It was a historic day at Haleiwa for Day 3 of the Reef Hawaiian Pro: Of the 142 waves that were counted in final score lines, 113 -- or 80 percent -- scored in the good-to-excellent range. Of the 18 heats surfed today, 13 of them included total scores in the excellent range (heat totals of 16.20 points -- out of 20 -- or higher).
ASP Head Judge Richie Porta, who has worked on the World Tour for 19 years, said: "This has been an amazing event of surfing and the 4-man priority system has only enhanced the spectator experience. On top of incredible surf, we've basically eliminated hassling amongst competitors that previously would have seen them pushing each other out of position in the hunt for scores. Now we're seeing surfers relaxed in the lineup, in perfect position for the waves when they come, and riding the best waves on offer. It's a win-win."
Excellent waves continued to pump in the double-to-triple-overhead range, and Maui's Dusty Payne never faltered. Currently No. 97 on ASP's Qualifying Series (QS) ratings, Payne finished Day 3 with the highest heat score: 18.70 out of a possible 20.
Payne can thank some highly charged fellow competitors for forcing him to step up his game: Raoni Monteiro (BRA), Sunny Garcia (HAW) and Kolohe Andino (USA) never relaxed the pressure on Payne. Monteiro advanced in second with 17.00 combined score, while Garcia and Andino were eliminated despite impressive scores of 16.30 and 14.10, respectively.
"I'm really not even thinking about [qualifying]," Payne said after his heat. "I'd love to just do good and have a shot at trying to win the Triple Crown. That's all I really care about. It's Hawaii's version of the World Title. I think if the waves keep coming I can have a run at it. I'm just stoked to be here healthy and surfing again. It's been a while and I feel 100 percent."
In recent years, Durbidge has arrived in Hawaii with the burden of requalification. This winter, he is comfortably positioned at No. 14 on the ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) ratings and is freed up to enjoy surfing the power of Hawaii. Another Vans Triple Crown series title is always on his mind, and with a proven track record at all three events, it's certainly a possibility.
"It's always a goal coming to Hawaii," said Durbidge. "Winning the Triple Crown and having a taste of it before, It's the best feeling ever. It's still in the early days; this is my first heat. But I'm feeling good, healthy and strong, so I just want to keep this form going."
Two more solid Australian results followed after Durbidge, with a win for Julian Wilson and an advancement for Mick Fanning. As an ASP QS Prime-rated event, the Reef Hawaiian Pro does not count towards Fanning's World Title campaign, but is an excellent opportunity to get reacquainted with the powerful surf of the North Shore and fine tune equipment.
"The waves here in Haleiwa are some of the best in the world. Sitting out there waiting for a bomb and knowing it's yours is a pretty awesome feeling," said Fanning. "Haleiwa, I think is probably the most high-performance wave in the world and it just allows you to do huge turns."
On his upcoming World Title defense: "It's another big year and it's always great for the fans of the sport it's great for them when it comes down to the last event. Even being in it I'm stoked it's coming down to the wire when everyone has to test their nerves. It's going to be fun, I hope we get good waves and we can just surf".
It wasn't the best day for Brazilian contenders. Jesse Mendes, Jadson Andre, Alejo Muniz, Miguel Pupo, Jean De Silva and Caio Ibelli all fell, leaving Tomas Hermes, Raoni Monteiro and Filipe Toledo the only Brazilian hopefuls in title contention.
Only one day of competition remains for the REEF Hawaiian Pro - the first stop on the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Event organizers will reconvene at 7:45 a.m. local time to assess conditions for a possible 8 a.m. start.