South Africa's David Van ZylDavid Van Zyl conquered an all-star Final today at the Vans Pro presented by HIC, a QS 3,000 event, after battling proper surf at Sunset Beach to come out on top of the 112-man field. Only the second non-Hawaii surfer to win the Vans Pro, Van Zyl is the first international athlete to take the title after besting former event winner and Sunset powerhouse Ezekiel Lau, big wave connoisseur Jack Robinson and North Shore standoutBarron Mamiya, who earned runner-up, third and fourth place respectively.
His biggest professional win to date, Van Zyl, 26, had an underdog victory after climbing out of a combo situation in the Final and pulling ahead of heat frontrunner Lau. With priority, the South African scored a 6.67 for an aggressive, well-timed turn in the critical part of the section, then picked up another wave under priority toward the end of the heat. He went vertical on two turns to score an 8.00 and moved into first place to shake up the standings.
"I can't believe it, I'm so stoked, I went into the Final just so stoked to have made the Final," said Van Zyl. "I just wanted to surf and get a few waves, I wasn't really planning on winning or doing anything crazy. I just wanted to get good scores and good waves. I was a bit nervous at the start, I actually was comboed for pretty much half the heat so to come back at the end was really special."
The most successful Sunset surfer of the 4-man Final, Lau attacked the 30-minute heat with an opening 7.67 layback hack to fire a warning shot, meanwhile, Mamiya and Robinson collected decent results on their scoreline.
Lau seemed to be in command after securing a nice backup on his second wave, a 6.50 for an opening turn and perfectly timed closing maneuver. Robinson caught up after completing a variety of maneuvers on a foamy wave face for an 8.37 and with less than five minutes left on the clock, Mamiya increased his scoreline with a 6.27 on a set wave to back up his 6.43.
"All these guys are insane," Van Zyl commented of his fellow finalists. "Obviously Zeke, he's won this event before, he's so powerful and he knows this wave really well. Jack Robbo, he's a master out here, he's so good. He's not Hawaiian but he pretty much is, he just rips this wave. And Barron is probably top 3, 4 guys out there, he's really good and rides small boards. So coming into that Final I was just so happy to have made it and it's just really special."
Van Zyl is staying on the North Shore for two months with friend and countryman Benji Brand, who earned the event's first perfect 10-point ride, and is looking to gain experience at Pipeline, Sunset and Haleiwa.
Runner-up Lau had a marathon five-heat day but stayed composed and strong all the way through the Final. With multiple wins at Sunset Beach - in 2018 and 2013 at the Vans World Cup, 2011 at the Vans Pro and 2013 at the Pro Junior - Lau was the man to beat.
"I was finding comfort in that I've been here more times than these guys and I feel comfortable," said Lau. "I'm ready, this isn't anything new to me, I surfed five heats today and a warm-up surf in the morning. I knew what it took and I paced myself through the whole day, from the first heat all the way to the last heat, so for me to be in the last heat in the Final on the last day, I'm stoked."
Lau returns home to Hawaii after his third consecutive year on the Championship Tour (CT). Currently ranked No. 28 on the CT and No. 48 on the QS, he will need to finish strong this season to secure his place among the world's best.
"It's been a long year for me and I haven't found that much luck on the road so to come home and go straight into the first event and be in the final, that's huge for me, for how I'm feeling and my momentum," Lau continued. "I just want to carry this on and keep going through the whole Vans Triple Crown. I'm looking at clinching that Triple Crown for Sunny (Garcia) this year, I want to bring that trophy home to him."
A legendary athlete at Sunset Beach, Sunny Garcia was honored during the Vans Pro awards presentation as the most successful Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Champion in history. With an unprecedented six titles to his name, Vans dedicated a $5,000 Travel Award to the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Winner, which was earned by Kauai athlete Gavin Gillette (HAW) after a strong showing this year in the regional event.
"Honestly, after Tahiti in March I was in the lead, so I've had a lot of time to think about it," said Gillette. "The moment kind of dulled out a bit and then we got to this event and it was time to start looking at all the possibilities. When I lost is when it really started to sink in and I started to get nerves in my stomach and crunch the numbers."
Gillette, 33, won the Air Tahiti Rangiroa Pro earlier this year to receive a jump on the regional ratings and after Barron Mamiya - the only one who could catch Gillette - ended the competition in fourth place, the Regional title was Gillette's. As the 2019 WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Winner, he receives automatic entry into all QS and top-rated Challenger Series events for the first half of the 2020 WSL season, along with regional runner-up Cody Young (HAW) from Maui.
"I would love to do some primes (Challenger Series) again, there's a couple sick QS 6,000's as well so I'm more than willing to go. I've got great boards from Firewire so I have no real excuse not to go. I'm going to have to go give it a dig again."
International steamroller and Sunset specialist Robinson earned the second perfect 10-point ride of the 2019 Vans Pro during Round 4 for navigating a deep, critical barrel at the end of the heat. He backed up this score with an excellent 9.00 for two explosive maneuvers and notched the highest heat total of the event, a 19.00 (out of a possible 20).
Robinson's final appearance sees him in the No. 20 spot on the QS and with a good track record in the Vans Triple Crown, he will be a top contender for CT qualification this year, along with Mamiya, who moved up the rankings to the No. 12 spot after his fourth place finish today.
The Vans Pro also qualified nine local athletes into the Vans Triple Crown where they will join the world's best in their own backyard for the next six weeks. The sport's most influential heritage surfing series, the Vans Triple Crown will honor the Champions, legends and next generation of surfing starting November 13 - December 20 at Haleiwa Ali‘i Beach. The following athletes are qualified into the Hawaiian Pro:
Kainehe Hunt, Kauai Eli Hanneman, Maui Robert Grilho, Oahu Noa Mizuno, Oahu Shayden Pacarro, Oahu Billy Kemper, Maui Anthony Walsh, Oahu Robert Patterson, Big Island Logan Bediamol, Maui
The North Shore season is now primed for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, three iconic and defining surf contests that are the cultural epicenter of surfing from November 13 - December 20. This heritage surf series celebrates the sport's historic past and redefines where its future is headed. From skaters to surfers, shapers to photographers, artists to industry notables, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is where careers are made, where legends are solidified, and where the next generation tests their talent against the old guard in the mecca of surfing -- the North Shore of Oahu.
The Vans Triple Crown will begin at Haleiwa Ali'i Beach for the Hawaiian Pro, a Men's QS 10,000 event and the penultimate QS event of the year. This competition heats up the qualification scenarios and also sifts out the Vans Triple Crown title race frontrunners before heading back to Sunset Beach for the Vans World Cup of Surfing.