Sunset Beach in all its booming glory took the star turn of the day for the culmination of Round Two at the Vans World Cup of Surfing. Courtesy of a favorably angled West swell, perfect 8- to 10-foot surf poured through the line up for most of the day.
Despite the pumping swell, Sunset had an unusually approachable feel, unencumbered by all the unruly spookiness common on big days. The clean conditions and light breeze allowed for sparkling, high-performance surfing-complete with barrels and progression.
There was unexpected carnage, however, specifically on the side of Championship Tour qualifying dreams, which saw both casualties and survivors. Among the ranks of casualties were Qualifying Series No. 11 Tomas Hermes (who lost on Day One), his compatriot No. 25 Michael Rodrigues, along with a trio of U.S. Mainland surfers--No. 14 Evan Geiselman, No. 22 Brett Simpson and No. 26 Griffin Colapinto--all headed home to contemplate their varying career paths.
Of those who advanced on to surf another day included a handful of the most vulnerable bubble-sitters: the No.'s 8-10 ranked QS surfers, Ryan Callinan, Bino Lopes and Frederico Morais, respectively. While Callinan and Lopes struggled despite advancing, Morais continues to carry his dominant form through the early rounds, taking his Round Two Heat Seven win convincingly with a rare total heat score north of the 15-point range.
Callinan opened up about the pressure. "I had a really bad heat at Haleiwa a couple weeks ago and I was thinking about all the scenarios to requalify way too much, so my head was in another place. Out there just now, though, I was just focused on the heat at hand and it allowed to me to perform a lot better."
Behind them include the threesome of No. 13 Jesse Mendes, No. 15 Ezekiel Lau (surfing the first heat of Round Three) and No. 16 Deivid Silva, all of whom moved on through pressure-packed heats.
"The waves were firing out there," Lau said after his heat. "That's a special thing to be able to compete in conditions like that-and at home."
A contingent situated in slightly less desirable positions hovering around the No. 20 spot surfed much more loosely, as might be expected, and their scores shined for it. Tanner Gudauskas, Mitch Crews, Marc Lacomare and Soli Baily all progressed through tricky heats.
Amongst all the point counting and hand wringing, was by far and away the standout heat of the day: Round Two Heat 13. It was a bright glimpse into the future starring 16-year-old Finn McGill, 18-year-old Colapinto, young Hawaiian trialist Josh Moniz and former WSL Pro Junior World Champ Maxime Huscenot. The North Shore-raised phenom McGill took the win over 2nd place Moniz and 3rd place Colapinto with just .40 separating first and third.
At this point it gets more and more difficult to detach the surfer from the QS ranking, the two no longer being mutually exclusive. With a swell trending down for Round Three and CT seeds entering the draw, every heat gets deeply scrutinized and the emphasis on tactics more intense. And so The Grind twists on.