HONOLULU (Nov. 22, 2011) Haleiwa was a roller-coaster ride today as the Reef Hawaiian Pro – the first stop of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, hit the cut-throat middle rounds of competition. The highs consisted of phenomenal air shows assisted by a stiff off-shore wind. The lows included the emotional elimination of many top seeds and lone woman wildcard Carissa Moore.
Heat scores see-sawed between bouts of pulsing overhead walls and others that offered inconsistent, small surf. It was like two days rolled into one, offering two completely different experiences: pure elation or devastation.
Topping the day were the exuberant performances of John John Florence (Hawaii – 16.6 points), Evan Geiselman (Florida – 17.0), Tanner Gudauskas (California – 15.27) and Taj Burrow (Australia – 16.26).
Geiselman’s heat came out of nowhere, pumping like a wave machine with ramps all down the line. He advanced with Hawaii’s Ezekiel Lau, eliminating high-flying Australian Josh Kerr, who lost despite clocking in the hugest air of the event that scored a 9.7. Both Kerr and Geiselman are in the running for the Hawaiian Air Show 250,000 Hawaiian Miles award.
“Coming from Florida I’m kind of used to these conditions,” said Geiselman. “The lefts are really fun for my surfing. It was a good time out there. I definitely try to be more progressive with airs. That heat was really crazy. That air of Kerrsy’s was right on my head and I thought, ‘oh no he’s right back in it’. That’s going to be a hard air to compete with and he got a 9.7 for it, so it showed how good it was. I wouldn’t mind flying Hawaiian, upgrade to first class or something… that would be a great little ride. If it happens it happens. Whoever wins that is going to be happy.”
For Kerr, his 9.7 was bittersweet: “It was a bit better knowing at least I did one thing out there, but it was just one of those heats where everyone surfed really well and it was pretty high scoring. I only found one wave. I had a couple of other little ones that maybe I could have capitalized on that might have got me through, but it was pretty tough.”
Florence and Gudauskas were like a shot of sugar and sunshine; their positive energy, enthusiasm and pure stoke to be surfing in Hawaii in their sponsor’s event lit up the crowd.
Florence started his year off in Hawaii with a win, went on to make the ASP World Tour cut in September, and hopes to bookend it with a strong showing at the Vans Triple Crown:
“A lot of these guys like Evan (Geiselman) and Josh (Kerr) can all do gnarly aerials,” said Florence. “To be able to make the final at any of these contests against them, or do good in all of them… I’d be so happy, especially because it’s at home and all my friends and family are watching.”
Gudauskas is the last of the famous San Clemente brother trio left in this event. Dane went down yesterday, and Pat never started after an injury in San Francisco sidelined him two weeks ago.
“I still have the pit crew here cheering me on,” Tanner said. “We all really love Hawaii… any opportunity to stay in Hawaii, we’ll do it. I feel right at home here. Vans really seem to back what’s going on here in Hawaii and so do we, so it’s perfect. It seems like everyone’s really positive, really stoked. I heard that positive energy is trending up in 2012, so I’m just trying to stay on the curve and be on that team!”
At the other end of the emotional curve was Carissa Moore and a number of other top seeds. Disappointment is a tough emotion for a world champion to hide. For a young woman who has professionally pushed the boundary of her sport since she was just 11 years of age, Carissa, 19, holds herself to a higher standard than anyone else ever will. Fourth place in her four-man heat at the Reef Hawaiian Pro today was not the problem; “not showing up” was.
Carissa felt like she never really put on a show. With heats shortened to 20 minutes to make up for nine wave-starved days, many found themselves up against time, short on waves, and at the center of hassling for rides. And that’s where Moore found herself. A pack of sharks in the lineup might have been less intimidating company than three men hunting critical ratings points and prize money in small surf and a tight take-off zone. But she always knew what she had signed up for.
Moore wasn’t planning on slaying dragons today, just pushing her limits and learning from the experience. It turned out to be an experience shared by many; more stars fell in the mid-rounds than a meteor shower. World #6 Josh Kerr; Dane Reynolds (California); Taylor Knox (California), Raoni Monteiro (Brazil), Kai Otton (Australia), and ASP World Junior Champion Jack Freestone (Australia).
Only one good wave was surfed in Moore’s heat, nailed by 2007 Reef Hawaiian Pro champion Roy Powers (Haleiwa) – an 8.5 out of 10. The final scoreline showed two-wave totals of 10.0 for Powers; Gentil – 8.5; Cory Lopez (Florida) 7.5; and Moore 5.6. A high six point ride would have been enough for Moore to win.
“I am so stoked that I have the opportunity to surf in the first two events of the Triple Crown but I honestly was pretty disappointed with myself and in my performance today,” said Moore. “I think that if I was even surfing with the girls I probably would not have made the heat. In that respect, my overall performance did not meet my standards. But that is the way it goes sometimes and it was great to just be in that atmosphere with the guys and I learn a lot when I lose. That gets me fired up.
“The conditions at Haleiwa today are small with little lefts or rights, it is kind of inconsistent, the take off zone is very finite, very tiny, and everyone was really close together. That is all a part of the game though, you have to paddle battle and be strategic in those situations and definitely the guys bring a different vibe, but the girls get pretty aggressive sometimes too.”
Moore compared her experience today with being 11 years old and surfing against the pro women’s ranks for the first time right here at Haleiwa.
“The road over the past 8 years has been an awesome one, I remember surfing here for my first time, I think as a wild card or as a trialist when I was 11 and I had the same nerves as I do now. But in that same situation it was no pressure because I was going up against the older girls. You know just to see where I started off and where I am now, it has kind of come full circle.”
Roy Powers welcomes her to the lineup, even though he admits her presence is nerve-wracking:
“She’s an absolute sweetheart of a person and I was honored to have been in a heat with her,” said Powers.
“I wish we had more of an opportunity to showcase her surfing, but it’s been that kind of week. She’s a world champion at a time when women’s surfing is out of this world. All she needed was good waves to show everyone what she’s got. I’ve surfed with her a bunch of times (outside of competition) and 90 per cent of times she smokes me. She’s no pushover in heats. I want to see her get the chance to open up. She’s an unbelievable surfer. I was as nervous for that heat as I’ve ever been. Thank God I got that one decent wave. My other score was a one.”
It will be a couple more weeks yet before the men can relax. Moore will be back for the Vans World Cup at Sunset, Nov. 25-Dec. 6. Rumor has it a serious swell is already brewing on the charts, further intensifying the mix.
“You can’t really do worse then forth place,” says Moore, “So going into Sunset there’s really no pressure from here on out and if we can get a few more waves then that would be awesome. It’s a different wave and a clean slate.”