"It's kind of a mess out there," said T.J. Barron as he surveyed the lineup from the sand—or more applicably, as he surveyed the non-lineup. Barron was watching the first heat of the morning, prepping for his match-up later in the round. Sunset's normal takeoff zone, usually located hundreds of yards up the point, was a foam-clogged disaster.
When event organizers put the event on hold on Saturday, Sunset was definitely big. But it was even bigger today, with stacked sets, a lineup full of whitewater, current, and roiling faces. Closeouts continuously washed through the channel.
And it was getting bigger. The swell, forecasted to rise all morning, did exactly that, making conditions about as challenging as they could get for the remaining heats in the Round of 64.
But it was a Monday, after all, and event organizers figured they'd put the remaining surfers in the field back to work. Picking up where they left off over the weekend, heat nine hit the water. World Tour number two, Taj Burrow, pushed through that match-up in first place riding a pair of midrange scores. "Yeah, it was pretty raucous," said Burrow afterwards. "Even though I got through my heat, I felt like I had a shocker out there. It was just ugly—big, stormy peaks everywhere. You've just got to try and avoid the sets and dash in there when there's a little break and pick off a cleaner one. But I guess it was pretty bad for everyone."
Burrow was right. It was pretty bad. Combined heat scores—the sum of the competitors' two best rides—hovered in the single digits. Sunny Garcia won his heat with a combined score of just 8.83. Clearly, if a multiple Triple Crown winner, and one of the most prolific power surfers to ever emerge from Hawaii was having trouble, things must have been tough.
But there were those who made the most of the conditions. Tiago Pires, Kieren Perrow, and Jeremy Flores all had particularly strong heats. Matched against Hawaiian Marcus Hickman, Brazilian Pedro Henrique, and 2006 World Cup runner up Jordy Smith, Pires posted a 17.00—the highest combined score of the day.
WQS soldiers on the verge of making it to the big show also had a good go. Hovering at 26th on the Qualifying Tour rankings, Aussie Daniel Ross continued his quest by advancing into the next round with a convincing win over Tim Reyes, Ben Bourgeois, and Kirk Flintoff. Sometimes, being on the bubble brings out a surfer's best—Ross is currently sitting on the two highest combined heat scores of the event so far; he posted an 18.77 and an 18.53 in prior rounds.
Dayyan Neve, sitting number 25 on the WQS charts, stayed alive as well. Looking to requalify for the 'CT courtesy of a solid result at Sunset, Neve advancing behind T.J. Barron, winning his slot into the next round at the expense of Joel Parkinson, the defending O'Neill World Cup champ.
Parkinson's loss was the last, and only, major upset of the day—the event was put on hold again after his heat.
Forecasters are calling for cleaner conditions tomorrow, but with the swell still coming up, there's a good chance contestants will have to wait a little longer before paddling back out at maxed-out Sunset. And if tomorrow, the place presents as wild a waterscape as it did today, I'm sure they won't mind waiting. But we'll have to see what the call is. So stay plugged into Surfermag.com as the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing and the Vans Triple Crown continue on the North Shore.