Maui Surfer Rebounds at Hawaiian Pro
Surfers from across the globe battled it out on the water at the Hawaiian Pro last Monday at Haleʻiwa Aliʻi beach park. The competition kicked off the 2018 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Maui surfer Dusty Payne, who made a professional comeback two weeks ago at the HIC Pro, was among the competitors. The Hawaiian Pro is a World Surf League (WSL) Men’s Qualifying Series (QS) 10,000 event, which helps determine the 2019 Championship Tour (CT) talent lineup along with the 36th Annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS) champion.
Payne had a stellar heat at the pro despite a near-death surfing accident at Pipeline in January of this year. His quarterfinal finish at the HIC Pro, a WSL Men’s QS 3,000, provided him a boost of confidence to tackle his opponents and earn first place advancement into Round 3.
“I’m really just grateful to be here, get to see everybody around and high five everybody,” Payne said. “I’m grateful for every day I wake up. Just to be able to compete is a blessing, I’m so grateful the WSL gave me the opportunity to do this. I’m just feeling happy to be here.”
Payne took off on one of the biggest waves of Heat 14, nailing three major maneuvers including a stylish tail slide at the end for a 6.83. Back in 2014, Payne won the Hawaiian Pro and finished first runner-up at the Vans World Cup, which catapulted him up the rankings to earn a place on the 2015 CT. The ultimate comeback story, Payne’s career has been a roller coaster of injury and victory, WSL said.
“I feel really good overall, the healthiest I’ve been in a while,” Payne said. “I’m taking it day by day. I’m still improving from the injury from the start of the year, getting better and re-learning how to use my new body. There was a bit of an adjustment throughout the year, getting comfortable with a few things. I’m still working things out and that’s exciting I can still improve and get better.”
Brazilian surfer Caio Ibelli also made a return to competition at the Hawaiian Pro after suffering from a broken foot in April at Australia’s Margaret River. The injury sidelined him for seven out of ten CT events this season. According to WSL, Ibelli looked in-form despite months of rehabilitation and surfed successfully in Round 2 with a 6.87 and 6.67.
“I’m feeling great, it’s been a long time,” Ibelli said. “On that time off I had to do surgery, I got plenty therapy. I’m so stoked to be back and put the jersey on. I was having an emotional moment right before my heat, kind of getting ready. I didn’t really know how to feel.”
Ibelli went against Jacob Willcox (AUS), who also advanced, Joshua Moniz (HAW), and Kei Kobayashi (USA), riding the most waves in the heat.
“Coming to Hawaiʻi, riding bigger boards, and just surfing against all these guys who have been practicing and competing all year, I just didn’t know what was going to happen,” Ibelli continued. “So I prepared myself for this moment. I’m in shape and feeling good. I’m really happy to be here so I think that translates in my surfing. Maybe not on the level I was before, but I’m so happy things are working out for me.”
Ricardo Christie (NZL) earned the highest single wave score for a set wave at an 8.93. Christie checked off speed, power, and flow with a combination of maneuvers, opening the ride with a wrapping first turn and completing it with an exclamation point on the closeout section of the wave.
“(The wave) just kind of opened up and I could do like three turns,” Christie said post-heat. “When I finished I was stoked because it was a solid start… I’m just trying to get the best waves I can find so I can have some fun. That’s all I was thinking.”
CT hopeful Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) moved one round closer to requalification after posting one of the highest two-wave totals of the event, a 16.34 out of a possible 20, in Heat 11. His final ride scored an 8.67 for a two-turn combination that shot him into first advancing position ahead of recent HIC Pro winner Kiron Jabour (HAW).
“Every wave you catch you have to also start thinking about the end bowl because usually out here you get a big first turn and the end bowl you hit it, do a down carve,” Fioravanti said. “My first wave I did an alright first turn and I hit the second section and it just shot me forward and I was straight-legged and face planted. Somehow I got a 4th priority pretty good wave and got it for the heat win.”
The Italian athlete is within close range of rejoining other elite surfers in 2019 and hopes his performances in Hawaiʻi will solidify this goal. Ranked 11 on the QS, Fioravanti earned a win at the Martinique Surf Pro, a Men’s QS 3,000 in the Caribbean, and back-to-back fifth place results at the Pantin Classic Galicia Pro (QS 3,000), and the EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira (QS 10,000) earlier this year.
“This year is going to be so exciting,” Fioravanti continued. “At one point I was 16 which is already enough to qualify. Last year I was a long shot away from qualifying. First victory in that first heat and I’m going to give it a good go.”
