LA Nina? Where's that gone? The North Shore is kicking into gear with a promising run of swell on the horizon for Sunset and beyond.
On the heels of yesterday's surf-to-survive conditions, Sunset Beach served up tamer waves in the double-overhead range, but competition in the Vans World Cup of Surfing was no less intense. A $250,000 ASP Prime event, surfers from 16 nations are vying for critical end-of-year points here, but wild surf and wildcard surfers can make the going tough. The Vans World Cup of Surfing is the second jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing presented by Rockstar Energy Drink.
Today's round of 96 saw more than half of the seeds who entered the draw fall. Among them were Cory Lopez (Florida); Leonardo Neves (Brazil); Tom Whitaker (Australia); Alain Riou (Tahiti); Royden Bryson (South Africa); and Granger Larsen (Hawaii). The slowly subsiding surf pulsed on and off throughout the day's heats; some were high scoring while others were a relatively low-scoring battlefield. Surfers had to choose between the longer rides at Sunset Point and the shorter, punchier waves of the inside Bowl.
Top heat scores today came from Kekoa Bacalso (Hawaii - two wave total of 14.67 points); Daniel Ross (Australia - 14.16); Wiggolly Dantas (Brazil - 12.84); and Sunny Garcia (Hawaii - 13.93).
Garcia, 41, was drawn against stealth Australian Mitch Coleborn, Alain Riou (Tahiti), and women's world surfing champion Carissa Moore. It was a highly touted heat that drew the largest crowd of the day and more than its fair share of nerves.
The late afternoon match was unfortunately wave-starved for much of the 30 minutes and all four competitors were forced to hunt down any potentially scoring ride that moved through. Coleborn and Garcia held down the top two spot for the first 20 minutes but were never clear of their challengers.
Moore leaped to second position over Garcia midway with a solid carving ride that firmly established her place in the lineup. Moore drew a strong roar of support from the beach crowd and it started to look quite possible that the only woman in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing would advance.
But in the end, experienced positioning and raw determination saw Garcia stroke his way into the decisive wave of the clash. Two trademark Sunny power hacks threw the field into disarray, earning an 8.0 and catapulting him to first with a total of 13.93. Coleborn was second with 10 points; Carissa third with 7.83 (4.9, 2.93); and Riou was fourth on 5.6 (1.67, 3.93).
"I think she can compete with the best of the men," said Garcia, who admitted to being a little stressed before the clash. "I know what she's capable of. I've surfed with her a lot and coached her a bit last year. I got lucky at the end of the heat to get that one wave. Had there been a lot of waves, I think this story might have ended a lot different.
"I think it is important for the women to surf against the men. Women's surfing has come such a long way and I think it's cool that Triple Crown gave her a wildcard into the event. Some of the top women are surfing so incredible that I think they're quite capable of beating the top men. I just think she needed to get a little more aggressive out there. Had I been coaching her today, I would have told her to get out there and apply the pressure!"
Carissa was visibly more pleased with her performance today than she was with her first Triple Crown appearance last week in the Reef Hawaiian Pro.
"On the way out Sunny said to me, 'you know 'Riss, no matter what anyone might say, you deserve to be out here, you're a great surfer', and that really meant a lot," said Carissa.
"I think I can just be stoked to have been invited to do the first two events of the Triple Crown, it was quite an honor. I wish I could have made a heat or two, but I walk away with great experience and it was awesome to get to surf out there with the guys.
"I was in second for a little bit of that heat, then I dropped to third and all I needed was a five before Sunny got that eight. I was like, 'I can do this, all I need is a wave!' But unfortunately not too many came in and I wasn't able to jump on another one. It feels awesome just to come and be welcomed in after that heat. People were stoked. It means a lot to me. If I can walk away today inspiring somebody else to follow their dreams... then mission accomplished."
Sunset is famous for shining the light on emerging performers. Among them today were Vincent Duvignac (France) and Lincoln Taylor (Australia). Duvignac won another heat to show his diversity from yesterday's fearsome conditions to today's fickle lineup.
"The conditions have been very big, with waves of up to three meters yesterday and very complicated surf," said Duvignac, after winning his way through another round this-morning. "The conditions have changed a lot today, but I was able to get a couple of good waves in my heat. You just have to concentrate and do your best."
