Triple Crown opens with solid conditions for Hawaiian Pro

Day one.

The Triple Crown of Surfing dipped its toe into the Haleiwa waters Saturday, kicking off the sport’s most prestigious series with a flurry of four-man heats. With only one chance to get off to a quick start on the Triple Crown leaderboard, every heat is of the utmost importance.

It wasn’t a banner day for many who call Hawaii home as the influx of international talent really stepped up and showed a high comfort level on foreign soil. A total of 26 Hawaii surfers began in round one; just five managed to advance in the top two of their respective heats.

Among those exiting Saturday were Bruce Irons, Sunny Garcia, Koa Smith, Billy Kemper, Mason Ho, Kaimana Jaquias and Jamie O’Brien.

It just goes to show that four-man heats are always dangerous and even the most experienced in Hawaiian waters need the waves to cooperate.

The handful to buck that trend were Granger Larsen, Finn McGill, Keoni Yan, Tanner Hendrickson and Seth Moniz. At just 16 years old, McGill will be looking to continue his successful winter, which began with a surprising fourth-place finish at last week’s HIC Pro.

The Hawaiian Pro is usually the best chance for Qualifying Series hopefuls to make their mark. There are usually fewer Championship Tour competitors than those who enter the World Cup at Sunset Beach, and this year’s CT crop feels even lighter than usual.

That’s certainly not to say the field is weak, but there’s no Gabriel Medina, no Mick Fanning, no Joel Parkinson, no Julian Wilson, Filipe Toledo or Kolohe Andino to contend with. Though there are still huge names waiting in round three, the QS crew far outnumbers the CT and getting the elite in four-man situations instead of man-on-man gives the underdogs a much greater chance.

Lurking in the third round are the likes of world champ John John Florence, Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith, Sebastian Zietz, Adriano de Souza and a host of other world tour mainstays. Florence and Zietz have the misfortune of drawing the same third-round heat, although it could be their two other opponents who are truly the less fortunate.

Saturday’s standout would have to have been France’s Marc Lacomare. After some big results a few years back, Lacomare has been a bit less consistent. But his performance so far at Haleiwa has been spectacular. He opened his event with an easy round-one win and followed that up with a monster 18.33 total in round two. He and David do Carmo were the only two surfers to survive two heats as the day was called after the second heat of round two.

He’s not necessarily a sleeper after reaching the final heat last year, but I have high hopes for Ezekiel Lau in this event. He’s currently 13th on the QS rankings, so a good result here at home would give him a great opportunity at CT qualification. He’s always one of the most competitive guys in the lineup and being so close to the ultimate goal could prove to be all the motivation he needs.

Today will likely be a lay day, so we’ll have a little time to digest all of Saturday’s action. But as we learn every year, nothing can be taken for granted in this Triple Crown opener.

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

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