Epic surf conditions at Sunset Beach, Oahu, bring out amazing scores and performances. Photos courtesy of ASP/Cestari.

After one of the longest waiting periods for good surf in the history of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing for the first event, the Reef Hawaiian Pro, the 2nd event, Vans World Cup, has launched in intense surf conditions at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu.

According to news from the North Shore and Ocean Promotion, life-threatening surf and intense conditions at Sunset Beach snapped competitors back to reality November 27 as the first round of the $250,000 Vans World Cup of Surfing got underway in serious 10- to 12-foot waves. It also brought spectators out in droves, resulting in the largest crowd at Sunset Beach in the 38-year history of the event. The Vans World Cup is the second leg of the illustrious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, presented by Rockstar Energy Drink.

Odds-on favorites today were locals like Pancho Sullivan, Jamie O’Brien, Makuakai Rothman and Sunny Garcia, who live for days like these that put most others on edge. Of the 16 heats contested today, 11 were won by Hawaii surfers. The balance went to Vincent Duvignac (France); Davey Cathels (Sydney, Australia); Adrien Toyon (Reunion Island); Mitchel Coleborn (Sunshine Coast, Australia); and Ricardo Dos Santos (Brazil).

Crowd at the Vans World Cup of Surfing.

A former star of the ASP World Tour, Pancho Sullivan has been a favorite for this event for more than a decade, but a win here continues to elude him.

“Every time you think you’ve got this wave figured out, it humbles you,” said Sullivan, 38. “It takes a lot of time and dedication to the break and your equipment, to surf well here.

“The adrenaline you get as you come towards the inside bowl, the wave is warbling and you just have no idea what it’s going to do. I think that’s why we all surf: that excitement of the unknown. Sunset delivers that on all levels. It is a tough wave.

“A lot of the focus (in recent years) has gone down to Pipe and guys are riding really thin, narrow boards, so when you come back up to Sunset, those boards just don’t translate.

“All the power’s in the top two thirds of the wave out here and I think the younger guys make the mistake of going all the way to the bottom before they set that bottom turn and there’s just no energy down there. If you add the fact that they’re riding a really narrow, pin board they just can’t get the drive to really get up off the top and down the line.”

Today’s top heat scorer was Tonino Benson (Big Island, Hawaii), with a two-wave total of 16.17 points out of 20. The highest individual wave score went to Vans World Cup rookie and junior wildcard Keanu Asing (Hawaii), for a hefty tube ride that earned him 9.33 out of 10.

“I stood up and I was down the face of the wave already,” said Asing of his hefty drop. “I was like, ‘wow!’ I could see this thing doubling up and doubling up. I figured I might as well try and stall. I had so much water in my eyes and as I was coming out I kind of fell forward and almost fell. I was so excited.”

Sunny Garcia takes on wildcard Carissa Moore today in what will be an epic heat. Photo courtesy of ASP/Joli.

Sunny Garcia, a two-time champion of this event (1994, 2000), logged a crowd-raising double barrel in his heat today to advance, and will take on female wildcard Carissa Moore, Alain Riou (Reunion Island), and Mitchel Coleborn (Australia) tomorrow.

“I’ve got Carissa?” Garcia said. “Well, what can I say? This time last year I was coaching her, so I guess I’m going to have to bring my A-game. I’m a huge Carissa Moore fan. She’s the greatest woman surfer in the world. I’m going to be cheering her on in the lineup.”

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing sponsors include presenting sponsor Rockstar Energy Drink, plus Vans, Reef, Billabong, Nixon, Skullcandy Supreme Sound, Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaii Tourism, GoPro, Turtle Bay Resort, State Farm, JN Automotive Group, Wavejet Propulsion, Climb On Products, Clif Bar, Oceanic Time Warner Cable, Road Runner, Flo Water, Surfline.com, SURFING Magazine, and the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).

Stay tuned for more from the North Shore over the next couple of weeks, including live reports from the crowned-jewel, the Billabong Pipe Masters and $450,000 purse.