For Lincoln Taylor, who comes from Australia's Stradbroke Island, it's the opportunity to gain experience, not points, that drives him.
"It was pretty fun out there actually," said Taylor. "There's lots of power and on my backhand I'm finding it's not too hard to surf out there. I got a couple and they seemed to wall up. I feel pretty comfortable out there.
"Pretty much every person left in the contest surfs pretty good so it will be a really hard contest to win. There's nowhere on tour that's really like this place - especially Sunset. It can be four foot today and Thursday's looking like it's going to be 20 foot, so you've just got to do your best and hopefully you don't drown."
The highest ranked seeds, including leading Vans Triple Crown contender Taj Burrow (Australia), Jordy Smith (South Africa), Adriano De Souza (Brazil), and Julian Wilson (Australia) will enter the mix on the next day of competition. Surfline.com forecasts that the current swell will continue to subside. A new swell is expected to fill in on Wednesday and hold through Thursday.
Round of 96 - Day 2 Vans World Cup of Surfing Heat 1: Vincent Duvignac (FRA) 12.53pts ; Junior Faria (BRA) 10.33pts ; Romain Cloitre (AUS) 5.27pts ; Perth Standlick (FRA) 3.70pts
Heat 2 : Evan Valiere (HAW) 13.34pts ; Heath Joske (AUS) 13.13pts ; Marcus Hickman (HAW) 11.34 ; Cory Lopez (USA) 8.77pts
Heat 3 : Brent Dorrington (AUS) 13.17pts ; Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.60pts ; Billy Kemper (HAW) 7.37pts ; Nathan Florence (HAW) 5.67pts
Heat 4 : Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.84pts ; Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 9.73pts ; Leonardo Neves (BRA) 9.00pts ; Chris Foster (HAW) 6.90pts
Heat 5 : Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 14.67pts ; Evan Gelselman (USA) 11.66pts ; Brian Toth (PRI) 8.43pts ; Mitch Crews (AUS) 7.06pts
Heat 6 : Daniel Ross (AUS) 14.16pts ; Torrey Meister (HAW) 12.27pts ; Kai Barger (HAW) 11.54pts ; Gavin Gillette (HAW) 10.10pts
Heat 7 : Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 12.90pts ; Olamana Eleogram (HAW) 12.37pts ; Nic Muscroft (AUS) 11.93pts ; Dion Atkinson (AUS) 9.47pts
Heat 8 : Davey Cathels (AUS) 12.93pts ; Nat Young (USA) 9.67pts ; Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 8.86pts ; Tim Reyes (USA) 5.93pts
Heat 9 : Dale Staples (ZAF) 12.27pts ; Joel Centelo (HAW) 8.24pts ; Nathan Yeomans (USA) 7.66pts ; Dylan Graves (PRI) 7.46pts ;
Heat 10 : Ian Walsh (HAW) 13.50pts ; Tonino Benson (HAW) 8.83pts ; Tom Whitaker (AUS) 7.76pts ; Adam Robertson (AUS) 7.00pts
Heat 11 : Lincoln Taylor (AUS) 11.87pts ; Keanu Asing (HAW) 10.10pts ; Sean Moody (HAW) 6.03pts ; Richard Christie (NZL) 3.73pts
Heat 12 : Adrien Toyon (REU) 9.57pts ; Gabe King (USA) 9.03pts ; Austin Ware (USA) 8.47pts ; Royden Bryson (ZAF) 7.90pts
Heat 13 : Glenn Hall (IRL) 13.83pts ; Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 10.47pts ; Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 8.43pts ; Tanner Hendrickson (HAW) 3.64pts
Heat 14 : Sunny Garcia (HAW) 13.93pts ; Mitchel Coleborn (AUS) 10.00pts ; Carissa Moore (HAW) 7.83pts ; Alain Riou (PYF) 5.60pts
Heat 15 : Ian Gentil (HAW) 10.47pts ; Dane Reynolds (USA) 9.06pts ; Marc Lacomare (FRA) 8.14pts ; Myles Padaca (HAW) 7.83pts
Heat 16 : Tomas Hermes (BRA) 10.14pts; Mason Ho (HAW) 10.07pts; Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA) 8.37pts ; Granger Larsen (HAW) 6.43pts