Vans World Cup of Surfing defending champion Michel Bourez (PYF) made event history during Round 3 with the highest heat total of the 2015 Vans Triple Crown thus far, a near-perfect combined score of 18.60. Another record-shattering performance was made by Australia's Jack Freestone, who earned the first perfect wave score of the series with an impressive 10-point barrel and a big finishing maneuver to take the heat lead.
Bourez dominated his heat against Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Miguel Tudela (PER), and Bino Lopes (BRA), with his top two waves coming in at 9.00 and 9.60. The Tahitian dedicated his performance to the late Teahupo'o charger and fellow countryman Malik Joyeux, whose life is celebrated every December 2nd after passing away 10 years ago.
"I have to surf my best out there for him," said Bourez. "It was such a good heat for me. I expected to have good waves like this today, so I'm stoked just to make it."
Freestone's 10-point barrel ride saw the 23-year-old maintain first place with a combined wave score of 17.67, while Sunset specialist Mason Ho (HAW), Aritz Aranburu (ESP), and Nat Young (USA) battled for second place advancement.
"Those ones are really hard to come by, especially when it's like this," said Freestone in regards to his perfect 10. "I was just lucky to be in position, I was under Nat and Aritz and they both didn't even look at it. I just swooped on it and it just had the perfect shape on it."
Young, who sits comfortably in 10th position on the Championship Tour (CT) rankings, made it past Ho by just over a point with an 11.93 combined heat total to advance into the next round. Spanish standout Araburu was pushed out of the competition.
Ending the day in epic fashion was current World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) with a gravity-defying floater. With a flurry of waves in the final minutes of the heat, places shifted quickly and left everyone eagerly anticipating scores. Deivid Silva (BRA) moved from fourth to first place and Medina from third to second in the final seconds before the horn sounded. Ryan Callinan (AUS) and Connor O'Leary (AUS) were left behind, as Silva and Medina advanced in first and second respectively.
"Luckily I got that last one," said Medina. "That was a tough floater. It felt like an air when I was landing. Yeah, stoked to land that one and get the score."
Silva currently leads the Triple Crown Rookie of the Year contest and needs a third-place finish at Sunset to make the Top 10 in the Qualifying Series (QS) and ultimately qualify for the elite Tour. Fresh off a QS6,000 win in Brazil, Silva is a serious contender in the tricky conditions and showed fierce talent to take down Medina.
Big wave surfer Ian Walsh (HAW), who leads the regional rankings, had a successful heat against Stuart Kennedy (AUS), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Carlos Munoz (CRI). Walsh posted an 8.50 for a solid opening performance and continued to take on big Sunset with confidence and positioning to post another good score, a 7.27.
Walsh's knowledge of big waves gives the surfer a huge advantage when competing at a renowned break like Sunset.
"I think the more time you spend in big surf definitely helps here, especially because the line up is so big," he said. "Positioning, that's what it comes down to at Sunset. Knowing when to shoot in to get a wave, when to shoot out to not get caught. There's a lot of little intricate details but you still get smoked every now and again."
World No. 1 Mick Fanning (AUS) and entertaining freesurfer Dane Reynolds (USA) traded giant waves in an exciting heat that also included Joan Duru (FRA) and Noe Mar McGonagle (CRI). Reynolds narrowly trumped Fanning for first place by posting a 6.17 and an 8.77, just 0.45 points ahead. Both advanced into the next round.
Reynolds competed on a brand new Channel Islands surfboard, a fearless move for the 30-year-old. As a shaper himself, he has the ability to understand how a board will ride well before even testing it.
"I'm feeling good, that was the first time I rode this board," said Reynolds. "It's hard to feel confident when you haven't even stood up on a board yet, but I stood up on an insider my first wave and it felt pretty good, rail-to-rail transitions, and wasn't doing anything weird so I felt comfortable when I finally did stroke into a decent wave."
Conner Coffin (USA) was under pressure in Round 3 to make his heat against Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and Jack Robinson (AUS), since the California native needs a 13th-place finish in this event to make the 2016 CT. Coffin made it through in second with a 6.33 and 4.83, while Robinson advanced on with a combined heat score of 13.50. The 17-year-old Australian phenom looked incredibly cool under the high pressure of triple-overhead waves.
The fourth and final day of the Vans World Cup will likely take place Thursday, December 3 with an 8 a.m. start. Wave faces are forecasted to be in the 8-to-12-foot range with occasional 15-foot faces gracing the Sunset lineup. Frontrunners will surf an impressive four times to make it to the podium. Multiple champions will be crowned, including the Vans World Cup of Surfing winner, the WSL Regional champion and the Hawaiian Airlines Mile leader.