Ragged, windblown, overhead conditions greeted early arrivals to Ali'i Beach Park for day three of the Hawaiian Pro. Offshore, the iconic red Haleiwa channel buoy bobbed and weaved on the horizon, getting tossed about like a pool toy in the middle of a cannon-ball contest.
The howling sea breeze not only tore up the lineup, contest organizers were initially concerned the northerly wind direction might send ashore a pesky swath of stinging blue bottle jellies into the event area. In the end, the jellies never materialized, but the onshore flow and river rapid current never abated, either.
"It's the bumpiest Haleiwa I've ever surfed," said longtime North Shore local Kiron Jabour, who came out on top of his Round of 64 heat. "But you just forget everything you know about Haleiwa and restart today because it's completely different," he added, succinctly summing up the day's proceedings.
As with many things in life, the cream usually rises to the top as the pressure rises at critical Qualifying Series events. Despite the tricky conditions, the Championship Tour's top seeds entered the fray and revealed their quality: Jordy Smith, Filipe Toledo, Michel Bourez, Italo Ferreira, Frederico Morais, Caio Ibelli and Wiggolly Dantas all won their Round Three clashes, while World Champion and current World No. 1 John John Florence finished second to Mitch Coleborn in the highest-scoring heat of the day, Heat 8.
"I got the best wave of the heat, which is what you have to do to beat John John Florence," said a satisfied yet subdued Coleborn, "But I've got no pressure, I had a rough middle of the year, now I'm just trying to go surf good heats."
With his victory in Heat 11, Brazilian Willian Cardoso became the fourth surfer from the QS to book his spot on the 2018 CT. Tears of joy streamed down his face as he exited the water, met on the beach appropriately enough by the first surfer to secure his spot on next year's Tour, fellow Brazilian Jesse Mendes.
"It's not been easy, I've been here before needing a result and it never came," said Cardoso, who's also been dubbed Kung Fu Panda. "Then after 12 years on tour this happens, even after I lost my sponsor. I've got really good people behind me, mainly my family. Now my dreams come true, I want to just enjoy this moment and thank my family again, it's an unbelievable moment!"
Unfortunately, at this time of year the biggest stories on any given day are as much about who wins as they are about who loses. And it was a tough day for many of the QS's top-ranked surfers, led by a pair of surfers who were ranked in the QS Top 10: Keanu Asing, who arrived ranked at No. 6, and Ezekiel Lau, who landed at Haleiwa at No. 9 (No. 1 Mendes and No. 2 Kanoa Igarashi both lost, but they're already assured spots on the 2018 CT).
Churning through dozens of four-man heats in just a few days, it almost becomes a battle of attrition. Others to go down on Day Three include No. 12 Jorgann Couzinet, No. 15 Nat Young, No. 17 Alejo Muniz, and No. 19 Ricardo Christie.