If Day 1 of the Vans World Cup was wild, then Day 2 was downright spooky. Outside the Sunset Beach lineup, a constant barrage of huge set waves slammed into the cloudbreak a half-mile offshore, creating a horizon of whitewater buffeted by plumes of spray shooting 50 feet into the air.
Closer to shore, a steady stream of 10- to 12-foot windblown peaks poured through heat after heat, providing plenty of opportunity to prove your mettle. Or melt under pressure.
And it didn't take long for the attrition to mount. Two of Day 1's standouts -- Billy Kemper and Torrey Meister -- were early casualties, bounced from the event within the first two hours of competition on Day 2. Such is the mercurial nature of Sunset.
Never one to wilt in the face of adversity, however, was World No. 6 Matt Wilkinson, who saved the best for last. The Aussie goofyfooter showed off his Championship Tour skills late in the day with the highest total heat core of the entire round -- 18.10. It was a masterclass in backhand surfing at Sunset -- power, finesse, positioning and timing.
Deeper into the draw, the stress of qualification weighed heavily on a handful of Qualifying Series hopefuls, while others dealt with the pressure in their own unique way. QS No. 16 Jorgann Couzinet brought his own good-luck charm in the form of board caddy and Sunset local, women's QS competitor Mahina Maeda.
"It never hurts to have a Hawaiian on your side," shrugged Couzinet, who is originally from Reunion Island, but has since moved to France. He needs to advance through at least two more rounds to keeps his Championship Tour dreams alive.
Ethan Ewing, the former Triple Crown Rookie of the Year (who will not be returning to the CT next year), knows all about pressure. After his heat victory today, he offered up some humbling advice to this year's Triple Crown shooting star, Griffin Colapinto.
"I'd say just have fun on Tour, but focus on the QS," confessed Ewing, "I wish I would have done that this year but I was too busy focusing on the CT just trying to get heat wins. If I could've got a good start on the QS early in the year I wouldn't be in this position."
While others still remaining in the qualification hunt, like No. 8 Wade Carmichael and No. 14 Michael February, survived to keep their flickering CT dreams alive for 24 more hours (on a somber day where competitors wore black arm bands on their jerseys to honor the late Jean da Silva and Oscar Moncada), it was No. 11 Michael Rodrigues who perhaps summed it up best.
"I've slept like five hours a night for the last few nights because I'm so nervous," said Rodrigues, breathing heavily in his post-heat interview, still gassed from wrestling Sunset for 25 minutes. "But I'm excited to get through this heat."