International hopefuls made a major ascent through the draw of the $155,000 REEF Hawaiian Pro as competition advanced into round four. Conditions closely mirrored yesterday’s opening day of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series with smooth, five - to seven-feet faces and summery weathery. Perhaps it was the opportunity to take a dip in 72-degree water that pressed the “on" button of European surfers who gladly dumped wetsuit rubber and revelled in boardshorts.

Basque surfer Gony Zubizareta, 22, drove the crowd wild and the announcers crazy as Zubizareta became the buzz-word late in the day. The lowest seeded competitor in heat five of round four, Zubizareta looked lost at the start of his clash with Dustin Cuizon (Haw), Alain Riou (France) and Shea Lopez (USA). But as the heat closed in around him, he tapped into a last-minute hot-streak for back-to-back scores of 9.77 and 8.83 for the highest heat total so far this event: 18.6. It was a hugely satisfying moment for the rookie whose name is almost fine-print on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series (WQS) ratings at 91st.

“I was lost in the first half of the heat," said Zubizareta. “I couldn’t find any waves and I thought I was going to lose. Finally a really good wave came and I surfed well. I went back to the outside and then the best wave of the day came for me. I felt really good.

“I haven’t really surfed this wave. I surfed early this morning but it was very crowded and I couldn’t really get waves. I don’t really know the waves, but my waves were so perfect. I was lucky to be in the right spot at the right time.

“My 9… long bottom turns, off-the-tops, two big maneuvers. The Triple Crown means a lot and I hope I do well. I’m sitting 91st on the WQS ratings, so I guess it will improve my standing."

Englishman Russell Winter was ecstatic to leave the winter behind him, surfing like the seasoned Hawaii visitor that he is after more than a decade of honing his skills on the North Shore of Oahu. He advanced to round four earlier in the day with a strong victory over Adam Robertson (Aus), Robson Santos (Brazil), and Mark Mathews (Aus). Winter has emerged as the leading REEF team-rider in the event.

“I was very happy with that result," said Winter. “I just arrived off the plane last night after being delayed in England, so it felt good to get the cobwebs off. I felt pretty strong." Winter posted one of the top heat totals of the day - 14.34 points for his top two rides of 8.17 and 6.17. “My plan was to pressure the other guys - let them know I’m out there to win, not get second. They chose the wrong waves, I stayed relaxed, knew my plan, and waited for the sets. It worked out.

“I’ve been coming here for a long time. I love the Triple Crown events, the vibe’s great and it’s always good to be here. Hopefully I’ll get through a few more heats, if not win - that’s the plan."

German surfer Marlon Lipke, 23, posted the second-highest heat score of the day - 17.73 points, after a mid-heat flurry of back-to-back rides that scored 8.5, 8.33, and 9.23. Each surfer’s top two rides count in their final scoreline. Crucial wave selection and a compact routine of vertical top-to-bottom turns were the right formula for Lipke today. Six-time Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion Sunny Garcia kept the locals in the crowd content as he powered through two more rounds to advance to the last seeded round (round five), where only 64 surfers remain. The Hawaii field whittled down considerably today, and Garcia will be faced with the task of eliminating at least one more when he resumes tomorrow, drawn against Fred Patacchia Jr. and Granger Larsen, as well as Frenchman Mikael Picon.

The REEF Hawaiian Pro is the first jewel of the 25th anniversary Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Carrying the highest WQS rating of 6-stars, for both men and women, this event is critical in determining the lineup for the elite World Championship Tour next year.

Surfline.com forecasts an increase in swell overnight and organizers are leaning towards another full day of action tomorrow that could see the crowning of the women’s REEF champion. For complete results, please visit: www.triplecrownofsurfing.com

The $740,000 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing consists of the Reef Hawaiian Pro, Haleiwa, Nov. 12-24 (6* WQS, men and women), the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing, Sunset Beach, Nov.25-Dec.6 (6*WQS men and WCT women), the Billabong Pipeline Masters (men), Pipeline, Dec. 8-20 (WCT) and Billabong Pro Maui (women), Honolua Bay, Maui, Dec. 8-20 (WCT). In addition to $740,000 in prize money, both the men’s and women’s Vans Triple Crown champions will receive a limited edition $25,000 Chevy Colorado truck. The men’s champion will also receive a custom $10,000 Nixon watch.

All of the action of this year’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing can be experienced live via the internet at www.triplecrownofsurfing.com.