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John John Florence overcame a broken board to advance in the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing yesterday.
Youngster masters big Sunset at Triple Crown
John John Florence didn't let youth, stature or a broken board stop him yesterday.
At age 15, he was the youngest and smallest of the 136 international surfers in the men's draw at Sunset Beach, second stop for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
The mini tour of some of Hawaii's best big-wave breaks continued with the early rounds of competition for both the men's O'Neill World Cup of Surfing and the women's Roxy Pro.
Waves were very clean and in the 8- to 14-foot-face range at the famed North Shore spot for the second of three jewels in the men's and women's Triple Crowns. Competition began in the morning with the Roxy Pro completing its trials segment and first and second rounds, and then switched around midday to the men and the World Cup, for which four trials heats and four of 16 first-round heats were run.
Florence was among the surfers who turned in the biggest performances so far. The Sunset Beach local -- who stands barely 5-feet tall and weighs in at around a hundred pounds -- nabbed a 7.17 wave score for a barrel ride on the way to winning his trials heat and making the main event.
After breaking a board early in his first-rounder, Florence later got an even better barrel ride for an 8.17. But he still needed -- and managed to deliver -- a last-second score (2.73) for the runner-up finish in the four-man heat and a spot in the second round.
"I was stoked because it was stressful in the end," said Florence of his first-rounder. "I knew I needed a 2-something, and there was 50 seconds to go and I was like, 'Oh, my god.'"
Florence needed at least a 2.16 to move up from third place and avoid elimination; he got 2.73 for a ride on a smaller wave which he scraped his way into during the closing ticks. And even though the situation proved tense, Florence still said of the waves and conditions, "It's straight offshore (winds) and perfect."
COURTESY OF ASP COVERED IMAGES
Stephanie Gilmore of Australia cut back on a wave during her second-round heat in the Roxy Pro surfing contest at Sunset Beach yesterday. Gilmore kept her ASP world title hopes alive by defeating Rochelle Ballard of Hawaii and Jacqueline Silva of Brazil.
Other Hawaii surfers who competed yesterday and moved on to the second of four days of World Cup competition were: Flynn Novak, Evan Valiere, Jensen Hassett, Mikey Bruneau, Kevin Sullivan, Marcus Hickman, Raymond Reichle, Gavin Gillette and Tonino Benson.
Australia's Nic Muscroft and Adam Robertson and California's Dane Gudauskas all won their first-round heats to also advance.
Among the biggest names to be eliminated from the World Cup were four-time Triple Crown overall and 1990 event winner Derek Ho and 2001 Triple Crown and World Cup champ Myles Padaca. Both are from Hawaii.
Defending Triple Crown series champion Andy Irons (Kauai), defending World Cup champ Joel Parkinson (Australia) and the winner last week of the men's first jewel at Haleiwa, Roy Powers (Kauai), were among those seeded directly into the third round and have yet to surf in the World Cup.
Among the 25 international surfers that began competition in the Roxy Pro, Waialua's Megan Abubo continued strong after winning the women's first jewel (also at Haleiwa, two weeks ago) by taking her first-round heat with 11.43 total points for her top two waves and advancing straight into the quarterfinals.
Australia's Layne Beachley (9.86) -- the defending women's world champ -- placed second in the heat and also moved into the quarterfinals, while Sunset Beach resident Rochelle Ballard (8.66) placed third and had to surf in the second round, which she ended up getting through for a quarters spot as well.
"I just got lucky, and that was probably the toughest heat you could draw out at Sunset with Layne and Rochelle," Abubo, 29, said. "I just got lucky that I got a couple of waves. We didn't even know the heat started, and we let the best set go by."
"Things are going for me right now," she continued. "I'm just working to be healthy and get some good waves. I love Sunset."
Defending Roxy champ Melanie Bartels of Waianae also won her first-rounder to advance straight to the quarterfinals. Australia's Stephanie Gilmore -- last year's Roxy runner-up and the current women's world No. 1-- finished last in her first-rounder but recovered in the second round to post the day's best heat total among both men and women of 18.10 for her top two waves and gain a spot in the quarters too.
The North Shore's Coco Ho (Derek Ho's niece) won the single spot out of the Roxy trials. She then won her first-rounder over Gilmore to gain a quarterfinals spot.
With the current swells hitting Sunset Beach and conditions, competition is likely to resume today with either the final day of the Roxy Pro or the second day of the World Cup.