Small waves hurt Hawaii
With atypical North Shore waves for this time of year, there hasn't been the typical home-break advantage for Hawaii surfers so far in the 22nd annual men's Op Pro Hawaii.
This was clearly demonstrated yesterday during the second of four days for the contest that also serves as the opener to the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a prestigious series of three major events at premier North Shore venues.
In 2- to 4-foot-face waves at the Alii Beach break of Haleiwa that could pass for the regular surf at a lot of other places in the world, one Hawaii competitor after another went down while others in the international field that began with 160 surfers excelled.
"That was so hard," said Sunset Beach's Nathan Carroll, who managed to scrape together a mere 7.60 (out of 20) total points for his top two waves in his fourth-round heat and a runner-up finish to advance. "It was so flat and inconsistent, you pretty much gotta paddle for anything you can, and do a turn here or there, whenever possible."
The entire third round and eight of 16 heats of the fourth were completed yesterday. The competition likely will resume today, as there are only three days left in the Op Pro holding period to run its final two competition days.
Of the five Hawaii surfers who surfed in the fourth round so far, none were able to win a heat, and only Carroll and Sean Moody -- who also got a runner-up result -- weren't eliminated from the competition.
Six other local competitors were taken out in the third round, including first-day standout Daniel Jones and former two-time event winner and 1996 overall Triple Crown champion Kaipo Jaquias.
"It's a little sad that this is your home break, and you're not getting waves for it," said the 21-year-old Carroll. "But you just gotta take what you can get, and be thankful that there still are waves and we're out there surfing."
Among those appearing most comfortable in the conditions were the Brazilian and Australian surfers.
Though they had the statistical advantage of having the most numbers of any countries in this part of the draw, they also consistently delivered the performances necessary to advance.
Of the eight fourth-round heats yesterday, Aussies won five and the Brazilians two. Yet another Australian and three more Brazilians moved on from the round with runner-up finishes.
Brazil's Bernardo Miranda tallied the highest overall heat score (16.50) of the contest so far in winning his third-rounder, and countryman Pablo Paulino notched the highest individual wave score -- a near-perfect 9.57 -- in the same heat and also advanced.
In small waves "there's probably a bit more pressure, because everyone sits on top of each other" in the lineup, said Aussie Leigh Sedley, who won his fourth-rounder with 13.33 total points. "When it's really small, you know what everyone is doing and what you need -- you just gotta surf your own heat and hope for the best."
When the Op Pro resumes and the fifth round begins, high seeds like defending Triple Crown winner Andy Irons, defending event champion Pancho Sullivan and record six-time former Triple Crown champion Sunny Garcia will hit the water for the first time to represent Hawaii.
Waves should continue to be small, however, and these big names will likely be tested, too.
The current wave size helps more of the non-Hawaii surfers, said Australia's Dayyan Neve, who won his fourth-rounder with 16.00 points.
"But I'd rather it be 6- to 8-foot (traditional Hawaii scale) Haleiwa. Still, I'm mentally ready to take it to them and give it all I got."