Monday, November 22, 1999
Hayes wins first jewelBy Greg Ambrose
Special to the Star-Bulletin
Another outcome like yesterday's adventure at Haleiwa's Alií Beach Park might be enough to persuade Big Island surfer Conan Hayes to stop contemplating early retirement from the World Championship Tour.
By winning the G-Shock Hawaiian Pro, Hayes takes the lead as the prime contender for the Vans G-Shock Triple Crown of Surfing championship. Good finishes in the next two Triple Crown events would assure Hayes the title and wash away an exhausting year of frustration and close calls that made the world tour wearisome.
Australian surfer Mark Occhilupo is unlikely to enhance his new world championship with a Triple Crown honor, as he exited the Hawaiian Pro early. And six-time world champion Kelly Slater made his defense of the Triple Crown title difficult with a similar early defeat.
With three Hawaii surfers leading the Triple Crown chase, it looks like the title might return to Hawaii this year, and Hayes would be pleased to be the local surfer who brings it home.
"I've been thinking about taking a year off from the tour, maybe doing half of the tour," Hayes said. "But if I do stay on tour, I want to do it 110 percent.
"I'm happy to come off with a win today. But to win the Triple Crown would make it a perfect end to the season."
With tiny waves lapping at the shore early yesterday, contest officials
decided to gamble on the oceanís generosity. Competition was postponed until late in the morning, and the waves began to arrive. By the semifinal rounds, 3- to 5-foot waves graced the contest site, with 6-foot sets.
Aussie surfer Richie Lovett looked a cinch to repeat his previous Hawaiian Pro victory, earning a perfect 10 points and nearly perfect 9.5 for a pair of deep barrels on the rights. Big Island surfer Shane Dorian also seemed headed for the winner's stand by successfully courting the rare but high-scoring tubes on the rights.
But by the final heat, 8-foot sets arrived to change the mood of the lineup. The barrels vanished, replaced by surly peaks that closed out at random and required exquisite timing and judgment to master.
Ironically, in the absence of the tubes that had been so generous to
frontside surfers Dorian and Lovett, goofyfoot surfers Kalani Robb and Hayes now had the advantage. Their backside surfing gave them better leverage, and allowed for more-explosive maneuvers.
Lovett employed a kamikaze assault on the waves, risking everything on big, low-probability floaters and lip slams that slammed him back. Dorian built momentum by efficiently working some good waves, but lost ground when he didn't emerge from a few barrels.
With each ride, Hayes expanded on his lead, with Dorian close behind. But with five minutes left in the heat, Robb snagged a set wave and worked it to the channel, leaping to the head of the pack.
And then a set bumped up as it hit the distant reef at Avalanche and headed for Haleiwa. "I had no idea going into that last wave how it stood," Hayes said. "I knew I needed a good wave, and everyone left me alone out there. So I took a deep breath and just surfed the wave.
Although Dorian made a valiant effort on a last wave as the horn sounded to end the contest, it wasn't enough to unseat his fellow Big Islander.