The Vans Triple Crown's rookie class of 2016 opened strong in the first day of competition at the Hawaiian Pro - stop one of the series and a World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 event. Finn McGill, Keoni Yan, O'Neill Massin, and Taumata Puhetini, all members of the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region, led the charge. Wave face heights of 8-12 feet provided an energy-packed day of surfing that ultimately ended in exciting advancements and disappointing upsets.
McGill, 16, recently took fourth place in the HIC Pro at Sunset Beach, and qualified for the Vans Triple Crown after a busy year on the Qualifying Series (QS) and Junior QS. McGill finished second on the Regional rankings just last week and was eager to compete for the first time ever in the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa Ali‘i Beach.
"I have been growing up surfing this whitewash since I was three years old," said McGill. "So stoked to be in the Triple Crown my first year and make my first heat. I was pretty nervous, I had some good guys in my heat."
McGill went up against seasoned pro Ricardo Christie (NZL), who dropped the highest single wave score of the day, a near-perfect 9.67; Nomme Mignot (FRA) and Kai Mana Henry (HAW). McGill and Henry went head to head earlier this year in the Final at the Rangiroa Open Pro in Tahiti, where Henry ultimately took the win.
"He beat me once so I had to get back at him," McGill joked in regards to advancing today ahead of Henry. "No, it's fun. I always see him out every day surfing on the North Shore. We always surf together. He knows my weaknesses and strengths and I know his so it's pretty funny."
O'Neill Massin (PYF) was one of three Tahitian surfers who advanced from Round One today after competing in an unusually quiet heat that included Marco Fernandez (BRA), Elijah Gates (HAW) and recent winner of the HIC Pro Mason Ho (HAW).
"The conditions are really fun, I'm cool with good waves," said Massin. "I feel I want to do other regional contests here in Hawaii and Tahiti. I hope to be in the 10,000s for next year and maybe qualify for the CT.
Taumata Puhetini (PYF) also advanced in first ahead of Maui's Tanner Hendrickson, who both caused an upset by taking out event defending winner Wade Carmichael (AUS). This is Puhetini's first time competing in a QS10,000 event and he arrived in Hawaii at the start of the big wave season to get in a little practice time.
"I managed to surf and find some good ones during the heat… Happy to make it through to the next round." Surfing a wave like Haleiwa is a plus for the Tahitian competitors as they have similar conditions back home. "We love surfing reef breaks and tube-riding, so yeah it's a good advantage for all the Tahitians," Puhetini finished.
France's Marc Lacomare ended the day with the highest heat total of the event so far, an 18.33. The powerful goofty-footer used priority and a progressive down-the-line approach on a 12-foot open wave face and scored a 9.40, then backed it up with an 8.93 on another set wave.
The competition ended today after Round Two Heat 2 and will resume with Deivid Silva (BRA), Mihimana Braye (PYF), Charles Martin (GLP) and Granger Larsen (HAW) hitting the water once the event resumes. Contest organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning to assess conditions and make a call by 7am HST.