WQS events pose one major distinction between a World Tour event: the vast field of competitors vying for advancement into later rounds, scrapping it out in the early heats. By the end of Day 3 of the Vans Pier Classic, the initial field of 128 had been shaved down to a Huntington-Beach-Pier-savvy 32. The Pier provides some tricky conditions, and if you’re not familiar with the place, and you’ve got a guy or two in your heat who are, well that just slims your chances.
Two guys who know the Pier almost better than anybody are H.B. local boys Shaun Ward and Micah Byrne, and it showed on Friday. Ward took his heat and Byrne took a second in his, both advancing on to Saturday’s day of competition. If there were two favorites for the event, it would have to be these two, as they’re the last two champs of the Vans Pier Classic (Ward in ’08 and Byrne in ’07). Shaun had this to say about Friday’s conditions at the Pier, “You have to create your own speed, because the wave has no speed,” he said. “Sometimes you have to work at it just to keep going on the wave, otherwise you’re just doing round houses.”
Friday also saw the start of the Ezekiel Pro Junior in the afternoon. So as we head into the weekend, we’ll be getting a look at the top juniors rising to the call as well. Not to mention the battle of the remaining field of 32 (with 30 of them hoping to end the back-to-back run of Ward and Byrne). And don’t forget, it is spring break, and it is Huntington Beach. So if you’re anywhere in the area, be sure to get down to the beach and check out the rigs, err, competition. -Ryan Brower
HUNTINGTON BEACH, California (Friday, March 27, 2009) – The top seeds hit the water today in the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 2-Star Vans Pier Classic presented by Jack’s Surfboards in peaky two-to-three foot (1 metre) conditions at South Huntington Beach Pier. The day’s action saw former Vans Pier Classic champions and local favorites Shaun Ward (Huntington Beach, CA), 26, and Micah Byrne (Huntington Beach, CA), 27, battle through their opening heats in an attempt to keep the title in Surf City.
All surfers competing in the Vans Pier Classic are looking to better their seed on the ASP WQS in an attempt to qualify for the prestigious ASP Dream Tour. The top 15 seeds at year’s end advance on to the coveted tour where they earn the chance to battle for the title of ASP World Champion.
Ward got off to a slow start in his heat and was pushed down to third place, which would have eliminated him from competition, crushing his chances of a repeat Vans Pier Classic crown. The defending event champion battled back though, earning two impressive scores in the latter half of the heat to advance through to Round 5.
“I was caught in between the peaks and I couldn’t find a wave,” Ward said. “I couldn’t find the right peak. I started to waste all of my energy and go on ones that were only alright.”
The Huntington Beach local talked about using his familiarity of the often-infamous beach break conditions in order to advance through his heat.
“Surfing Huntington, you have to create your own speed, because the wave has no speed,” Ward said. “Sometimes you have to work at it just to keep going on the wave, otherwise you’re just doing round houses.”
Byrne, who won the Vans Pier Classic in 2007, also made a last-minute advancement into Round 5. The former event champ clinched the score needed in the dying minutes of his heat to keep his hopes of a second Vans Pier Classic title alive.
“I didn’t know what score I needed,” Byrne said. “I got a medium sized wave and my turns were kind of just cut backs. I wasn’t sure if I got the score or not and would not have been surprised either way. I knew it was close. It was a scramble-fest and I’m glad it’s over. My legs were burning and you get so nervous because you know you need the score.”
Although Byrne is a local surfer, the numerous events held at Huntington Pier allow outsiders to become familiar with the tricky conditions. The regular-footer expressed the importance of acclimating to the unique waves on offer at South Huntington Beach Pier in order to achieve success at the beach break.
“You get used to this place quick because everyone surfs here a million times,” Byrne said. “It’s definitely good for guys that live north or south of us to come here a day early to adjust to the conditions.”
Nick Rupp (Ocean Isle Beach, NC), 16, who has been a dark horse in the event thus far, donated an impressive performance today when he posted a heat win over Hawaiian talent Jason Shibata (Oahu, HI), who advanced in second, and Floridian standout Asher Nolan (Jacksonville, FL), 30, in his Round 4 heat. Although Shibata jumped out to an early lead with a 9-point-ride, Rupp smashed an impressive heat total of 16.15 to take out the win.
“With two minutes to go Jason (Shibata) only needed a 3-point-score, so I tried to go sit on him,” Rupp said. “I saw a wave and started paddling as hard as I could and I thought Asher (Nolan) was going to go on the right and he ended up going left, so I took the right and it ended up being a good one.”
In addition to today’s Vans Pier Classic action, the opening round of the Ezekiel Pro Junior pres. by Jack’s Surfboards hit the water this afternoon with the Round of 72. Today’s action saw the Ezekiel Pro Junior complete Round 1 and the first four heats of Round 2.
Tyler Newton (Kauai, HI), 18, kicked off his Ezekiel Pro Junior campaign in impressive fashion when he matched the event’s highest single wave score of 9.60 out of 10 by linking several huge frontside turns on a Huntington right-hander. The Hawaiian finished the wave off with a clean air-reverse to claim the score. His impressive 17.60 out of 20 heat total saw him advance easily into the Round of 64.