The opening heat of the day saw another former CT athlete Jack Freestone (AUS) breeze past competitors and nail an 8.83, the second highest single wave score of the day. Freestone earned the score for a powerful opening turn and a committed layback snap in the critical section of the wave. Currently ranked 16 on the QS, Freestone is also close to requalifying after spending 2018 grinding on the QS. He currently balances competition with family time in Hawaiʻi with wife, surfer Alana Blanchard, and their baby boy, Banx.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time on Kauaʻi which has been really nice,” Freestone said. “Just been getting really excited for the Triple Crown the last month or so and looking forward to the rest of the events. It feels like familiar territory because I feel like I live my life on this (QS) bubble, so I’m excited to know what happens.”
A stacked Heat 3 saw overhead surf with North Shore athletes Finn McGill (HAW) and Mason Ho (HAW) taking first and second respectively for a bid into Round 3. Ho fired off with a 6.17 after pulling into the morning’s first barrel section, with McGill hot on his heels posting his own 6.00 on the scoreboard. McGill followed up with an excellent 8.00 after powering out a dynamic opening turn and nailing the closing maneuver. With a stable lead over Ho and remaining competitors Keanu Asing (HAW) and Lucca Mesinas Novaro (PER), McGill advanced out of his first QS 10,000 Round 2 of the year.
“I paddled out kind of nervous, just wanted to surf my best,” McGill said. “I felt comfortable because I was at home and it’s really good out, it ups your surfing. Honestly, it’s not who’s in your heat, it’s kind of you versus Haleʻiwa. It’s a tricky wave and you just have to find the wave and power through it.”
Ho will surf again once the competition resumes and go against 2013 Hawaiian Pro winner Michel Bourez (PYF), No. 8 on the QS Jorgann Couzinet (FRA), and Lucas Silveira (BRA).
The VTCS story is not complete without the legacy of the Ho family, WSL said. Mason’s father, Michael Ho, won the inaugural series in 1983 and again in 1985, while his uncle, Derek Ho, also earned the VTCS Champion title in 1984, 1986 and 1990. Mason himself has earned a win at the HIC Pro twice in 2013 and 2016, and plays spoiler every year as he battles the world’s best to earn another series title for his family and Hawaiʻi.
Each event of the 2018 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing will be streamed live on WorldSurfLeague.com, VansTripleCrownOfSurfing.com, Facebook.com/wsllive, and the WSL and Facebook apps (Facebook login is required for mobile viewing). Viewers may also tune into the Spectrum SURF Channel, which will televise the competition live and in replay on digital channels 20 and 1020HD, across the state of Hawaiʻi.
The Hawaiian Pro Results are listed below (athletes listed in 1st through 4th):
Round 2 (1st and 2nd advance, 3rd = 65th place, 4th = 81st place)
H1: Jack Freestone (AUS), Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR), Jeronimo Vargas (BRA), Cam Richards (USA)
H2: Mateus Herdy (BRA), Liam O’Brien (AUS), Matt Banting (AUS), Thiago Camarao (BRA)
H3: Finn McGill (HAW), Mason Ho (HAW), Keanu Asing (HAW), Lucca Mesinas Novaro (PER)
H4: Lucas Silveira (BRA), Bino Lopes (BRA), Mihimana Braye (PYF), Matthew McGillivray (ZAF)
H5: Benji Brand (HAW), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Weslley Dantas (BRA), Elijah Gates (HAW)
H6: Caio Ibelli (BRA), Jacob Willcox (AUS), Joshua Moniz (HAW), Kei Kobayashi (USA)
H7: Ricardo Christie (NZL), Santiago Muniz (ARG), Artiz Aranburu (ESP), Maxime Huscenot (FRA)
H8: Barron Mamiya (HAW), Adin Masencamp (ZAF), Vasco Ribeiro (PRT), Noe Mar McGonagle (CRI)
H9: Jake Marshall (USA), Victor Bernardo (BRA), Alonso Correa (PER), Oney Anwar (IDN)
H10: David Van Zyl (ZAF), Evan Geiselman (USA), Tanner Gudauskas (USA), Joshua Burke (BRB)
H11: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Kiron Jabour (HAW), Jackson Baker (AUS), Carlos Munoz (CRI)
H12: Alex Ribeiro (BRA), Torrey Meister (HAW), Charles Martin (FRA), Skip McCullough (USA)
H13: Jack Robinson (AUS), Dion Atkinson (AUS), Nat Young (USA), Shayden Pacarro (HAW)
H14: Dusty Payne (HAW), O’Neill Massin (PYF), Makai McNamara (HAW), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
H15: Reef Heazlewood (AUS), Cooper Chapman (AUS), Noa Mizuno (HAW), Hiroto Ohhara (JPN)
H16: Soli Bailey (AUS), Stu Kennedy (AUS), Ian Crane (USA), Tereva David (PYF)