The action continued as massive surf pumped through the Sunset Beach lineup for Day 2 of the Vans World Cup, a QS 10,000 event and the second gem of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Round Two saw barrels and dramatic wipeouts, however it wasn't until top seed Matt Wilkinson (AUS) triggered Round Three that the highest single wave score and heat total of the event was dropped in the final heat of the day.
"That was good fun, it doesn't always go that well out at Sunset, there's so many variables out there, so many times you find yourself getting washed in and your whole heat plan just gets washed away but, everything kind of fell into place then," said Wilkinson. "I was just stroking out the back and a wave would come and I'd ride it to the end and pull off and just do it again, and again, it was good fun."
Current No. 6 on the CT, Wilkinson took on the massive surf with a confident backside approach and found a 9.33 for two huge turns to completion on a fifteen-foot inside bowl. He took a commanding lead with a backup score of an 8.77, while Wade Carmichael (AUS) fought off Vans Triple Crown rookie contender Luel Felipe (BRA) and Evan Geiselman (USA) to advance in second. Carmichael keeps his CT hopes alive with today's advancement into Round 4 and stands to better his current No. 8 position on the QS.
The second best score of the day, a 9.0, went to Noe Mar McGonagle (CRI) for a long travel through a heaving barrel in Round Two Heat 10. Barely scratching into the wave, McGonagle faded and slowly edged his way into the tube for a well-timed ride that demonstrated excellent wave knowledge.
"It's been really fun the last few days at Sunset so I felt like finally I'm starting to get to know the wave better this year than the last 3 years I've been here, I feel really comfortable and I'm stoked," commented McGonagle. From Costa Rica, the surfer has grown up on the long left-handed wave of Pavones and had to adjust coming into the chunky rights of Sunset Beach.
"It's been my weakness my whole life so I've been working on it a lot," McGonagle continued. "Spending a lot of time here in Hawaii helps, the waves are a lot more powerful. It's paid off being here so many times and so many winters and putting time out here at Sunset, it's paying off out here, finally."
South African born and long-time resident of the North Shore of Oahu, Benji Brand (HAW), 21, currently leads the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui regional rankings above Finn McGill (HAW), who dropped out of the competition in a disappointing Round 2 loss. Brand is eyeing the coveted champion title, which will be determined at the close of the Vans World Cup.
"It'd be so sick, I just want to get into the primes (QS10,000's) next year and if you win the region then you get into the primes, that's kind of my goal," commented Brand. "Hopefully I just keep making heats and end up on top at the end of this contest."
Brand has nabbed multiple 5th place finishes in the region, two being at Sunset Beach (2017 Sunset Open and 2016 HIC Pro Sunset Beach) and put in plenty of time to earn a well-deserved place among Hawaii's best over the years. Only a few surfers can catch up to him to claim the Regional Champion title, including Imaikalani Devault (HAW) who is part of Hawaii's youthful movement and demonstrated power and flow to advance in first from Round Two Heat 12.
"We definitely look to the older guys for inspiration, they're the best," said deVault. "But, definitely new school. All of us young Hawaii guys, like my friend Cody (Young) who just won his heat too, and who was killing it power surfing, we still try and stick to the power surfing game, but I guess try and add some flare to it."
DeVault committed to two high-risk maneuvers in the lip for an 8.0 and continued his relaxed attack in the intimidating surf to back up his score with a 6.07 for the heat win. Advancing behind him was Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) with a combined heat total of 11.27 who caused an upset by knocking QS hopeful Mikey Wright (AUS) out of the competition.
Cody Young (HAW), 18, had great wave selection during Round Two Heat 9 and was in position for a massive barreling wave, which judges awarded an 8.33 after he stamped out a carve to complete the ride. The young surfer from Maui looked comfortable in the open water and offshore winds due to his experience at Ho‘okipa, the wind surfing capital of the world.
"I paddled into it and had to catch the white-water corner of it," Young commented of his excellent ride. "Almost fell on the drop, air dropped, was in the white water and then I bottom turned straight up into it. Luckily it barreled over me and as I was coming out, I almost fell again and then I had to get low and was able to do a little grab rail carve after it. It's pretty bumpy out there and hard to manage."
This is Young's second year competing in the Vans Triple Crown and at just 18 years old, has surfed Sunset in nearly every size the wave dishes out.
"Each heat that I'm surfing at Sunset I'm learning more and more and I'll just take that to the next one," he continued. "These are the main events for us throughout the year. Everybody in Hawaii looks forward to these events the most, as well as around the world doing the QS's and stuff, even CT guys are looking forward to trying to win the Triple Crown or win Pipe. It's really, really important and really special to just be in the event."
The qualification stories heated up after Jorgann Couzinet (FRA) No. 16 on the QS; Michael February (ZAF), No. 14; and Michael Rodrigues (BRA), No. 11, advanced into Round 3 where they will meet the likes of proven Sunset winner Ezekiel Lau (HAW) and Honolulu's Keanu Asing (HAW), all equally hungry to be among the world's best on the 2018 CT.