November on the North Shore of Oahu is set to enter the record books but for an entirely different reason than originally anticipated. The Op Pro Hawaii, at Haleiwa, opened the curtains on the 24th annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing last week with all the expectations of a "big-wave El Nino" season. But as of yesterday, November 2006 is on-track to become the smallest November for surf in almost 60 years of record keeping by NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration).

The first two rounds of competition for the men's division of the Op Pro Hawaii hit the water yesterday, however not at the traditional break of Ali'i's that has been the stage for this event for 22 years. Heats were shifted across to the west-lying outer-reef break known as Avalanches, a spot that is capable of picking up the north swell. Ali'i's is too protected from north swells and, at its biggest, was only registering about two feet of swell yesterday.

Illustrating the huge contrast of this year to every other was Makua Rothman, who won his second round heat to advance yesterday.

"Eight days from now is the anniversary of the day that changed my life - when I rode a 66-footer," said Rothman, 22, from Sunset Beach. "But if you want to be one of the best surfers in the world, you've got to be able to surf it all - you only have to look at guys like Kelly Slater and Andy Irons to see the importance of that. Personally, I'm ready to surf whatever we get but, for sure, this is the flattest November I've ever seen."

Rothman posted one of the top heat scores (13.06 out of 20, based on top two rides) and single wave scores (8.33 out of 10) yesterday, finding plenty to work with at Avalanches, which pulsed with wave faces of eight feet.

"We were so fortunate to be able to take advantage of Avalanches," said Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Director Randy Rarick. "This November is a real anomaly. But it goes to show you, year-in and year-out we just come to expect that we're always going to have phenomenal, huge waves. But ultimately Mother Nature's going to have her way regardless of our expectations and all we do to prepare for these events."

Daniel Jones (Honolulu) was the top-scoring rider yesterday with a two-wave total of 15.83 points out of a maximum 20, in round two. Other top performers included Australian Dion Atkinson (14.44 points), Jason Shibata (Honolulu, 14.17), and Teppei Tajima (Japan, 13.9). (For complete results, www.triplecrownofsurfing.com)

The Op Pro Hawaii is the first stop on the annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Series that runs in its entirety from November 12 to December 20, on Oahu's famous North Shore in Hawaii. The Op Pro Hawaii is a 6-star World Qualifying Series event for both men and women, collectively offering $155,000 and critical points towards qualifying for the elite World Championship Tour of 2007. The Op Pro Hawaii requires three more days of competition to run to completion, and will resume today, surf-pending.