The Hawaiian Pro fired back into action this morning with multiple athletes unleashing powerful performances to rival Haleiwa's menacing conditions. Day 2 of the Men's QS 10,000 saw the swell increase through the afternoon with power surfers emerging to post the best scores of the event; Beyrick De Vries, O'Neill Massin, Billy Kemper and Ethan Ewing all scored near-perfect rides to imprint their names in Haleiwa history.
Contest organizers made a great call earlier this morning by putting the competition on standby and like clockwork, Haleiwa completely turned on by 11:00am. Waves up to 15ft. pumped through the lineup as the infamous current made for a physically-demanding day of high-performance surfing.
The first excellent score, a 9.40, came from Kemper as he set the benchmark for the day with high-energy surfing. Committed turns and critical finishes saw him take a commanding lead to close out Round 1 with a heat total of 17.73. With style and power reminiscent of Sunny Garcia, Kemper is dead-set on a Vans Triple Crown title and looking to the most successful Champion of the heritage series - Garcia, who holds an unmatched six titles - as inspiration.
"The Vans Triple Crown is my version of the World Title," said Kemper. "Obviously the Big Wave World Title is a huge accomplishment for me and a dream come true, I'm grateful to win one of those. But the Triple Crown has been something since I was just a little kid walking around getting autographs from Johnny Boy and Sunny. Just trying to take my inner Sunny and open up some big turns on some open face walls. I'm really excited for tomorrow and the next few days. I think this is going to be the smallest of the rest of the event so I can't wait to get on a bigger board and just really have fun and open up on some 10ft. Haleiwa walls. The Triple Crown is definitely all I can think about."
The best score of the day, a 9.90, went to De Vries after he committed to a critical section for a massive vertical turn on a near triple-overhead wave. His North Shore acumen was clear as he positioned himself deepest in the lineup to harness the power of Haleiwa to its full potential. No stranger to maxing surf, Beyrick nailed a perfect 10 point barrel ride six years ago at the 2013 Vans World Cup of Surfing for a massive Sunset West Bowl combined with a series of turns to lock in one of the best rides in competition history.
"The waves have definitely gotten bigger and it was kind of growing all day," said De Vries. "I've got this magic 6'6 that I rode last year and I was hoping it was going to be big enough, but I rode it this morning and I was like, ‘Actually you know what, whatever size, even if it's small lefts I'm riding this 6'6.' And it worked out. I went and sat a little bit deeper to try and get a bit more power for the first turn and then I managed to get those two scores."
De Vries backed up his 9.90 with a 7.10 and was points ahead of second advancing athlete, Carlos Munoz to guard a slot in Round 3. He will go against Joan Duru, Sebastian Zietz and Evan Geiselman in Heat 7 once competition resumes.
Tahiti's powerhouse, O'Neill Massin ended the day with near-perfection after tallying the highest combined heat total of the event, a massive 18.20. Massin has fine-tuned his big wave surfing at Teahupo‘o over the years, which translates well on competition days like today. While Haleiwa showed its teeth, Massin looked comfortably in his element while others struggled just to stay in position.
The first heat of the day saw Tanner Gudauskas open with excellence on his backhand and secure an 8.20 and 8.00 for the heat win ahead of Luke Gordon (USA). "There's nothing like a good Haleiwa wave, especially on your backhand," said Gudauskas. "It's just fun to be able to compete here at the Vans Triple Crown."
With a good rhythm and expert wave selection, Gudauskas' in-form performance will be one of his last since he announced retirement from competition post-heat.
"For me it's a special event, this will be my last Triple Crown," he continued. "I'm going to stop competing after this year. As it stands now, I'm an alternate at Sunset so I'm just enjoying every step of it." Gudauskas plans to keep chasing his passion for freesurfing and growing his nonprofit, Positive Vibe Warriors. "It's been a transition over a couple of years. I've already had a blast competing, so it feels good to just step away on a good note."
Last year, Ethan Ewing came close to re-qualifying for the CT but eased off the pressure in 2019 and is looking to simply enjoy good surf in Hawaii this season. His relaxed mindset worked well today as he scored one of the highest single wave scores of the event, a 9.37 for four strong and stylish turns on a set wave.
"It's completely different this year," said Ewing in response to his strategy. "This year I'm not thinking about qualification at all, I just want to finish the year off surfing good waves like this and having time planning a big 2020. I'm just enjoying my time here."
Ewing's approach was in stark contrast to the mood of the ocean as the swell continued to rise with every heat. He and fellow advancing competitor Morgan Cibilic, who sits No. 16 on the QS, are now one step closer to the ultimate goal at the Hawaiian Pro.
South Africa's David Van Zyl is having a strong Hawaiian season after winning the Vans Pro at pumping Sunset Beach last month and now moving on in today's competition with a comfortable heat win.
"Getting to surf Sunset, I really like that wave, so to get a win definitely gave me a bit more confidence," said Van Zyl post-heat. "Going into a wave like this, it's a lot more rippable and you can do a lot more high performance surfing so it's nice to test myself in these waves."
Today he opened Round 2 Heat 3 with a 6.50 and backed this up quickly with a 6.27 to hold onto the lead from start to finish with calm, smooth surfing. Day 1 standout and former Hawaiian Pro winner Dusty Payne earned a 6.03 as well, however was unable to find a good backup score. Payne fell to Australia's Matt Banting, who tallied seven scoring rides during the 30-minute heat, an impressive feat considering today's conditions.
No. 13 on the QS, Liam O'Brien looked hungry at Haleiwa and stayed well ahead of fellow heat contenders with a 15.50 scoreline in Round 2 Heat 6. O'Brien generated speed down the line on a beautiful open face and unloaded multiple vertical turns to secure the 7.33, then capped off his performance with an 8.17 to boost his confidence heading into Round 3.
With only three years under his belt as a full-time QS contender, O'Brien made headlines after a runner-up finish at theVans US Open of Surfing Men's QS 10,000 in August and is now within close range of qualifying for the CT. The Gold Coast native makes his sophomore appearance in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing this year and will be tuning in to his technique when he surfs again in Round 3 against Jack Freestone, Alex Ribeiro and Ian Gouveia.