The 35th Annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing launched today with an exciting aerial show at the Hawaiian Pro, a WSL QS 10,000 event, and saw Cam Richards (USA) score an excellent 9.33 for a full rotation 540 maneuver in the punchy surf at Haleiwa Ali‘i Beach Park.
Richards dominated Round One Heat 11 from the start with a 7.83 on his opening ride to raise the bar and then quickly dropped another 7.10 to secure a strong lead against competitors Shayden Pacarro (HAW), Timothee Bisso (FRA) and Dylan Goodale (HAW). The lineup was graced with a flurry of waves as the WNW swell continued to fill in and Richards found a rampy left-handed ride to take to the air for his 9.33.
A new breakout East Coast hopeful from South Carolina, this is Richards' 17th event this year after an early win at the Carve Pro Men's QS1,000 in Sydney, Australia and a runner-up finish at the Telstra Stores Tweed Coast Pro.
"It's my first year giving it my all," commented Richards. "I don't really care I just hope to do well, make as many heats as I can, make some money and get some points. Hopefully next year is really good, it'd be cool to qualify this year, but who knows."
Richards has yet to hit winning form again since his run in Australia, but is off to a solid start in Hawaii with today's performance after tallying the highest single wave and two-wave total - 17.16 out of 20 - of the competition thus far.
Pacarro also advanced with stylish top-to-bottom surfing behind Richards and secured the second highest single-wave score of the day, an 8.00, for a long left on his forehand. Tanner Gudauskas (USA) and Brett Simpson (USA) also scored 8.0 rides later in the day.
2014 Hawaiian Pro winner Dusty Payne (HAW) advanced through Round One Heat 5 behind Australia's Dion Atkinson in a tight heat that also included 2017 WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Junior Champion Barron Mamiya and Tahitian powerhouse Taumata Puhetini.
"The Triple Crown is always challenging, there's never an easy heat," said Payne. "Every time you can make one it's fortunate, I'm happy to still be going."
Payne is back in the game after taking eight months off due to a massive disc herniation suffered at the big wave break known as Nazare prior to the 2016 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. The Maui surfer missed the Vans Triple Crown last year to focus on rehabilitation and has returned to his in-form performance with a focused goal to get back on the Championship Tour (CT).
"I'm just happy to be surfing, I missed it last year and was pretty bummed. But my body feels good and I'm just really happy to be here at home." Payne had a miraculous re-qualification onto the 2015 CT after a win at the 2014 Hawaiian Pro and a second place at the Vans World Cup and is a beacon for other local surfers looking to achieve dreams through these enormous opportunities at home in Hawaii.
Regional surfer Ariihoe Tefaafana from Tahiti demonstrated quick surfing to tally nine rides in Heat 8 and advanced in first ahead of Parker Coffin (USA). Tefaafana sits third on the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui regional rankings behind Finn McGill (HAW) and has the potential to secure the Regional Champion title after McGill was knocked out in the opening heat of the day.
"This is my first Prime (QS10,000) and I was just trying to keep busy," said Tefaafana. "I'm third in the regional ranking so I came to Hawaii to win that. It's one of my first goals. I'm just taking it heat by heat and trying to have fun."