Kelly Slater raves about the quality of the wave at Haleiwa. It's among his favorites on the North Shore. But historically, he only competes there every other leap year. While the 11x world champ is also a 2x Triple Crown winner, his last go at it came in the 90s. That's because during his title-gathering years Kelly was focused squarely on Pipeline.
Now 44, Slater recently made headlines when he announced that next year will be his last attempt at a world title. This was newsworthy because Kelly has options. And while all of his options are awesome, to an extent they're also paralyzing. If you ever want to stress Kelly Slater out, just try getting him to commit to anything outside the long-range swell forecast. Nothing makes him more nervous.
So to say he's in for next year is a big deal. And another big deal was him showing up last minute at the Hawaiian Pro, a QS10,000. He entered so late, in fact, that he had to ask Commissioner Travis Logie for a wildcard spot.
Of course, Slater's arrival is bad news for those on the qualification bubble. Just ask Ian Gouveia and Deivid Silva. Ranked No. 6 and No. 11 respectively on the Qualifying Series, they both had their hands full with Slater and young gun Samuel Pupo, little brother of CT star Miguel Pupo.
Slater opened up surfing smooth and silky. He banged out a 9.0 on his second wave then cruised to victory. Pupo pulled a huge upset by advancing with him, and now Gouveia and Silva are trying to avoid rope burn as they slide down the rating's wall.
Meanwhile, John John Florence, the new WSL World Champ, kicked off his bid for Triple Crown number three with a win over Sebastian Zietz, the 2012 Triple Crown winner. John John looked loose while cruising to victory with a heat total of 16.30, which he netted without ever getting out of third gear in the slow-running heat.
Shortly after Florence's heat, however, the conditions seemed to improve for a while, and it happened just in time for one of the biggest battles of the day, featuring Jordy Smith, Tanner Gudauskas, Stuart Kennedy and young Californian Griffin Colapinto, of San Clemente.
Colapinto jumped out to an early lead, but Smith and Gudauskas came back strong, and were sitting in front of him with 10 seconds remaining. In a last-ditch effort, the kid from San Clemente hucked a ridiculous Hail-Mary inverted air on a well-overhead closeout. He disappeared briefly into the foam and emerged throwing both arms in the air. His score: 9.93.
Unfortunately for Colapinto and the San Clemente Mafia, his last-second win was quickly tempered by the fact that his jump from third to first eliminated fellow San Clemente local and Good Vibe mentor Tanner Gudauskas (currently ranked #16 on the QS) from the contest, and quite possibly his chances at qualifying for the '17 Championship Tour.
By day's end Gouveia, Silva, and Gudauskas would have plenty of company on the QS casualty list. Patrick Gudauskas, Jesse Mendes, Ryan Callinan and Ezekiel Lau all suffered early round losses as well, and are now looking to salvage their 2017 CT shots at the next contest in the Vans Triple Crown, at Sunset Beach.
Meanwhile, Round Four at the Hawaiian Pro looks stacked.