Hawaii's Tonino Benson, Thriving on the Power. Credit: VansTripleCrown/ASP/Cestari

HONOLULU (Nov. 27, 2011) — Life-threatening surf and intense conditions at Sunset Beach snapped competitors back to reality today as the first round of the $250,000 Vans World Cup of Surfing got underway in serious 10- to 12-foot waves. It also brought spectators out in droves, resulting in the largest crowd at Sunset Beach in the 38-year history of the event. The Vans World Cup is the second leg of the illustrious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, presented by Rockstar Energy Drink.

Odds-on favorites today were locals like Pancho Sullivan, Jamie O’Brien, Makuakai Rothman and Sunny Garcia, who live for days like these that put most others on edge. Of the 16 heats contested today, 11 were won by Hawaii surfers. The balance went to Vincent Duvignac (France); Davey Cathels (Sydney, Australia); Adrien Toyon (Reunion Island); Mitchel Coleborn (Sunshine Coast, Australia); and Ricardo Dos Santos (Brazil).

A former star of the ASP World Tour, Pancho Sullivan has been a favorite for this event for more than a decade, but a win here continues to elude him.

“Every time you think you’ve got this wave figured out, it humbles you,” said Sullivan, 38. “It takes a lot of time and dedication to the break and your equipment, to surf well here.

“The adrenaline you get as you come towards the inside bowl, the wave is warbling and you just have no idea what it’s going to do. I think that’s why we all surf: that excitement of the unknown. Sunset delivers that on all levels. It is a tough wave.

“A lot of the focus (in recent years) has gone down to Pipe and guys are riding really thin, narrow boards, so when you come back up to Sunset, those boards just don’t translate.

“All the power’s in the top two thirds of the wave out here and I think the younger guys make the mistake of going all the way to the bottom before they set that bottom turn and there’s just no energy down there. If you add the fact that they’re riding a really narrow, pin board they just can’t get the drive to really get up off the top and down the line.”

Today’s top heat scorer was Tonino Benson (Big Island, Hawaii), with a two-wave total of 16.17 points out of 20. The highest individual wave score went to Vans World Cup rookie and junior wildcard Keanu Asing (Hawaii), for a hefty tube ride that earned him 9.33 out of 10.

“I stood up and I was down the face of the wave already,” said Asing of his hefty drop. “I was like, ‘wow!’ I could see this thing doubling up and doubling up. I figured I might as well try and stall. I had so much water in my eyes and as I was coming out I kind of fell forward and almost fell. I was so excited.”

For Australian Mitchel Coleborn, Sunset Beach was nothing like the Sunshine Coast that he hails from.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this big on the Sunny Coast,” said Coleborn. “But I paddled out there and had a lot of fun and I’m stoked to get round one out of the road.

“I haven’t surfed here at all really. I’m staying down at Pipe and have just been surfing out front of the house, but I surfed the last few days with Dusty Payne and he’s kind of shown me the ropes and set me up with a couple of markers and it worked for me. I’d like to get a good result. I’ve had a bit of a rough year. I’ve only had a couple of so-so results so a big result would mean the world to me, especially out at Sunset when it’s big like this.”

Only one Brazilian advanced out of Round 1 today: Ricardo Dos Santos. He was also one of the lone-goofy footers to successfully get barreled.

“So many Brazilians are good in those conditions, so they probably had bad luck today, but I’m proud to represent Brazil,” said Dos Santos. “For me, I feel comfortable in these conditions. I like surfing with no-one around. That makes it easy to find the right wave and do your best. I think I was lucky to get those barrels, they just came to me.”

Sunny Garcia, a two-time champion of this event (1994, 2000), logged a crowd-raising double barrel in his heat today to advance, and will take on female wildcard Carissa Moore, Alain Riou (Reunion Island), and Mitchel Coleborn (Australia) tomorrow.

“I’ve got Carissa?” Garcia said. “Well, what can I say? This time last year I was coaching her, so I guess I’m going to have to bring my A-game. I’m a huge Carissa Moore fan. She’s the greatest woman surfer in the world. I’m going to be cheering her on in the lineup.”

