Amid a very contestable 4-foot swell, the Reef Hawaiian Pro crowned a champion today in the form of Kauai's Sebastian Zietz. Heading into the four-man final, the field was stacked with Hawaiians John John Florence, Fred Patacchia, Seabass, and Brazil's Alejo Muniz, all of whom were gunning for the $40,000 win. In the opening exchanges of the final, Zietz drew first blood by posting a 6- and an 8-point ride to take the early lead. For the majority of the final, the ocean would go quiet, but with only five minutes left, a flurry of sets filled into the lineup. John John would counter, posting a 9.2 and a 5.5 to briefly take control of the lead. But in the dying moments, with his Kauaian counterparts ferociously cheering on the shoreline, Zietz would recapture the lead from Florence and seal the win by posting a 9.43. Florence would go on to take second with Patacchia in third and Muniz in fourth.
"I feel amazing. I'm so stoked. I've been taking it easy lately, haven't really been partying, but it's gonna get loose tonight," said Zietz. "After posting that 8, I just tried to hold off John because he's been ripping so hard. I love everybody. This is amazing."
From his opening heat all the way to the final, Zietz's surfing was polished, diverse, and razor sharp. Quick and stylish, it's easy for Zietz's approach to be compared to the likes of Mick Fanning and Adam Melling. Sitting on the qualification bubble for next year's World Tour, with his win today, Seabass moved into the 21st position on the One World Ranking and has officially secured himself a spot in the Big Leagues. "I've been looking up to my friends on Kauai forever and it feels so good to follow in everyone's else's footsteps and get this win."
One of the most in-form surfers of the event, with his showing today at Haleiwa, the North Shore's own John John Florence is looking strong to double down on his 2011 Triple Crown title as the series moves to Sunset, where he's also the reigning champ. Additionally, with his third-place finish today, Fred Patacchia also greatly improved his hopes of requalifying for the World Tour as he moved into the 26th position on the One World Rankings. With two events left in the season, the rankings will continue to adjust, making it difficult to finalize a concrete qualification scenario until the Pipe Masters gets well underway.
Other notable moments of the contest came as Sunny Garcia, Kaipo Jaquias, Occy, and Tom Curren renewed their infamous rivalries of the 1980s in the Clash of the Legends specialty two-heat series. Despite the power of Kaipo and Occy and Curren's flow, a fit and focused Sunny would dominate the series and take the win.
In addition to claiming the Clash of the Legends event, Sunny also progressed all the way to the semifinals of the main event, eventually bowing out in a drama-filled paddle battle against Fred Patacchia. On the qualifying bubble for next year's World Tour, Patacchia wasn't about to roll over for anyone as he and Garcia paddled arm-in-arm for a solid set in the dying moments of the heat. As the wave stood up, Patacchia would shoulder out Garcia and edge himself into position, securing a solid score and moving himself into the final. Renowned for his fire, when Patacchia made his way back out to the lineup, he was met with a less-than-pleased Garcia and what appeared to be a verbal lashing. Following the drama, the pair--who by all accounts are close friends--exchanged some heated words on the beach before parting ways. Thankfully, just a few minutes after the exchange, a calmed Garcia appeared to have already put the incident behind him.
"It's competition and of course it gets heated. But I'm just happy to have made it as far as I did. I didn't want to lose that way in a paddle battle to a good friend, but I wish Fred all the best," said Garcia. "We're really good friends and I want to see him do well. That's just competition and I want to see all the Hawaii guys continue to do well and hopefully we can keep the Triple Crown title here in Hawaii."
At 42 years old, and having recently secured a win at the HIC Pro at Sunset in October, Sunny's semifinal finish at this event proves that he's still a very viable threat whenever he puts on a jersey.
As the 30th anniversary of the Triple Crown, the fabled series is offering up an additional $100,000 prize purse to the overall Triple Crown winner. Perhaps more importantly, as the final leg of the qualifying series, the surfers positioned on the bubble are fighting for every heat win in hopes of securing a place on the the 2013 World Tour.
The first day of the holding period for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Vans World Cup at Sunset, is set to begin tomorrow. The forecast is calling for a decent-sized swell to hold until Tuesday, when a new 10-foot swell is projected to fill in.