RISE & SHINE, NORTH SHORE: Howling Conditions Shake Up Rd. of 64

There's nothing like being awakened by the sound of Jet Skis and heat horns. Rise and shine North Shore. An eagerly anticipated massive northwest swell filled in overnight, giving the competitors at the O'Neill World Cup another day of competition in maxed-out 15-foot-plus conditions.

While I walked from the SURFER house down to Sunset Point, I've never been happier to be blessed with such minimal surf talent. Out to the horizon, sets feathered in the distance, and around Sunset Point, bone-breaking bowls unloaded onto the reef, sending beaten boards, surfers, and egos back to the beach. It was a good day to work for a surf magazine, but a tough day to be a competitor.

In groups of four, wearing steely-eyed determination and furrowed brows, the competitors hit the water and headed out to Sunset in conditions that can only be described as maxing and sketchy. Many longtime North Shore veterans will say Sunset can be the heaviest place on the North Shore, and it certainly looked the part today. With raging currents, 10-foot vertical drops, and infamous west peaks periodically cleansing the lineup and shutting down in the channel, the amount of paddling alone that went into simply staying in position today made the heats something akin to surfing's version of an Ironman. But watching the likes of Dane Reynolds, Cory Lopez, and Mick Fanning surf made it clear that the best can make even the most challenging of situations look, well, manageable, at the least.

For Reynolds, the day was a chance to put all the naysayers to rest. Currently entrenched in his first Triple Crown campaign, all eyes are on him, and with his performance today, he proved that he's as equally adept at punting airs as he is at muscling through 15-foot Hawaiian surf. "It was pretty big, but there were good waves in between the sets," he said, "and if you find them, you are pretty stoked." Although he didn't manage to win his heat, (a very in-form Cory Lopez would take the win) Dane threw down a very respectable performance.

In an interesting play of events, last year's Triple Crown winner Andy Irons missed his heat. Announcers stated he was MIA due to a "minor injury," but after recently marrying his longtime girlfriend Lyndie Dupuie, he could also have been on an "extended honeymoon." Regardless of the cause, Andy's mysterious absence, and his apparent lack of interest in defending his 2006 Triple Crown, was definitely a topic of debate around the event. Another Garden Island surfer fell today in the form of Reef Hawaiian Pro winner and 2008 WCT surfer Roy Powers, who, despite holding his own in the solid surf, failed to advance from his heat.

With the rising swell and howling winds, conditions turned as wild as the wispy hairs on Dane Reynolds' mustached upper lip. Event organizers were forced to call off competition after eight heats. Stay tuned to Surfermag.com for more updates from the North Shore as both the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing and the season continue to unfold.