight year a Hawaii surfer has done so and the 22nd time in the series’ 32 years of competition. But Pipeline will have the final say, which is how it’s meant to be.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.