TRIPLE CROWN OF SURFING
COURTESY OF XTREMEFOTOS.COM
Makua Rothman of the North Shore had yesterday's highest heat score at the Op Pro Hawaii -- 16.83 out of 20.
Triple Crown begins in booming Haleiwa waves
Makua Rothman has the highest heat score on the first day of the Op Pro Hawaii
THE COMPETITORS in this year's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing were ready since Saturday. They just needed the waves to get started -- and they got them in a big way yesterday.
The large waves that the prestigious series always tries to hold out for -- and typically gets -- began rolling through in the morning. The Op Pro Hawaii, the first jewel of the 23rd annual men's Triple Crown, got under way after four days of waiting in 10- to 18-foot-face waves at Haleiwa's Alii Beach Park.
The Op Pro is a $125,000, 6-star World Qualifying Series contest that serves as the opener for the series of three big-wave events at different breaks on Oahu's North Shore.
"It feels great to be back in Hawaii competing. Hawaii has the best waves in the world," said the North Shore's Mikala Jones, who placed second in his first-round heat to advance to the second day of competition. But he had to take out his younger brother, Daniel (sixth), in the process.
"You see surfing at its full potential," he continued. "And I feel lucky as a Hawaii surfer just to be a part of the Triple Crown."
The Op Pro began with 132 international surfers. All of round one and four heats of round two were completed yesterday.
Conditions permitting, the contest will resume today. The Op Pro will take three more days to complete and will be held on the best days between now and Nov. 23.
The Triple Crown represents the end of the professional surfing season each year. And, competitors are trying not only to win each contest, but also to do well enough in all to put themselves in position for the Triple Crown championship that goes to the best overall performer in the series.
It is a title that many in the sport consider as important as -- or even more important than -- the world championship, which was decided a bit early this year when Kelly Slater of Florida wrapped up the 2005 race in Brazil a week ago.
"It was tricky out there," said Hawaii surfer Jamie O'Brien, who won the last jewel of the Triple Crown (Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters) last year and his first-rounder yesterday. "There were two swells coming in from different directions. I would rate (the waves and conditions) about a six (out of 10), maybe seven. I know Haleiwa can get a lot better, and hopefully it will for this event."
"I haven't been having too much fun at contests around the world this year," he added. "But I finally have a chance to surf one of my favorite waves in the world, get some good-size surf and surf against some very good surfers."
Other Hawaii surfers to advance to the second day of competition for the Op Pro included: former event and Triple Crown champ Kaipo Jaquias, Sean Moody, Hank Gaskell, Ola Eleogram, Myles Padaca, Makua Rothman, Joel Centeio, Gavin Gillette, Nathan Carroll and Kamalei Alexander.
Rothman received the highest heat score of any surfer on the first day, totaling 16.83 points (out of 20 maximum) for his top two waves to win his opening heat. The North Shore resident even managed to nab a solid barrel ride on one of these waves, one of the few surfers able to do so all day.
Some of the other notable names to advance included California's Bobby Martinez and current world No. 4 Mick Fanning of Australia.
Surfers such as defending event and Triple Crown champion Sunny Garcia of Hawaii have yet to surf because they were seeded directly into the third round. Others in this group include three-time world and two-time Triple Crown champion Andy Irons of Kauai, his younger brother Bruce, and Australians Mark Occhilupo (1999 world champ) and Phillip MacDonald (2004 event and Triple Crown runner-up).