An increase in swell arrived on cue for the entrance of the top seeded surfers into the Op Pro Hawaii at Haleiwa’s Ali’i Beach Park today, yet for many the injection of power and size was no guarantee for success. Now one round out from quarter final stage, only one of the Top 16-ranked World Qualifying Series surfers remains in the mix (Australian Dayyan Neve), and 15 of the top 32 seeds in the event have been eliminated. Defending Op Pro Hawaii champion Pancho Sullivan (Hawaii), and five-time winner of this event Sunny Garcia (Hawaii) were among the day’s casualties.
After two days of lacklustre waves, surf in the five to eight-foot range came as welcome relief today, though the shifting direction of the peak played havoc with positioning and wave selection.
Frenchman Mikael Picon was the top heat-scorer of the day, eliminating California’s Taylor Knox with 16.83 points out of a maximum 20 (9.33 and 7.5 individual wave scores). Of the elite World Championship Tour entrants, world No.2 Mick Fanning (Australia), No.3 Taj Burrow (Australia), and No.4 Andy Irons (Hawaii) demonstrated the kind of flair, speed and power that have made them the best in the world.
“It was still pretty tricky,” said Burrow, who has competed in this event each year for the past seven years. “They were mainly left-handers today and it’s hard to know which lefts to pick since Haleiwa is predominately a right-hander. You had to watch a few heats to figure it out and then you definitely had to get yourself onto the best waves to win.”
Burrow and Patrick Bevan (France) surfed strongly to eliminate Sullivan and T.J. Barron (Hawaii) in the final heat of the day.
Organizers expect that the last day of competition will be held tomorrow. Thirty-two surfers remain in contention and the field consists of 14 Australians, five Brazilians, five Hawaiians, two South Africans, three French surfers, two Mainland Americans, and one Spaniard. Over the past 21 years of this event, it has been won 10 times by Hawaii surfers, nine times by Australians, and twice by Californians.
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 women’s division was won by Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich last week. For a complete list of today’s results, please go to: www.triplecrownofsurfing.com