"It's pretty grindy out there," admitted Josh Kerr, alluding to the tricky conditions on Day Two of the Hawaiian Pro. Truer words may have never been spoken by Mr. Kerr, but the wily veteran still looked downright cat-like on his way to victory in Round Two. Blustery ENE winds overnight dropped a significant case of morning sickness on the early heats, then mostly head-high, windswept conditions ruled the rest of the day.
With the small conditions, your first inclination might be to say, "Advantage young guns!" but it's a funny thing, experience. Surfers like Kerr, Adriano de Souza, Dion Atkinson and Alejo Muniz, all of whom have proven Dream Tour chops, reveal that tactics and patience can often trump the ability to throw a fin-waft here or flair an air there.
When pressed about his retirement plans if he made a late qualification charge during the Triple Crown, the Aussie added reflectively, "Surfing in a rash guard has lost its authenticity. I've had a great career, but I've always said that having fun surfing is more important than winning a heat."
For his part, Muniz, who powered his way to victory late in the day, was equally philosophical, if not as poetic. "You're always thinking about qualification," said Muniz, "After my injury and all I've been through, if it happens I'll be very happy, but if it doesn't I'll be training more for next year. Hopefully, I'll have a good result here so I'll have more confidence at Sunset."
With the direction of the swell suboptimal for Haleiwa, but still a good angle for the Backdoor/Off-the-Wall area up the highway a few miles, wounded warriors from the morning's free surf trickled into Ali'I Beach Park throughout the day, some barring scars from the morning session.
Young Californian Parker Coffin arrived with butterfly tape plastered next to his right eye and a layer of crusty blood dried on his cheek after bouncing off the bottom at OTW. Later, QS No. 9 Zeke Lau showed up with his ankle wrapped in duct tape to protect a laceration on his heel from the very same section of reef.
Don't get lulled to sleep by the prevailing conditions from the first two days of the Hawaiian Pro, even on 4-foot days, the North Shore still inflicts punishment.
Sometimes that pain is physical, other times psychological. The old cliché about every heat matters at the Triple Crown has never held more credence for the 2018 Championship Tour hopefuls. And that emotional toll was extracted on six more of the top 25 ranked surfers on the QS ratings on Day Two, including No. 11 Michael February, No. 20 Alex Ribeiro and No. 22 Mikey Wright.
With their qualification dreams now fading fast, those six surfers can only hope for better results at the final QS Tour stop at Sunset Beach - a wave well known for busting boards and breaking hearts.