Tahiti's Michel Bourez recorded a stunning victory in triple-overhead waves at the Vans World Cup of Surfing in Hawaii. Bourez, 28, turned the tables on Dusty Payne (HAW) and eclipsed the scores of Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and Ian Walsh (HAW) in the 35-minute Final. Bourez is now at No. 2 on the Vans Triple Crown rankings behind Payne, and their battle will come down to the Billabong Pipe Masters next week.
Bourez saved his best for last, applying himself completely to every turn for maximum power, deep carves and the best tube ride of the competition in the Final. His critical positioning and committed turns produced two top rides of 9.93 and 8.20 for a total that comboed the field.
"It took a lot to get that win today, but I just tried to stay positive and tell myself that there's always a chance and an opportunity," said Bourez. "I really wanted to come here and get a big result so I can finish the year really well."
"It's going to take a lot to do well next year and I know exactly what I have to do to win events in 2015," continued Bourez, who will requalify the World Championship Tour (WCT) based on his elite Tour rank. "I'm going to try to do my best to stay in the Top 3 and stay close to the World Title. It felt great this year to be close and touch it a little bit."
Bourez's rivals never relented, especially Payne. En route to the Final, his surfing was clearly at a level above the rest of the field. After a win at the Reef Hawaiian Pro, Payne leaped into qualification contention for the 2015 Tour and his runner-up finish today secured his place among the Top 34 for next year. Payne has also been named the injury replacement for C.J. Hobgood (USA) for the main event, the Billabong Pipe Masters, giving him a shot at winning the Vans Triple Crown title. The spot in Round 1 opened up after Hobgood confirmed he will not be fit to compete at Pipe due to a foot injury he sustained at the Moche Rip Curl Pro.
Payne spent three seasons on the WCT -- 2010, 2011 and 2012 -- before dropping off due to a nagging injury, never realizing the potential everyone knew he possessed. It has taken a complete lifestyle, fitness and attitude shift for him to stand where he is today. When informed that he had indeed sealed a berth on the 2015 Tour, he punched his fists in the air and let out a loud yell.
"Yes! My approach now is way different than it was five years ago," Payne explained. "I feel like I've closed that chapter in the book and I'm just happy to be surfing and healthy again. My approach to next year will be no different than the way I've approached these events here. I'm just looking forward to Pipe and getting barreled!"
Zietz, 26, and Walsh, 31, were dominant forces in the powerful surf on offer today. Walsh, who is better known as a big wave specialist, was especially impressive and the only finalist to have surfed through all seven rounds of the competition.
The action now shifts a mile down the road to the Banzai Pipeline, where the battle for the 2014 ASP World Championship Title will take place between Gabriel Medina (BRA), Mick Fanning (AUS), and Kelly Slater (USA). It will also be where the final lineup for next year's Tour is cemented. Presently, the following surfers have secured their place through the ASP Qualifying Series: Australians Matt Banting, Julian Wilson, Adam Melling and Matt Wilkinson; Brazil's Wiggolly Dantas, Jadson Andre, and Italo Ferreira; and Hawaii surfers Payne and Keanu Asing. Brett Simpson (USA) and Ricardo Christie (NZL) could qualify if Wilson and Andre hold their place on the WCT rankings. Tomas Hermes (BRA) and Garrett Parkes (AUS) could also move in if Melling and Wilkinson climb into the Top 22 on the WCT rankings with good results at Pipe.
The 32-man lineup for the Men's Pipe Invitational has also been confirmed: Asing and Walsh will be joined by Hawaii's Mason Ho, Kiron Jabour, Torrey Meister, Ola Eleogram, Jamie O'Brien, Kaito Kino, Kalani David, Kai Barger, Hank Gaskell, Zeke Lau, Reef McIntosh, Makai McNamara, Billy Kemper, Dylan Goodale, Joel Centeio, Granger Larsen, Tanner Hendrickson, Alex Smith, Gavin Gillette, Danny Fuller, Pancho Sullivan, Sunny Garcia, Josh Moniz, Kaimana Jaquias, Shane Dorian, Seth Moniz, Kalani Chapman and Nathan Florence; as well as Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA) and Jack Robinson (AUS).
The event window for the Billabong Pipe Masters is December 8-20. Tune in daily to this site to watch the action unfold LIVE.