“That wave felt good,” Newton said. “Sometimes the waves just come to you out there and it’s a lot of luck. I’m happy to get off to a good start in the juniors because I’m focusing on the junior this year and hope to go to worlds, because that’s the spot.”
The Ezekiel Pro Junior pres. by Jack’s Surfboards will kick off tomorrow’s action with Heat 5 of Round 4 at 8am.
For all of the LIVE Vans Pier Classic and Ezekiel Pro Junior action log on to vans.com.
Vans Pier Classic Round of 96 Results:
Heat 1: Ryan Briggs (USA) 11.45, Dane Johnson (USA) 11.15, Macy Mullen (HAW) 10.55, Brent Reilly (USA) 7.85
Heat 2: Dillon Perillo (USA) 13.50, Michael Dunphy (USA) 12.30, Jason Miller (USA) 8.25, Dylan Melamed (HAW) 4.60
Heat 3: Noi Kaulukukui (USA) 11.20, Tommy O’Brien (USA) 11.05, Heath Walker (AUS) 9.50, Victor Done (USA) 4.75
Heat 4: Matt Johnson (USA) 12.65, Eric Geiselman (USA) 11.05, Ted Navarro (USA) 10.55, Richie Collins (USA) 5.50
Heat 5: Matt King (USA) 11.25, Liam McNamara (HAW) 9.70, Brandon Guilmette (USA) 8.75, Phillip Goold (USA) 6.55
Heat 6: Nick Rupp (USA) 16.15, Jason Shibata (HAW) 14.50, Asher Nolan (USA) 13.15, Sean Taylor (USA) 5.10
Heat 7: Luke Davis (USA) 12.00, Bruno Rodrigues (USA) 8.75, Brandon Ragenovich (USA) 6.60, Michael Hoisington (USA) 3.25
Heat 8: Andrew Doheny (USA) 12.50, Matt Keenan (USA) 11.90, Gabe Garcia (USA) 10.50, Shaun Burrell (USA) 5.25
Heat 9: Dege O’Connell (HAW) 11.50, Tom Rezvan (USA) 9.30, Pedro Husadel (BRA) 6.15, Jesse Merle-Jones (HAW) 5.70
Heat 10: John John Florence (HAW) 12.35, Dane Ward (USA) 11.85, Adam Virs (USA) 11.50, Tony Adams (USA) 7.10
Heat 11: Nathan Carroll (HAW) 13.50, Micah Byrne (USA) 13.40, Brightton Brandenburger (USA) 13.00, Blake Howard (USA) 7.65
Heat 12: Cody Thompson (USA) 13.40, Sean Marceron (USA) 13.00, Andrew Gessler (USA) 7.90, Alex Smith (HAW) 7.25
Heat 13: Shaun Ward (USA) 14.50, Keli Everett (HAW) 12.75, Jeff Lukasik (USA) 10.70, Jason Collins (USA) 10.25
Heat 14: Hank Gaskell (HAW) 12.05, Justin McBride (USA) 10.75, Danny Estes (USA) 10.60, Jason Harris (USA) 9.15
Heat 15: Travis Beckmann (USA) 11.75, Peter Mel (USA) 9.85, Ricky Whitlock (USA) 9.40, Icaro Ronchi (BRA) 3.85
Heat 16: Mike Losness (USA) 11.80, Bud Freitas (USA) 11.75, Tyler Newton (HAW) 10.40, Doug Van Mierlo (USA) 6.30
Ezekiel Pro Junior pres. by Jack’s Surfboards Round of 64 Results:
Heat 1: Alex Smith (USA) 17.00, Ford Archbold (USA) 13.35, Ashton Madeley (USA) 8.10, T.J. Mortellaro (USA) 5.10
Heat 2: Doug Van Mierlo (USA) 13.00, Taylor Thorne (USA) 11.35, Brendan Buckley (USA) 11.24, Ian Bloch (USA) 5.40
Heat 3: Tyler Newton (HAW) 14.75, Christian Saenz (USA) 10.00, J.D. Lewis (USA) 9.05, Keetin Devine (USA) 8.50
Heat 4: Eli Visolay (USA) 9.35, Shaw Kobayashi, P.J. Raia (USA) 8.25, Maximillian Karnig (USA) 7.20
Ezekiel Pro Junior pres. by Jack’s Surfboards Round of 72 Results:
Heat 1: Alex Smith (HAW) 13.25, Doug Van Mierlo (USA) 10.00, Dustin Richardson (USA) 8.75, Pedrol Husade (BRA) 6.30
Heat 2: Tyler Newton (HAW) 17.60, Shaw Kobayashi (USA) 10.06, Tanner Kehl (USA) 8.60, Brandon Barnes (USA) 5.75
Heat 3: Icaro Ronchi (BRA) 13.10, Conrad Carr (USA) 11.60, Dylan Kowalski (USA) 11.25, Koa Smith (HAW) 7.65
Heat 4: Matt Meola (HAW) 11.65, Colin Dwyer (USA) 9.75, Jared Cassidy (USA) 7.30, Cody Sammons (USA) 1.60