Tradition—there's no shortage of it around these parts this time of year. There're the little things, like perennially stopping at your favorite plate lunch shack right off the plane, and then there are the big things, like, well, Sunset and Waimea. Both were the focus of their own particular brand of custom today as another 24-hour cycle clicked by on the North Shore.
With passing showers spitting from the sky, glassy conditions, and 8-foot sets rolling through the lineup at Sunset, the crowd that had gathered on the beach to watch the Roxy Pro and the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing kicked the sand off their feet as the sun sank and the heats wound down, hopped in their cars, and headed towards Waimea to catch the ceremonious paddle out that marks the beginning of the holding period for The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.
Earlier in the day, however, Sunset was the only show in town, and the action was led by the women. Peruvian Sofia Mulanovich kept those watching the Roxy Pro on their feet. Mulanovich powered her way through the serene conditions to take the win and bring this year's ratings chase even closer. At the end of the event, she stood a scant 101 points behind Australian female sensation Stephanie Gilmore. The race has officially been pushed to Honolua.
A euphoric Mulanovich kept her emotions in check. "I'm just stoked," she said. "Sunset can be such a perfect wave. I really want to thank Rochelle Ballard for helping me out with my board choice. She pushed me to use that board and it really paid off. Thanks to everyone who helped me out, my boyfriend who was my caddie and my longtime sponsor Roxy for another great event."
Mulanovich wasn't the only one keeping things interesting for the women. Current Triple Crown ratings leader Megan Abubo seriously injured her ribs during her heat and was rushed in an ambulance to the nearest hospital. Whether she'll be healthy to surf in the final jewel of the Triple Crown at Honolua is still unknown.
As for the men, the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing went down in near-perfect 8-foot conditions. Aussie Daniel Ross continued his push by posting a two-wave combined score on Wednesday of 18.77, and then followed that up today by once again breaking the 18-point mark. Ross was surfing like a seasoned Sunset veteran, turning the heads of spectators and competitors alike. "I'm feeling good and I was ready to surf some heats out here," said Ross. "For the waves to turn on and for me to position myself to do well out here feels unreal…it all come together."
As for the locals, Marcus Hickman kept the Hawaiians in the race by dominating his homebreak. "Because there's so much ground out here and we have a half hour, it's not about tactics," he said. "You can't play tactics out there. When I have an opportunity to just surf and not bother with tactics, that's when I can really do my best. The feeling is good for this event. This is my eighth WQS event this year. I just try to do enough contests to be able to get into this one. My goal is totally to go out there and win every heat. I expect it from myself. I'll only lose if I beat myself—if I make mistakes."
Later on, just as the heats at Sunset were winding down, the Eddie ceremony began with a traditional Hawaiian prayer followed by the ceremonial paddle out. As dusk set in, the festivities were capped by a gathering of surfers mingling on the sand.
Conditions in the islands are predicted to drop on Friday, but then pick up again to the 20-foot mark by the weekend, which means the Eddie kickoff couldn't have come soon enough. And with more surfing set to go down for the men up at Sunset, things may get interesting, again, at both the venerated big-wave arenas before the week ends. Stay tuned to Surfermag.com for more updates from the North Shore.