COOLANGATTA, Australia (Thursday, November 27, 2008) – With the observance of Thanksgiving Day there will be no start to the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing or the Roxy Pro Hawaii before November 28. On this day Vans Triple Crown Director Randy Rarick and Contest Director Bernie Baker are expecting the leading edge of a major swell out of the north west. It is probably going to come on strong during Friday, however a frontal system associated with the swell we might well be in for a bit of adverse weather. As the low pressure system s over Hawaiian waters the trade winds will give way to a spell of Kona winds, kicking up some major chop on the face at Sunset.
Pat Gudauskas loads up his truck in preparation for the O’Neill World Cup.
Hopefully this system will pass through mercifully and a return to trades is around the corner. Hark back to last years O’Neill World Cup and event organizers were running just ahead of a Kona storm that howled for over a week, pretty much ruining PIpe. On that day, just before Sunset became totally unruly, local star Makuakai Rothman and Brazilian Leonardo Neves waged a beautiful war on water, victory going to Rothman in the closing seconds. Both will be contesting this year’s edition, and they will be joined by a star-studded mix of World Champions, WQS warriors and local heroes.
In a real twist, the celebrated top seeds, who traditionally dominate Triple Crown events, nearly all bombed at Haleiwa, as did a solid quota of the leading WQS contenders. This opened the door big time for guys on the wrong side of the bubble to make a move. Making the most of the opportunity were Hawaiian pros Kekoa Bacalso and Dustin Barca, who rose to #7 & 11 after fighting displays at fun, medium size Haleiwa, Kekoa, a former ASP World Junior Champion, secured his Dream Tour ticket with a 3rd place finish, while Barca moves on to 11,700 points, about a hundred beyond the projected cut-off. With Bruce Irons vacating his full time spot on the World Tour, Kauai will likely still be well represented with the graduation of Dustin Barca to the major leagues.
With the bulk of the Top 45 bowing out early at Haleiwa, defending Vans Triple Crown champion Bede Durbidge and past runner-up Joel Parkinson put some daylight between themselves and the pack for 2008 Triple Crown honors, both making the Semi’s of the Reef Hawaiian Pro, Honorable mentions at Haleiwa also go to Michel Bourez, Jihad Khodr and Dusty Payne. Bourez took out the Reef Hawaiian Pro in fine style, securing high seeding rights next year by exploding into WQS #2, snuggled in behind runaway leader Nathaniel Curran. Jihad is another who came from the clouds to take advantage of the open door to vault into #5 and safely book his passage on the Dream Tour.
Dusty Payne is definitely one of the hottest young surfers in the world. Hailing from Maui, this kid is part of a Lahaina rat-pack making major inroads on the pro junior scene. On the greater Hawaiian junior picture Payne is jousting with a junior talent pool that includes Torrey Meister, Tonino Benson, Mason Ho, Clay Marzo, Kai Barger and Granger Larson, and he took a great stride towards the makor ranks by making the final at Haleiwa. Dusty earned an ASP International wildcard into the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships.
The O’Neill World Cup is such an important event. Obviously winning at Sunset Beach is a major asterisk on ones resume, but the stakes are exceedingly high in the 08 edition. The topsy turvy opening to the Vans Triple Crown provides huge incentive to perform at Sunset. The big guns are mostly licking their wounds after being mauled by the next generation at Haleiwa. Reigning World Champion Mick Fanning would love to substitute a World Title for a Triple Crown trophy and needs a big result to put himself in the frame going into Pipe. Obviously Bede and Parko are looking to consolidate, Parko a former two times winner at Sunset and another who would love a coveted Vans Triple Crown title, not to mention another O’Neill World Cup, on the mantelpiece.
It cannot be all positive news from Haleiwa and for all the opportunists who barraged their way in once the door opened, there were a handful of guys who, after being ensconced in the Top 10 of the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) all year, are either hanging by a shred or have just fallen out of the main frame.
Germany’s Marlon Lipke and South African David Weare looked safe bets a couple months back. They still sit inside the bubble but will now need to perform well at Sunset to hold off the barbarians at the gate. Spare a thought for San Clemente’s Pat Gudauskas. He led the ASP WQS for months but just hasn’t been able to nail that one clinching result and now needs to dig deep and prove himself up for the Sunset challenge.
After falling off the pace a bit, California’s Brett Simpson and Hawaii’s former ASP World Champion Sunny Garcia jumped a bunch of places and a big finish at the O’Neill could see them leapfrog into the mix. The only real chance for the ASP WQS to go down to #16 is if Portugal’s Tiago Pires can make up a bit of ground at the Billabong Pipeline Masters and qualify in the Top 27 on the ASP World Tour. There are some big days predicted over the next week. This will provide a real challenge for these guys, in fact there is a chance the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau may run on Sunday or Tuesday.
Speaking of humongous challenge, last year the girls took on a solid day at the Roxy Pro Hawaii, Sunset was 8-10’ Hawaiian and the world’s best female surfers were up for the challenge. Stephanie Gilmore looked all at sea out there and her title bid took a bit of a nosedive on Sunset’s west peak, whereas former ASP Women’s World Champion Sofia Mulanovich played a more conservative game plan and notched up a career defining victory. This year’s Roxy sees the pair locked in a titanic battle for the ASP World Title. They have swapped the lead over the last couple events and reigning ASP Women’s World Champion Gilmore is ahead by a nose going into Sunset.
The Roxy Pro Hawaii is the penultimate event on this year’s ASP Women’s World Tour, The tour concluding with the Billabong Pro Maui. So there is still a bit of meat on the bone, with 2400 points on offer the title race is way alive. By far the most consistent performer this year has been seven-time ASP Women’s World Champion Layne Beachley. With nothing worse than a 5th Beachley has been knocking on the door the whole season. Uncharacteristically though, Layne has not been able to convert this consistency into wins, having to settle for a bunch of 2nds and 3rds. The other thing going against her bid for an 8th crown is that Stephanie & Sofia have low 17ths as throwaways, while Layne has to shed a 5th from her tally.
There are so many amazing stories unfolding over the next fortnight at Sunset. All the best to all contenders, may the force be with you
Good luck to everyone still in.
Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew
ASP Intl President