Sunset is better known for thundering rut-strewn walls than flawless tubes, and at this years Vans World Cup of Sufing, it didn't let down its reputation. Oahu's Ezekiel Lau gained steady momentum as he battled through a stellar field, and took on all manner of divergent conditions. In the end, one final burst in the latter stages of the final saw him overtake Damien Hobgood, claim the title, and solidify his status on the North Shore.
Lau is just 20, and with a low seed he was forced to surf from the very first round. His was a campaign of consistency and growing momentum, both of which are essential in the gruelling procession of four man heats.
"I can't believe it." said Lau. "I was building confidence through each heat. It seemed like things were going in my favor and I was just getting the waves I needed at the right time, so having that confidence going into the final felt good."
Lau made a late tube-riding charge from behind to turn the tables on Damien Hobgood and Raoni Monteiro in the latter half of the 30-minute final. Fourth place was Portugal's Frederico Morais, who was announced the JN Chevrolet Rookie of the 2013 Vans Triple Crown. Lau went on the hunt and found his way onto the biggest waves of the final that also offered high-scoring tube riding potential. His final scoreline was 15.5 points out of 20 (8.67 and 6.83 point rides). Hobgood was second on 14.3; Monteiro third with 12.33, and Morais on 7.16.
"I needed something to boost my confidence a little, this year has been kind of rough. You know that $40K feels good! Making the final is great. To come out with a win puts me in a better spot. My whole confidence and my whole game plan in my head and everything is going to be that much much better year next year."
In another feel good story among the finalits, Raoni Montero guaranteed his re-qualification for the WCT next year. He knew coming into this week's event that he had to make the final in order to qualify for the 2014 World Championship Tour. He broke it down into minute-by-minute performances that saw him gain both momentum and confidence that made his dream a reality.
"Actually I am feeling super tired because it was a long day. I think I surfed like 4 or 5 times and I...I just went heat by heat and wave by wave. I wasn't thinking about pressure. I needed the result and then I get the result.
"I won (this event) in 2010, so it is really good to be in the finals again. I almost won for 5 minutes - it was really close! Ezekiel deserved to win because he had the best waves of the heat. I am really happy, that is all I have to say. I want to thank God, I want to thank all my family and all my friends for supporting me and all the cheering for me and sending me good vibes. It is a great feeling."
Slater vs Dane.
We are not accustomed to Slater making an appearance at Sunset. The expansive lineup, big boards and four man heats are not his kettle of fish. However when he does show his shiny head, it is much appreciated.
When he's drawn up against Dane Reynolds, competition lovers could barely hold in their whimpers of pleasure, and when Slater posted the score of the round with a farfetched lefthand tube in the dying moments, spectators were overcome by an outbreak of Kelly mania.
Slater maintained a nonchalant air when analysing the heat: "Dane started off with a bang, It was only a small wave that he caught at the start, I think he got a little tube and did a couple of turns. But you get a 7.6 on your first wave and you're pretty much guaranteed to make the heat. He backed it up with a couple of sixes and he was kind of commanding the heat.
"That last wave, Heitor needed a low 7 to take me out," continues the 11 time champ. "As we paddled it looked like a right. I could see there was a left on it but the right was there too, so I was going to really force my hand on the right. He saw that so he stopped paddling and I just turned left. You know, where he was, he would have got an even deeper barrel, so he could have probably got a 10 on that wave. He probably won't like to see that video."
"There was a lot of chop and stuff but it threw out far enough to be a no-hands dry barrel. Backside, no hands is a pretty good size barrel. It was a clean exit. I was surprised."
Slater's two wave total of 17.37 points out of 20 was the highest of the Round of 64. Unfortunately he burned out rather quickly, finishing last in his Round of 32 heat.
The Wave of the Event
South Africa's Beyrick De Vries will be riding high for days after living a moment of perfection during one of the biggest swells of the North Shore season thus far. In a late afternoon heat, De Vries paddled into a triple overhead wave and scored the event's only perfect 10 with a frankly ludicrous clean tube. Finding a reasonable face amongst the chaos of Friday's swell was tricky enough, so when De Vires sidled into this scorcher, plenty of minds were blown. It was quickly labelled the best barrel ever ridden on Sunset's west peak during competition.
"It's pretty much a 55 hour travel here on a plane and costs you pretty much half your budget," said De Vries. "Living here is expensive and you kind of doubt it all, but then you get one wave like that and everything's worth it. It's all worth it, I'm stoked.
"I just saw blue out there and it was a heavy take off. I just tried to dodge the foam ball, stood up and looked down the line and I just saw this thing that was perfect. I just stood there and kind of looked at the scenery. It's one of the best places to be on earth, in the barrel. I'm just living in the moment and it paid off and I'm so happy."