Tis the season for big waves across some of the hottest surf spots in the world, and with it comes major action in beautiful competitive settings among the world’s top surfers.
First, Kelia Moniz won the ASP Women’s World Longboard Title at the Swatch Girls Pro in Wanning, Hainan Island, China last week, November 25, 2012 in an event that has become the pride of China in many ways even though it’s only in it’s second year. From an elaborate opening ceremony, to ongoing events throughout the competition, photo shoots, video sessions with the top pros, and surfing clinics for locals, the event is fast becoming one of the most acclaimed in women’s surfing.
Moniz beat out Chelsea Williams, in a repeated historic finale by meeting in the Finals the same as they did last year. “We couldn’t hear the scores so after the heat I didn’t know what to think,” Moniz said. “Then Chelsea (Williams) looked at me and said ‘good job grom’ and I was pretty stoked. Then I looked in and all the Hawaiian boys on the beach were screaming and I had an immediate smile on my face. It was bizarre to be in the Final with Chelsea again, this morning I looked at the heat draw and I saw that we could possibly be in the Final again. Then when we were practising before the contest I told her that I’d see her in the Final. I was just joking because I didn’t really expect to make the Final, but I did, and I won and I’m really ecstatic about it.”
“It means a lot to bring an ASP World Title back to Hawaii,” Moniz said. “Plus this is the only event that decides the world champion, and I’ve been working and training and preparing for this and it feels unbelievable. I just really want to thank my family, friends, Swatch and the Chinese locals for everything!”
Williams posted excellent scores in every heat at this year’s SWATCH Girls Pro China and looked set to claim back-to-back event titles, but couldn’t get into rhythm in the Final. An emotional Williams tried to hold back the tears as she pondered coming so close to winning the coveted ASP Women’s World Longboard Title.
“It feels good to make the Final again,” Williams said. “Kelia (Moniz) surfed really good and I didn’t find any good waves. I won last year, but didn’t win the ASP Women’s World Longboard Title, she won this year and did, so she is the real winner.”
Summer Romero (USA) finished equal 3rd at the SWATCH Girls Pro China for the second year in a row after going down to Moniz in a tight tussle. Romero was 28 seconds away from making the Final, holding a comfortable lead leaving Moniz needing a 6.50 (out of a possible 10). Moniz snared a last second wave and stole the heat win thanks to a critical hang 10 and some stylish carves.
“I almost made the final so I feel good,” Romero said. “I’m stoked, it’s always a goal of mine to at least make the Semifinals. Last year I had Chelsea (Williams) and this year Kelia (Moniz), I love them both and they deserve to be in the Final. I was thinking about it all night and hoping that there would be waves, and it’s been awesome today.”
The Vans World Cup of Surfing, which is the second jewel in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (hydrated by vitaminwater) got underway November 27 on the North Shore of Oahu at Sunset Beach.
It started as the kind of day that lends itself to local knowledge and a long history with the break. Among those who fit that bill were Sunset local Pancho Sullivan – the day’s high scorer with 15.5 points; Australians Tom Whitaker and Nathan Hedge; and Maui’s Ian Walsh and Ian Gentil.
“You’ve got to approach Sunset everyday for what it is,” says Ian Walsh, 29. “You can’t really plan too much ahead… even right before your heat you’ve got to make an adjustment, adapt to every little thing, you can’t really premeditate everything.”
Despite having dashed his hopes at a Triple Crown win back at the REEF Hawaiian Pro, Walsh says he’s here to win and to keep climbing the ladder that will hopefully lead to a Vans Triple Crown title one day.
“The Triple Crown is obviously one of the goals that are looming up here above me that I’ve been looking at for years and I had kind of a rough start at Haleiwa, but I think it’s still something that I have a lot of respect for. The winner that comes out ahead on all three of these events is someone we all know deserves it.”
Nathan Hedge (AUS), on a comeback and looking for valuable seed points for 2013, reveled in the conditions today.
“I really love Sunset Beach, it’s always the last event on the (qualifying tour) so it’s a lot of high drama and emotions and ratings points at stake so it always creates for an epic environment.
