Reflections on the Vans Pier Classic

Surfing like a man possessed, Kolohe Andino had the competition under his thumb for the entire event. Photo: Parkin

Shea Lopez

The author of SURFER's Top 32 Review, Shea Lopez spent 11 years competing on the World Tour and now reigns as our resident expert on the pro surfosphere.

Every once in a while an event, a surfer, or maybe even a collective group will surprise the crap out of me. All three were the case this week at the Vans Pier Classic, when I was brought in at the last minute to share some of the webcast duties with Dave Stansfield and long-time friend Saxon Boucher.

What I witnessed during the event was a blessing of multiple swells from every direction, which had moments of what some were calling the best Huntington they had ever seen for a contest. The plentiful, quality waves allowed the surfers to put on some great performances. Even surfers that had lost earlier stuck around to surf down the beach or hang in the competitors' area to watch the event unfold.

As we rocked up for the final day with surf that was slowly winding down from a peak on Thursday and Friday, several things became glaringly obvious. The first was that the WT veteran surfers in attendance have the ability to manage a heat much better than the upstart Pro Junior competitors--even though the Juniors were the definite highlight of the event, they would often make tactical errors that prevented their advancement. A few adjustments from Conner Coffin, Andrew Doheny, Carlos Muniz, and Dylan Goodale and there could have easily allowed three of the four finalists in the Men's 4-star to be Junior competitors.

The one surfer who we all knew would be in the final was Adriano de Souza. The young veteran on the WT (he's only 23) looked unstoppable, as heat after heat he jumped out to early commanding leads that left everyone else fighting for second.

Midday Sunday saw the finals for both the Men's and Pro Junior being decided, with three Junior surfers looking capable of winning both divisions.

First up was Andrew Doheny. Vans Surf Team Manager Nolan Hall likened the way Andrew surfs a heat to a wet dog running through the house, and I agreed. Andrew had been putting on an electric performance for days, but a wipeout on a bomb right where he would have posted a huge score was the beginning of the end for his run. After that wave, he found nothing with scoring potential in not only his Men's heat but in his Juniors' heat as well. In the juniors' semifinal he only caught one below-average wave. The wet dog on a rampage may have lost the plot, but he impressed the hell out of everyone in attendance.

Next to attempt making both finals was Conner Coffin. With Brad Gerlach in his ear before and after every heat, Conner looked to be focusing on his strengths while finding the waves that allowed him ample opportunity to post big scores. Just missing out on the Men's final, Conner would at least have the chance at the Junior title after a solid performance in the semis.

That leaves us with Kolohe Andino. He had admittedly "grinded out a few earlier heats," as he put it, and was receiving treatment for a pulled groin daily. The surfer with more hype and higher expectations than any other had been sneaking by under the radar all comp. Doesn't Kelly utilize a similar routine at times with devastating results?

When Kolohe became the only surfer to advance into both finals, the stage was set for him to make history. Four of America's brightest rising stars--Conner, Kolohe, Luke Davis, and Jacob Halstead--took advantage of the fact that the inconsistent swell decided to turn on with non-stop sets for these kids. Kolohe rode 11 waves and went to the sky on nearly every one, never falling. When the dust settled, Kolohe wound up in first, kept his red jersey on, and prepared to face three fierce WT competitors standing between him and an opportunity for back-to-back wins.

Before anyone even knew what had happened, Kolohe jumped to an early lead by posting an 8.6 and backing it up with a high 6 for a crazy slob air reverse, holding off Adriano de Souza to claim the win.

Kolohe has managed the first-ever double-victory by the narrowest of margins. The $20K in combined prize money was a nice reward for a job well done. Anyone still questioning or hating on the 17-year-old should give it a rest. It looks like this is just the tip of the iceberg for what should be a long, successful pro career for Kolohe.