Garcia & Moore - Happy to Share the Lineup Tomorrow. Credit: Courtesy Joli

Surprise eliminations today included Yuri Sodre (Brazil); Roy Powers (Hawaii); Hodei Collazo (EUK); Joan Duru (France); and Jack Freestone (Australia).


Organizers expect a slight drop in wave heights but improved conditions tomorrow which will likely see competition continue. The MORNING SHOW will be broadcast live from the beach every morning at www.vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com, at 8am Hawaii time.

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing presented by Rockstar Energy Drink is made possible by Vans, Rockstar Energy Drink, Reef, Billabong, Nixon, Skullcandy Supreme Sound, Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaii Tourism, GoPro, Turtle Bay Resort, State Farm, JN Automotive Group, Wavejet Propulsion, Climb On Products, Clif Bar, Oceanic Time Warner Cable, Road Runner, Flo Water, Surfline.com, SURFING Magazine, and the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).

Round of 128. 1st & 2nd advance.

H1: Vincent Duvignac (FRA) 13.24pts ; Evan Valiere (HAW) 11.94pts ; Tyler Newton (HAW) 7.94pts ; Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 6.93pts
H2: Marcus Hickman (HAW) 9.00pts ; Perth Standlick (AUS) 7.93pts ; Gabriel Villaran (PER) 7.60pts ; Yuri Sodre (BRA) 3.30pts
H3: Billy Kemper (HAW) 8.33pts ; Chris Foster (HAW) 7.40pts ; Jeronimo Vargas (BRA) 5.86pts ; Roy Powers (HAW) 5.70pts
H4: Jamie O’Brien (HAW) 14.84pts ; Brent Dorrington (AUS) 9.36pts ; Caio Ibelli (BRA) 9.23pts ; ALex Smith (HAW) 5.50pts
H5: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 11.00pts ; Gavin Gillette (HAW) 10.83pts ; Shaun Cansdell (AUS) 7.70pts ; Solomon Ortiz (HAW) 7.06pts
H6: Torry Meister (HAW) 9.43pts ; Brian Toth (PRI) 7.90pts ; Dege O’Connell (HAW) 6.90pts ; Hodei Collazo (EUK) 6.00pts
H7: Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 14.87pts ; Tim Reyes (USA) 10.20pts ; Kevin Sullivan (HAW) 8.83pts ; Billy Stairmand (NZL) 1.70pts
H8: Davey Cathels (AUS) 11.60pts ; Olamana Eleogram (HAW) 10.80pts ; Nathaniel Curran (USA) 9.67pts ; Dylan Goodale (HAW) 8.77pts
H9: Joel Centeio (HAW) 12.50pts ; Ian Walsh (HAW) 9.67pts ; Jano Belo (BRA) 9.43pts ; Jesse Merle-Jones (HAW) 7.56pts
H10: Tonino Benson (HAW) 16.17pts ; Dale Staples (ZAF) 15.17pts ; Kamalei Alexander (HAW) 11.40pts ; Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) 6.33pts
H11: Keanu Asing (HAW)12.90pts ; Austin Ware (USA) 8.06pts ; Stu Kennedy (AUS) 6.77pts ; Makai McNamara (HAW) 5.97pts
H12: Adrien Toyon (REU) 11.67pts ; Sean Moody (HAW) 10.66pts ; Casey Brown (HAW) 7.03pts ; Joan Duru (FRA) 6.36pts
H13: Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 11.97pts ; Sunny Garcia (HAW) 11.00pts ; Blake Thornton (AUS) 11.00pts ; Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 9.96pts
H14: Mitchel Coleborn (AUS) 13.30pts ; Tanner Hendrickson (HAW) 12.93pts ; TJ Barron (HAW) 10.67pts ; Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 8.87pts
H15: Myles Padaca (HAW) 12.93pts ; Mason Ho (HAW) 12.70pts ; Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.37pts ; Rudy Palmboom (ZAF) 7.43pts
H16: Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA) 15.53pts ; Ian Gentil (HAW) 12.90pts ; Flynn Novack (HAW) 9.73pts ; Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 8.80pts