Opening day of the Vans World Cup, the final stop on the WSL QS and most important event in the qualification story for the 2018 CT, delivered true Sunset conditions today with wave face heights occasionally topping in the 20-foot range. The day's biggest performances came from Hawaii, particularly the three youngest competitors in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, Logan Bediamol (Haiku, Maui), Barron Mamiya (North Shore, Oahu) and Finn McGill (North Shore, Oahu), all only 17 years old.
Bediamol and Mamiya help make up the rookie class of 19 surfers, which represents the strongest field in the 35-year history of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS).
In Heat 6, Bediamol showed incredible control with a combination of turns and a calculated stall to navigate a deep barrel on the second wave of the set. He earned the first highest single wave score of the day, a 9.43 for the ride and ultimately the heat win ahead of Jackson Baker (AUS).
Bediamol takes a lead on the VTCS Rookie Award along with Mamiya after today's performances. The confidence boost comes after a challenging start to the season for Bediamol, but after a third place finish at the Hurley Surf Club Pro Junior at Turtle Bay Resort in October and a breakout performance today at Sunset, he is eager to find more solid results.
"I'm super excited, I really want to do well," commented Bediamol. "I grew up watching this event on TV at home on Maui. It's always been a dream of mine just to be in the comp so to be able to surf and make heats, it's so cool… I figured this winter season will hopefully be one of my better ones. Coming into the Vans World Cup I was so stoked to even just be here."
With another year left to compete against Hawaii's top 18 and under, Bediamol will stay tuned into the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui regional junior events for 2018.
"I'm going to be 18 so it will be my last amateur year, I'm going to focus on finishing out strong though the Pro Juniors and the amateur events," he continued. "I'll be doing QS's on the side but still the main focus is on the amateur stuff."
After a morning of big, consistent surf, the competition fired up even more when Dusty Payne (HAW) catapulted from fourth to first in Heat 14 after tying Bediamol for another near-perfect 9.43 score with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. Anticipation built after Payne dropped into the wave in the dying moments of the heat, needing something excellent to knock out Sunset regular Mason Ho (HAW) and advance. The Maui surfer set up with two powerful turns then pulled in for an overhead barrel and found the exit to explosive cheers on the beach.
"When you need a score you have to claim it," Payne laughed during his post-heat interview. "I got lucky, I just wish Mason (Ho) was winning the heat and we could have gone 1 and 2, but that's competitive surfing, sucks when you have to surf with your friends in heats. I just got lucky that wave came in. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good and I was pretty fortunate that one showed up."
Big wave standout Billy Kemper (HAW) scored two solid waves - a 6.50 and 6.33 - in Round One Heat 3 with dynamic surfing and a confident approach in the lineup to earn a slot into Round Two. Two-time Pe'ahi Challenge winner, Kemper is building his legendary status in the big wave arena and demonstrated his powerful style in the extra-large surf today.
"I mean, just free surfing Sunset is stressful, but it was definitely fun out there," said Kemper post-heat. "I woke up this morning and saw what was at hand and I was very stoked, it looks like we have a few days of incredible surf. To surf in your backyard at 10ft. Sunset with three other guys out is somewhat of a blessing so I'm just kind of having fun and taking it heat by heat."
Torrey Meister (HAW) was the first to put a 9-point ride on the scoreboard after he pulled into one of the best barrels of the day on the inside bowl, bringing beach fans to their feet as the day continued to deliver all-time conditions. The Big Island surfer finaled at the Vans World Cup last year and looks in fine form to advance to the podium again.
"I just enjoy surfing this place and you know, I've had a pretty rough year competing and it just feels so good to end it here," commented Meister. "I feel really comfortable out here and I always enjoy myself. Sunset is all about doing homework, when you enjoy your homework you get good results usually, I enjoy this place."
Jordy Collins (USA) has been back and forth between home and Hawaii after he competed in the Hawaiian Pro earlier this month, then earned a fifth place finish in the Pismo Beach Open to become the North America Men's QS Regional Champion. Collins is one of the handful of rookie VTCS surfers that remain in contention and could easily add another title to his stellar year after proving his dedication to the competition.
John John Florence (HAW), 25, reigning WSL Champion and defending Vans Triple Crown winner, has withdrawn from the Vans World Cup of Surfing, opting to focus his energy on the year-end WSL Title showdown at the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons.
"I have decided to pull out of the Sunset Beach Triple Crown event," Florence said. "It was a difficult decision for me. As much as I enjoy competing at home, I want to fully prepare for and focus on the Pipe Masters."
Florence is leading a four-pack of contenders for the 2017 WSL Title that includes Gabriel Medina (BRA), 23, Julian Wilson (AUS), 29, and Jordy Smith(ZAF), 29, heading into the final event of the season from December 8 - 20, 2017.