HALEIWA, Oahu/Hawaii - (Saturday, November 16, 2013) - Former Vans Triple Crown champion and ASP World No. 13 John Florence was bundled out of the REEF Hawaiian Pro in his opening heat at Haleiwa today, the victim of atypical Hawaiian winter surf and an interference call that might have ended his plans for a second crown. The REEF Hawaiian Pro is the first of three events of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing hydrated by vitaminwaterÂ®, and without a decent finish here it will be an uphill battle for Florence to win the title again.
What began as a week of maxing waves over 20 feet, today dropped to waist/head-high range at Haleiwa. With Surfline.com's forecast anticipating very small surf to settle in for the next five days, organizers opted to make use of what was on hand.
The mixture of top seeds, wildcards and those advancing through with early round momentum made for many dramatic exchanges and results. The small surf created a highly concentrated lineup and takeoff zone that delivered more than a few interference calls.
Other top seed casualties today included: C.J. Hobgood (Florida); Brett Simpson (California); Bede Durbidge (Australia); and Raoni Monteiro (Brazil). The local contingent also fell hard, with only five Hawaii surfers remaining after today's round of 64, led by defending Triple Crown champion (/athletes/14/sebastian-zietz)Sebastian Zietz].
World title contender Mick Fanning (Australia) hit the water this-morning, drawn against wildcard Dane Reynolds (California), Conner Coffin (California) and Maxime Huscenot (France). In one of the quietest heats of the day for waves, Fanning advanced behind Reynolds, enjoying the opportunity to get to Hawaii early, work on his equipment, and keep in competition mode ahead of his world title showdown against Kelly Slater (Florida) at Pipeline.
"There's no better practice than actually surfing in a real heat," said Fanning. "I'm just stoked to be back in Hawaii and surfing the good waves. Unfortunately it's small out there but, yeah, just happy to be back and surfing.
"The whole year I've been pretty relaxed about it all. It's been one of those things where you obviously set out to win a world title at the start of the year but this year I've sort of just been trying to improve and do things that are fun and just try and take it as it comes.
"I know where I am in my life and I know what I can and can't do. I'm just really excited to surf with all the young guys coming through. Competing against those guys and their different styles of surfing really excites me."
For Reynolds, the experience was enough to make him wonder if he could ever requalify through the 4-man competition scene should he ever want to. A former elite member of the ASP World Tour and one of the most innovative and original surfers on the planet, he's an occasional and welcome wildcard entrant into a variety of events these days.
"Its pretty tough being a wild card out there, not so much in this event but in the WCTs because you are going up against the top seed first round and its pretty daunting," said Reynolds. "I was actually thinking out there after the first couple exchanges... I'd get eaten alive on the WQS, because I am so bad at positioning and paddling and that is such an key element in competing in 4-man heats."
Marocco's Ramzi Boukhiam continued to go from strength-to-strength, progressing from the first perfect 10 of the event yesterday, to the highest heat score of the competition today. Claiming to prefer big, powerful rights, he was damaging on his forehand attack of the small lefts today, coming up with 18.26 points out of 20 (9.33/8.93).
"I took my small shortboard, I didn't surf it for a couple of days so it felt weird at the beginning, but after I kind of got lucky and got a good left," said Boukhiam. "They were rolling down the point. I am super happy to make it too. I am learning to show myself in the heat, and I couldn't do that before."
Defending Vans Triple Crown champion Sebastien Zietz made his debut today, looking very relaxed and seasoned as he took control of the heat and never let it go.
"This is the first time I've surfed Haleiwa since I got chaired out of the water winning last year," said Zietz. "I definitely got some goose bumps and I feel really confident. I really like all of the waves in Hawaii, so hopefully I get psyched up and have that same kind of streak that I had last year.
"Today it was about getting a good head start on everybody and then kind of cruising back and let everyone battle for waves and picking up the second or third wave of the set."
Smaller waves allowed for plenty of aerial opportunities and the Brazilians dominated that scene. Jadson Andre, Messias Felix and Miguel Pupo putting on a show for the beach crowd. They have put themselves in contention for the Hawaiian Airlines Air Show award that offers 250,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles to the top aerial maneuver of the Vans Triple Crown.
Organizers expect to place the REEF Hawaiian Pro on hold for at least the next few days. Stay tuned to Surfline.com for updated surf forecasts. One last swell is expected at the tail end of the holding period for this event, around November 22/23.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing hydrated by vitaminwaterÂ® is the world's premier series of professional surfing events that will culminate with a 2-man battle between Kelly Slater (USA) and Mick Fanning (AUS) for the 2013 men's ASP World Title. From November 12 through December 20, on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, $960,000 in prize money and a number of highly coveted titles will be offered across three ASP sanctioned events, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series champion.