Australia's Connor O'Leary lit up Haleiwa at the Hawaiian Pro with an intense Round 3 win over reigning world champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) to solidify his equal 11th ranking on the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS). A strong finish here tomorrow could qualify him for the 2016 WSL Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour. The final day of the Hawaiian Pro is expected to get underway tomorrow at 8am.
Competing through rounds of 4-man heats, both O'Leary and Medina advanced through to tomorrow, but O'Leary's near perfect 9.57 and top heat score of the entire contest to date - 18.24 - proves he is a serious contender for this first stage of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
The half Australian half Japanese surfer has spent the year competing around the world to stack up 19 heat wins this season, and at 21-years old, the Sydney local is showing good momentum.
"There's lots of talk about what the cut off is at the end of the year and I don't think anyone really knows until it happens," said O'Leary. "I'm just going to try and go heat by heat and hopefully make a few heats here."
One of the most consequential heats of the day got down to the wire in Round 4 with Filipe Toledo (BRA), Dusty Payne (HAW), Brent Dorrington (AUS) and Deivid Silva (BRA). Less than one point separated all four surfers before their final scores dropped, but it was 20-year-old phenom Toledo who pulled ahead for the heat win with a total score of 16.57.
"I just started to get busy right at the beginning of the heat to get three scores to feel comfortable in the first 5 or 10 minutes and then wait for the bombs, so that's why I was super busy out there," said Toledo.
Currently sitting in second place on the world tour, the Brazilian has shown extreme talent throughout the year with three CT wins - Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal, Oi Rio Pro and Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast - but is coming into Hawaii with humility.
"Hawaii is always the tough season for me, doing the Triple Crown and doing well here in Haleiwa," said Toledo. "I really love to surf Haleiwa, but I never had a really good result so that's why I always come early to compete here. I'm not doing Sunset because I'm going to stay focused on Pipe, I'm going to surf Pipe pretty much everyday waiting for the swell and see how it goes."
With massive scores all day long, the action was at an all time high and major progresses were made for a few key athletes. Tomas Hermes (BRA), Tiago Pires (PRT) and Hizunome Bettero (BRA) surfed from the Round of 128 and are now in place for the Quarter Finals.
Hermes and Bettero are looking to drop their lowest results of the season, a 700 and 650 respectively, to improve dramatically on the QS ratings.
Wade Carmichael (AUS) is looking to catapult himself on the world tour with an impressive campaign from the Round of 128. With a casual approach, Carmichael posted his best two waves early in the heat, a 7.83 and 8.00, to advance along with Ricardo Christie (NZL) and ahead of Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and Joel Centeio (HAW).
Competition is expected to resume for the final rounds tomorrow at 8am. The Round of 32 will be completed before heading into the Quarters, Semis, and Final.