Winter is here. Well, to be clear, Hawaiian-style winter is. Without the whole snow and ice thing, Hawaiians now mark the occasion with opening day of the Vans Triple Crown of surfing. The first skirmishes of this revered series got underway Saturday at Haleiwa, home of the QS10000 Hawaiian Pro.
Round One got underway in some playful surf, and produced some great surfing as the lower seeds got things going. While the bigger qualifying battles are around the corner, some warning shots were fired today amid the guys trying to make big leaps up the QS rankings.
New Zealand's Ricardo Christie was the day's top scorer. He racked up 18.17 points in his heat against an in-form local boy, Finn McGill, who's hot off a finals appearance at the HIC Pro. Christie, 28, is a journeyman surfer ranked No. 66 on the QS. McGill is a fresh-faced 16-year-old looking for another big breakout moment to propel him into the Top 100.
QS events like these are filled with surfers across the career spectrum. France's Marc Lacomare, another solid standout on Saturday, is on the cusp of making a qualifying run. Though he's ranked No. 52 heading into this year's Triple Crown, he's one of many hoping to gain as many points as possible for better seeds in the QS events next year.
Meanwhile, Sunny Garcia, who won his World Title the same year Finn McGill was born, surfed in his last Hawaiian Pro today. A six-time winner of the Triple Crown, Garcia, the most successful competitor from Hawaii ever, surfed with his usual ample supply of power. Unfortunately, he was starved for calories in the wave department, and failed to advance.
San Clemente's Ian Crane was one of the other big standouts today. His 16.97 heat total put him over the top, and he advanced with Uruguay's top surfer, Marco Giorgi. Crane is a card-carrying member of the San Clemente Mafia. He'd love nothing more than to crack the tour and travel with his friend Kolohe Andino, but he's currently No. 99 on the QS, and there are about five other San Clemente surfers between him and the qualification cutoff.
On paper, being ranked No. 99 is low, but when you take a look how stacked Crane's Round Two heat is you begin to understand just how intense every match is at the QS10,000 level. In the next heat, Crane will face Evan Geiselman, Joshua Moniz and Michael Dunphy -- a group that would comprise a Final in a lot of lesser QS events. In the Hawaiian Pro, however, it's just another heat in the Round of 96.
Stay tuned for some big battles.