TRIPLE CROWN OF SURFING
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Carissa Moore, a Hawaii 14-year-old, was among those advancing out of the Op Pro Hawaii's first round yesterday in Haleiwa. CLICK FOR LARGE
Op Pro gets off to flat start
The holding period is a factor as the Triple Crown event gets under way despite small surf
The surf setting was hardly regal, but the 2006 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing got under way yesterday with the first day of the women's Op Pro Hawaii.
A trials heat and the first round were completed in mere 2- to 4-foot-face waves at Haleiwa.
With a field that began with 50 surfers, another full day of competition is needed by next Wednesday -- the end of the holding period -- to complete the opening event of the prestigious women's series made up of three major contests in Hawaii.
The men's Triple Crown opener -- also called the Op Pro Hawaii and held at Haleiwa -- has yet to begin. It also must complete what will likely be a minimum of three full competition days by the same date.
In other words, including today, Triple Crown officials must run the contests on at least four of the next seven days. And the forecast for this period doesn't look favorable for the big waves that the series -- and Hawaii -- is known for.
"It's a slow start to the Triple Crown," series executive director Randy Rarick said. "But with no surf since the waiting periods began on Sunday and the necessity of running five days of competition, while it's not ideal, we have to run with what we've got. And the waves are still contestable."
Among the surfers making the most of the conditions were Hawaii's Carissa Moore and Australia's Stephanie Gilmore.
In her third year of gaining entry into at least one Triple Crown contest, Moore, a 14-year-old freshman at Punahou School, won the six-surfer trials heat to get into the main event, and then her six-surfer first-rounder.
Moore posted the two highest overall heat scores -- 16.64 (out of 20) total points in the first round and 15.27 in the trials -- and the four top-scoring individual waves, including a high of 8.67.
Three of those top individual scores came in the first round, so the lowest of those (7.83) was actually a "throw-away" since only a surfer's top two waves in each heat count toward her final tally.
Considered a potential future world champion, Moore said she still plans to enter only select professional events like the Op Pro until she finishes high school.
"I came here with my dad this morning, and called (off to) school," Moore said. "I'm just really excited that we're (beginning with the Triple Crown) finally, and I'm just so thankful for the opportunity."
Besides being part of the Triple Crown, the Op Pro is also the final event of the women's World Qualifying Series season. The WQS allows competitors to gain points toward qualifying for the elite World Championship Tour generally reserved for the world's top 17 women's surfers. (The last two events of the women's Triple Crown are the final ones for the 2006 WCT.)
Currently the No. 2 surfer on the WQS, the 18-year-old Gilmore has already locked up a spot on the 2007 WCT.
Although the pressure to qualify for the elite tour is off, she hopes to put in a strong performance during the Triple Crown to finish off her year and further boost her young career.
Gilmore got a good start, winning her first-round heat with 14.57 total points to move on to the final day of the Op Pro, when four-surfer heats begin.
"Hawaii is such a proving ground" for surfers, said Gilmore, who also was selected to surf in the Triple Crown's second jewel, the Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach, and won the most recent WCT event in Australia after receiving a wild card.
"These events at Haleiwa and Sunset are really prestigious. And I really want to shine -- big waves, small waves, whatever. I think Hawaii is the perfect place for that."
Two other Hawaii surfers, Malia Manuel and Leilani Gryde, also advanced to the final day.
Like Moore, Manuel had to surf in the trials. She placed second in that heat and in her first-rounder to move on.
Gryde placed third in her first-round heat to qualify.
Some of the big names who were seeded into the later rounds and will hit the water for the first time when the Op Pro resumes include current world No. 1 Layne Beachley (Australia), defending world and overall Triple Crown champion Chelsea Georgeson (Australia) and No. 9 Megan Abubo (Hawaii).