Haleiwa greeted the 25th annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing with open arms as the 2007 North Shore surfing season kicked off Monday with the first jewel of the Triple Crown, The Reef Hawaiian Pro.
After a traditional Hawaiian blessing by Kahu Butch Helemano, the famous Ali'i Beach Park didn't disappoint as competitor's were blessed by clean 6-8 foot waves, groomed by light offshore winds and clear blue skies.
With much of the hype surrounding Sunny Garcia and his return to the North Shore after his stint in a California prison, there was much more to talk about as the World came to challenge the Hawaiians, and the young came to challenge their elders in the early rounds at Haleiwa.
With the World Title race already being wrapped up in Brazil by Australia's Mick Fanning, the Triple Crown represents what lies at the raw core of competitive surfing on the North Shore; Pride and respect.
The Hawaiians, WQS warriors or not, always come into the Triple Crown with chips on their shoulders to prove to the world that on the North Shore, they are the ones to beat. With local knowledge of the treacherous breaks and pulsing swells on the North Shore, the Hawaiians like their chances against the rest of the world when the surf is on the bigger side and the consequences for mistakes are high.
Hawaiian surfer, Jason Shibata, spoke for his fellow statesmen when he commented on the modest conditions at Haleiwa on Monday morning. "Obviously bigger is better," said Shibata. "We all want bigger waves out at Haleiwa, but we can't control what Mother Nature gives us."
Size would not be an issue for Shibata in the water Monday as he breezed through his round one heat and advanced on to the second round of competition. Garcia, who won his first round heat as well with the highest wave score of the day, a 9.5 out of a possible 10, will be joining Shibata in round two, along with a host of Hawaiians who are excited about the prospect of a bigger swell forecasted to begin building sometime Tuesday.
Alongside the battle between the Hawaiians and the World was the battle of the up and comers against the seasoned veterans. Some fresh faces showed up to challenge their elders as surfers like Dylan Goodale and Kekoa Cazimero surfed in the first Triple Crown events of their young careers against surfers like Garcia and Derek Ho, who have been surfing Haleiwa since before either of them were born.
The Triple Crown is exciting for these young surfers who get to surf in the biggest events of their lives against some of their idols. When asked about his goals going into his first Triple Crown appearance, Cazimero simply stated, "Big stage…Blow up!" He then modestly paid respect to his elders, noting that when surfing against them, "I just hope I can get a good one."
If the first day of competition was any indicator of what's to come for this year's Reef Hawaiian Pro, there'll be plenty of "good ones" ridden throughout the event; the question remains if wisdom can hold off the eagerness of the youth or if local knowledge can fend off the hunger of the World…Stay tuned.