KIRSTIN SCHOLTZ / COVERED IMAGES
Nathan Carroll had the highest two-wave heat total yesterday in the first day of the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa.
Triple Crown time arrives
No waiting at all for the start of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing this year.
On the first day of the waiting period, the most prestigious series in the sport got under way yesterday with the opening rounds for its first jewel -- the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa.
Waves were in the 4- to 8-foot-face range and clean, particularly during the morning. The day began with the completion of the trials, first round and two heats of the second for the men's Hawaiian Pro, a $125,000, 6-star World Qualifying Series event. In the afternoon, series organizers shifted to women's heats and completed the trials and the first round for their Hawaiian Pro, a $30,000, 6-star WQS finale.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Triple Crown is a series of three major contests for the world's top male and female pros in Hawaii's famed waves each winter. Besides the championship title up for grabs at each event, the series also crowns the top overall performer across the three as its men's and women's Triple Crown champions.
"It's the first day, and we're off to a flying start," Triple Crown executive director Randy Rarick said. "We've been blessed with some good surf right away -- better than I expected it to be."
Among the standouts for the men, Sunset Beach's Nathan Carroll logged the top overall heat score of the day in winning his first-rounder with a total of 17.50 (out of 20 maximum) points for his top two waves.
No stranger to Triple Crown success -- with the semifinals in the series' second jewel three years ago as his best result -- Carroll conceded he had butterflies at the Hawaiian Pro yesterday.
"I wasn't really expecting that (heat score)," said the 22-year-old Carroll. "I went out there and was kinda nervous, didn't really have my head in the game. After doing well before, each year you want to do better and better. Eventually you get to the point where you just want to win already, and I guess I just put a lot of pressure on myself."
Record six-time Triple Crown and five-time Hawaiian Pro winner Sunny Garcia also won his first-round heat, largely helped by the top individual wave score of the day -- a 9.50. So, too, did fellow Hawaii surfer Jason Shibata, who totaled 14.10 points for his top two waves.
"I was up this morning at 5, still dark. I was ready for today since last night," Shibata, 26, said. "I watched a lot of the early heats, and I don't know whether it's the fact that this is one of the biggest events of the year, the first jewel of the Triple Crown with guys just arriving, but I saw how unprepared a lot of guys were. And that made me even more psyched up. It's a great feeling to be competing at home, more than anything."
Other Hawaii surfers to advance yesterday included Maui's Dusty Payne and the North Shore's Daniel Jones in the men's draw, and Kauai's Alana Blanchard for the women. Blanchard won the one spot out of the women's trials and then backed that up by winning her first-round heat.
Among the other notables to also move on were: Australia's Nic Muscroft and Brazil's Bruno Santos, who've both already moved into the men's third round by winning their second-round heats; and Australia's Serena Brooke, who tallied the highest overall (15.67) and individual wave (9.00) scores among the women in winning her first-rounder.
The men's Hawaiian Pro will need at least three more competition days to run to completion. The women's Hawaiian Pro will need one.
Both have a waiting period that lasts through Nov. 24. With the current swell and conditions, competition for one or the other is expected to resume today and continue tomorrow.
Defending men's Hawaiian Pro champ Andy Irons of Kauai and current world No. 1 Mick Fanning of Australia have not yet surfed as they were seeded directly into the fourth round. Similarly in the women's draw, defending event champ Sofia Mulanovich of Peru and world No. 1 Stephanie Gilmore of Australia will surf for the first time in the second round.
Irons is the two-time defending Triple Crown winner for the men, while Mulanovich is the defending series champ for the women.