VANS TRIPLE CROWN
Powers proves he can hang with the big boys
In what Vans Triple Crown of Surfing officials characterized as the heaviest conditions ever for a series contest at Haleiwa, Roy Powers of Kauai delivered two huge scores in the decider of the Reef Hawaiian Pro yesterday to win the event and compel his fellow finalists to surrender before it was even done.
Massive waves with faces regularly reaching 20 feet and topping out at around 25 rolled through the break on the fourth and final day of competition for the 6-star-prime World Qualifying Series event and first of three major contests on the North Shore that make up the Triple Crown, now in its 25th year.
Powers surfed through three heats yesterday just to qualify for the 35-minute Hawaiian Pro final. Once in the decider, he took control early with a near-perfect 9.17 (out of 10) wave score 11 minutes in, and then effectively seized the victory with an even better 9.67 about 8 minutes later.
The Hawaiian Pro victory was Powers' first major professional title in Hawaii and what he called "by far" the biggest accomplishment of his career thus far. Besides winning the prestigious title and the $15,000 first prize, the 26-year-old pro from Hanalei also took the early lead for the Triple Crown title that goes to the best overall performer in the series and secured a spot next year on the World Championship Tour reserved for the top 45 surfers in the world.
"In all of my heats I was trying to get my waves and keep the momentum and pressure on everyone else," Powers said. "But to get two (9-plus) scores in the final at Haleiwa and win the event? C'mon. And it's serious Haleiwa out there.
"I'm so stoked right now. Everything came together. I'll remember this forever."
With Powers already having an almost flawless tally of 18.84 total points for his best two waves less than two-thirds of the way into the heat -- and the extremely challenging conditions not making things any easier -- the three other finalists struggled initially to try to match Powers' scores and, eventually, all made their way back to shore with 3 minutes still remaining on the clock.
As one of the three Triple Crown contests, almost all of this year's WCT surfers participated in the Hawaiian Pro though it was a WQS event. Currently No. 6 on the WCT, Australia's Bede Durbidge finished in second place with 13.74 total points for his top two waves. No. 4 Joel Parkinson (12.00) of Australia took third, while Haleiwa's own Sean Moody (6.37) made good on his sponsor Reef's wildcard entry into the event by placing fourth.
"It's huge out there, pretty tiring, and Roy smashed that heat," Durbidge said. "Once I moved into second and saw everyone else (but Powers) coming in, there was no point in going back out. (But) I wanted to have a good start (in the Triple Crown), and that's what I did."
Powers' first 9-plus score came on a set wave on which he negotiated his way through a quick barrel and then executed two deep carves in the most critical section of its face. The second came after he forced his way through the backdoor of a much meatier barrel and successfully came out several seconds later on the other side.
During the first quarterfinal earlier in the day, Powers placed second behind Moody, with both advancing to the semis. In the heat the two combined to eliminate defending Hawaiian Pro and Triple Crown overall champ Andy Irons of Kauai (third place), and new world champion Mick Fanning of Australia (fourth).
"In order to do any good in this contest," said Moody, "you have to beat these guys."
After spending 2006 on the WCT and not doing well enough to stay on the elite tour, Powers spent this year on the WQS and was sitting at No. 33 in its rankings entering the Hawaiian Pro. But Powers' win catapulted him 21 spots to No. 12 for the WQS.
Generally, the top 15 WQS surfers each year qualify for the next WCT season. At No. 12, Powers has already locked up his spot and doesn't have to worry about his performance in the next Triple Crown event -- the World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach -- that also serves as the WQS finale.
"I was a little worried there (about the WCT), but it looks like I've sealed myself in," Powers said. "Now I want to win the Triple Crown -- to me, that's priceless. That's the next step."
The World Cup has a waiting period that begins tomorrow and runs through Dec. 6. The second jewel of the women's Triple Crown --the Roxy Pro -- will also be held at Sunset Beach during the same period.