“I’ve been coming here for 20 years, so I think that will help. I’ve put a lot of time in out here and I have had heats where I’ve needed to get through to qualify but I’m not in that sort of situation (now), so I can just really relax and enjoy the experience… just go for it.”
The last word on the day came from Pancho Sullivan, who has powered to five wins here at his home break of Sunset Beach, but won’t go home happy until he can put a Vans World Cup on his mantlepiece. This is the one win that has eluded him for more than a decade.
“I absolutely love this wave it’s got so many looks – from 2 feet to 15 feet it’s so much fun,” said Sullivan. “It’s a high performance wave. You can really push your surfing and I try to attack it like you would a small wave even in the bigger 8-10 foot surf. It’s home, I grew up, started surfing the little inside wave shores and eventually graduated out to the point and it’s a wave that I think you just have to put a lot of time into learning the different lineups depending on the direction and size.”
In celebration of 30 years of world class surfing, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing hydrated by vitaminwater offers $1million in prize money this year, including a $100,000 bonus, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and a $10,000 custom Nixon watch for the overall series champion. Each of the three events of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing has a two-week holding period within which to run, requiring just 3-4 days of excellent surf to be completed.
Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, there are no women’s events in the Triple Crown series.
Next up, the 28th annual Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau official opening ceremony and blessing will take place tomorrow, November 29, at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. The ceremony will feature this year’s 28 Invitees, including newly elected riders John John Florence (Hawaii), Ian Walsh (Maui), and Alex Gray (California), as well as former “Eddie” champions Kelly Slater (Florida), Greg Long (California), and Ross Clarke-Jones (Australia). The surfers will be joined by members of the Aikau family, including Eddie’s younger brother and Invitee Clyde Aikau.
When the Invitees and Alternates paddle out and group in the traditional surfer’s circle at Waimea Bay on Opening Ceremony day, it’s about camaraderie and making a connection to the others who will ultimately share in your experience and watch out for your safety. “I like to feel and know that we’re really all on one level and that we’re all out to ride the biggest waves that pull through Waimea Bay on the day that we have the event,” says Clyde Aikau, who leads the paddle out each winter.
“But even more important than that is that there is a physical and a spiritual connection with the other guys that ride at Waimea Bay. You know, you can win the event… it’s a tremendous honor to win the Eddie Aikau. But I think what is even more monumental is that the feeling of being together, to enter the water, to ride the biggest waves in the world, and to know that if something goes wrong, your partner in the heat is going to be there to help you out, because that’s what Eddie was all about. He gave his life to save others, gave his life to save thousands of people at Waimea Bay, helped people he never knew. So carrying that throughout the event goes a long, long way.”
Red Bull is of course in on the bigwave scene, with their Red Bull Jaws, Paddle at Pe’Ahi big wave contest. 21 big wave surfers are invited to take on 30-50-foot waves in this event that promises breathtaking action.
With no assistance from motorized personal watercraft to catch these monstrous waves, the athletes competing in Red Bull Jaws will drop-in on one ideal day during the period of December 7, 2012, to March 15, 2013. The ideal conditions for the event to be called “on” are wave face heights of between 30 and 50 feet, from a NNW swell direction with light winds. An official ceremony on December 7 will open the event period.
Two years in the making, Red Bull Jaws is the brainchild of Ian Walsh, Pe’ahi’s resident big wave expert. “Once we started paddling Jaws, the idea for the event slowly started to form,” explains Walsh. “I was just imagining what it could do for the level of riding big waves, and it seemed like over the last few years there’s a really substantial swell somewhere around the world that resets the bar and progression of what guys are capable of doing in big waves. It seems like now is the right time for a contest like this.”
Stay tuned for more as the event gets underway.
Meanwhile, Nike, who announced a couple of monthes ago that they would no longer be the title sponsor of the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, has announced that they are actually transitioning their surf team including Carissa Moore, Kolohe Andino, and others, to the Hurley team (also owned by Nike). Not much is known yet on what’s taking place with Nike’s move out of surfing, other than not sponsoring the U.S. Open and also pulling out of sponsoring the ASP Prime Nike Lowers Pro event, but it goes along with their plan to focus on other areas.
Stay tuned for more from the North Shore of Oahu as the Triple Crown continues, including the upcoming Billabong Pipeline Masters.