Newly qualified for the 2018 CT, San Clemente's Griffin Colaptino (USA) took the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing lead today during Round Three of the Vans World Cup after Sunset Beach delivered more pounding surf to the lineup for the third consistent day of competition on Oahu's North Shore.
A Men's QS 10,000 event, top seeds reveled in world class conditions today and displayed some of the highest level of surfing seen all year on the QS. It was a make or break day for Vans Triple Crown title contenders along with potential CT qualifiers, and with one final day left of competition, the anticipation is at an all-time high.
Sebastian Zietz (HAW) delivered the highest single wave score of the day, a 9.77 for excellent maneuvers on his forehand in Round Three Heat 11. With fine-tuned technique, Zietz unloaded on the wave and used his rail throughout the ride on two very committed turns. He backed this up with a 9.40 for another well-read wave, this time a foamy barrel off the North Point with a near-impossible exit, followed by a layback snap.
"It's a lot of paddling and I love catching a lot of waves," commented Zietz. "And if you can sit under priority and get that inside bowl, it totally separates from the outside ones and you get a really good barrel. And at Sunset, they really love to score the barrel. It's a good tactic, hopefully no one steals it."
The surfer from Kauai has competed in the Vans Triple Crown throughout his professional career and won the title in 2012 after taking an early lead at the Hawaiian Pro, Event No. 1 at Haleiwa Ali‘i Beach.
"I'm going to do the Triple Crown as long as I can. You know after doing the tour the whole year, I actually flew in last night to come do it (Vans World Cup) because Kauai is so close and I love being home too. Triple Crown pretty much gave me everything I have and it would be a shame if I didn't do it so I'm going to do it as long as I can."
Hawaii's youthful generation only reinforced their presence today as Cody Young (Maui), 18, Imaikalani Devault (Maui), 20, and Barron Mamiya (North Shore, Oahu), 17, ran away with Round Four spots after expertly navigating their way from Day 1 and taking down big names.
"This is the farthest I've ever gotten in these big events, so I feel like every heat I'm just getting more comfortable and just getting more of that feeling that I belong in these," said deVault. "It feels good to get some heats in and surf perfect Sunset and I'm just super stoked."
Opening the day and setting the pace in Round Three Heat 2 was Caio Ibelli (BRA) who had a deep barrel off the takeoff that earned a 9.10 and berth into Round 4. Ibelli was buried in the belly of the wave and raced the exit to then stamp out a frontside maneuver and reinforce the excellent score from judges.
"I could see everything in the barrel, I just couldn't predict it, I felt like it had a bump right under my board it got a little air in the middle of the barrel and I felt getting disconnected for a little while and I was really hoping I could stick to it," Ibelli commented of his barrel. "I saw lot of barrel riders tube riding yesterday and a lot of people couldn't complete because they got too comfortable in the barrel and all of a sudden the wave took them down. I was pretty aware of that and I was just trying to not get too relaxed and keep my stance solid. I'm stoked I got that wave and had a lot of fun in the heat."
Benji Brand (HAW) found his rhythm again in Round Three Heat 3 and produced an 8.23 for two vertical turns in the lip and an air drop to clinch the score. Brand went against fellow Hawaii athlete Ezekiel Lau (HAW) who was in desperate need of a good finish at Sunset since he sits on the bubble of re-qualification for the tour. Although Lau is No. 9 on the QS, he isn't safe with athletes like Italo Ferreira (BRA), No. 10, Michael February (ZAF), No. 14, and Frederico Morais (PRT), No. 15, still in the competition and shaking up the ratings. Ferreira was the only surfer that advanced today who can seal his CT qualification with one more heat advancement.
Another disappointing Hawaii elimination came after Keanu Asing bowed out of the event at the hands of Miguel Tudela (PER) and Adriano de Souza (BRA) in Round Three Heat 4. Both Asing and Lau still have a chance to qualify for the CT, however they will be counting on competitors to not overtake their places on the QS once competition resumes.
Meanwhile, Brand strengthens his lead in the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Champion race, which will award the winner a seed into all QS1,000 to QS6,000 events for 2018 plus a highly-coveted spot into the QS10,000 events up to the mid-season date. A $5,000 Vans Regional Champion Scholarship will also be awarded to the winner to help with travel costs and provide a leg-up for the athlete as they embark on an international journey following the QS.