The best heat of the Vans World Cup of Surfing thus far took place today in Round Two and saw the finest 20-and-under surfers tame wave face heights of up to 20 feet at Sunset Beach. The youngest competitors of the event, Finn McGill, 16, Joshua Moniz, 20, and Griffin Colapinto, 18, went head to head for the best performances of the day in a high-scoring affair. The World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 event features the world's best athletes and is the final QS competition of the season, raising both the stakes and the bar in the water.
McGill punched his way through the 30-minute heat by threading barrels and displacing water, but traded excellent scores with both Moniz and Colapinto along the way. The highest scoring wave of the heat, an 8.77, put McGill solidly ahead while the other two battled for second.
"This summer I grew about three or four inches and that helped me out a lot with my power and surfing bigger," said McGill. "I think that's helped me a lot at the professional level and surfing in all of these comps."
France's Maxime Huscenot stayed busy as well against the young guns, but was unable to find scores above the 4-point range and was ultimately pushed out of the competition along with Colapinto, who missed out by less than half a point.
"I just went into that heat to just go have fun because Griffin and Josh, I've been surfing against them since I was eight years old in NSSA," said McGill in a post heat interview. "It was kind of like an old NSSA heat, we were laughing about that paddling out. I was so stoked to do good in that heat and make it. I literally just wanted to make one heat in this comp and I'm stoked to make two."
One of the only 9-point waves of the event was secured by Torrey Meister (HAW) for a standing barrel and a few powerful maneuvers. Judges awarded Meister a 9.23 - the highest single wave score of the day - for swift surfing and three turns following the tube. The Big Island surfer advanced well ahead of his competitors, while Bino Lopes (BRA) secured a slot in Round 3 behind Meister.
The other 9-point wave went to Patrick Gudauskas (USA) for a double over-head barrel and a stylish snap to intro the ride. The swell direction was ideal for A-frames like this and throughout the day, surfers vied for positioning to catch the gems.
Tahiti was well represented by O'Neill Massin and Mihimana Braye, both who advanced from Round Two for their powerful surfing and big wave techniques. This is the first time the two surfers have qualified for the Vans Triple Crown, which puts them in contention for the Vans Triple Crown Rookie Award, now that Colapinto has fallen short.
Massin's power performance saw him advance in first ahead of Mitch Crews (AUS) and will go on to surf in Round 3 against former World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA), Nathan Florence (HAW) and Bino Lopes (BRA).
"The conditions are very good," said Massin. "Couple barrels, offshore wind, some good size, perfect!"
Frederico Morais (PRT) had a dominating performance over Michael February (ZAF), Krystian Kymerson (BRA) and Charles Martin (GLP) and secured one of the higher single wave scores of the day, an 8.50 for three powerful maneuvers. With a relaxed yet confident approach, Morais was calculated with his wave selection and used his opening ride, a 6.83, to back up his excellent score.
From Cascais, Portugal, Morais quickly found his place in the competitive lineup on the North Shore with a runner up finish at the Hawaiian Pro, the first event of the Vans Triple Crown. He now sits in the No. 10 spot on the international Qualifying Series (QS) and needs a solid place at the Vans World Cup to secure his place on the 2017 WSL Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour.
"It's a new feeling for me, number 10, and I know everyone is really close and I need to get some points," said Morais. "I don't have a really big result to change so I just need a few heats here. I love Sunset, the waves are really fun. We had a few lay days but today is really fun, hopefully tomorrow is the same."
Bede Durbidge (AUS) made a successful comeback after injuring his pelvis last year at the Billabong Pipe Masters. The surfer underwent tremendous physical therapy and made a full recovery in only a year. His time off was spent wisely by helping coach John John Florence and now the competitor is in full force with a heat win at Big Sunset.