Twenty-foot wave faces provided a dramatic canvas for Day 2 of the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa Ali'i Beach today, and some of the largest conditions in the history of this event. With no shortage of action, the competition featured high performance surfing and a handful of excellent scores for the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 event. Solid surf is expected again tomorrow when the event's top seeds enter the fray, including World Champion elect John John Florence (HAW) and 11x World Champ Kelly Slater (USA).
The first stop of the Vans Triple Crown, the Hawaiian Pro field has been whittled down by half, with just 64 surfers now remaining as competitors prepare for Round 3. Key advancements included the likes of Evan Geiselman (USA), Mihimana Braye (PYF) and Brett Simpson (USA).
Braye set the standard this morning in the opening heat and despite his experience in heavy waves at home in Tahiti, conditions proved extremely powerful.
"It's really hard, I've never surfed Haleiwa like this before, this big," said Braye. "It was hard, I went out with a 6'4, maybe too small, then I brought out my 6'8 and it felt really good. The waves are big out there, really big, and when the sets come you don't want to be where it breaks."
In contention for Rookie of the Year, Braye was reassured with another day of competition after advancing from Round Two ahead of Brazil's Deivid Silva.
Veteran CT surfer Nathan Hedge (AUS) commented that he has been coming to Hawaii for 20 years and has only surfed conditions like this twice at Haleiwa. Experience at the temperamental wave is crucial, however on big days it can be outweighed by athleticism and brute power.
Cascais local Frederico Morais (PRT) had the highest score of the event, a 9.77 on his first wave of the heat. The athlete produced three major maneuvers on the set wave, stamped it with a claim at the end, then backed it up with an 8.10 for the heat win.
The second highest heat score of the day went to Big Island's Torrey Meister, a 9.50 for a critical drop and controlled backhand carves in the double overhead surf. Meister, a notorious dark horse on the North Shore, advanced in second after Hiroto Ohhara (JPN)dropped a 7.17 in the dying seconds of the heat to move to first with a combined heat score of 15.50. He is now one of only five Hawaii locals still in contention.
"I'm really happy they waited for this swell," said Meister. "It's kind of like playing cat and mouse with the huge sets and the current and the waves, and trying to get those medium waves that are really deep and have the right direction."
Meister sits 47th on the International Qualifying Series (QS), which means his dream of joining the elite 34 on the Championship Tour (CT) is within reach. A Final finish at the Hawaiian Pro would see Torrey move into the Vans World Cup as a serious contender.
"That would be the best thing ever that could happen, but it's really far out so I'm just going to surf it heat by heat," said Meister in regards to qualifying for the 2017 CT.
Vans team rider Tanner Gudauskas (USA) was a standout performer in the extra large surf and eager to compete in Hawaii for the first time this season.
"I was really excited to surf in these conditions," said Gudauskas. "It's fun being given the opportunity to be challenged, not just by the lineups or the conditions, it's also the size of the waves. For us on the QS, I think we relish having days like this because it's always pretty small."