After the longest stretch of lay days in Triple Crown history, the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa set itself on a grueling pace as it raced to finish the event amid a lazy swell and a quickly pinching holding period. Although we're accustomed to looking forward to double-overhead perfection during the Hawaiian leg of the season, the conditions that materialized for the majority of the event proved difficult to say the least. But despite the lackluster swell and windswept conditions, the event organizers were able to complete all the heats and crown Taj Burrow the champion.
Having won the Pipe Masters in 2009, Burrow is no stranger to competitive success in Hawaii and has been open about his goals this year for a Triple Crown title.
“It’s funny I have never really gotten a good shot (at the Vans Triple Crown)," said Burrow to the ASP. "I was thinking, maybe I should really have a go at one of these things so I actually have it right in the front of my mind."
After surfing through four rounds of competition today, Burrow found himself staring down Australian Adam Melling, California's Nat Young, and Brazil's Adriano de Souza in the final. With the exception of Nat Young, all of the finalists were World Tour surfers.
When the heat horn blew and signaled the start of the final, it was clear that the Haleiwa of surfing lore had decided to take the month of November off. In her place stood an anemic and blustery swell, offering up bloated lefts and the occasional right-hander.
Regarded for his uncanny ability to make the most meager of conditions look downright playful, Burrow took hold of the final from the opening set and didn't let go until the closing horn. With the majority of sets morphing into pudgy lefts, Burrow dropped his highest score, a 9.37, on a head-high right that allotted him two decent turns. And while de Souza and Melling would attempt to counter, it was Taj's event to win.
“I had a good run, it feels good scoring in the 9-point range and it’s hard to do,” said Taj to the ASP. "I just really wanted to win an event here. I am really happy. I love being in Hawaii. I was saying to a few of my friends it is so good to come to Hawaii and sit and make a base for six weeks. We are getting on a plane every other weekend normally, it’s draining. Coming to Hawaii you just get in a good routine, you unpack your bags and you can kind of relax. We train and eat good food and just the whole routine of it all, I feel much better than having to skip town every two weeks.”
For Australia's Adam Melling, who found himself on the World Tour bubble entering the Hawaiian leg, his second-place finish today proved to be a confidence boost.
“I am feeling pretty good you know, always wanted to do well and get on the podium here in Hawaii because the waves are so testing,” said Melling. “You can get any kind of conditions. You can get one foot or 12-foot closeouts. I needed to podium this year, I need the points so bad. I have been on the borderline for a while now, so hopefully this can push me up and I can get a couple more results.”
De Souza, who set a blistering pace this season and currently sits in fourth place on the World Tour rankings, once again made his presence felt in the singlet and finished the event in third.
“I am so happy right now with the third, it has always been my dream to get to the finals here in Hawaii,” De Souza told the ASP. “I have been watching the last 10 years, all of the finalists, and I have seen them with all their trophies and leis. So I always been dreaming to be one day here. I am really proud of myself. It was an amazing week. Actually the flat waves at the start helped me a lot. I needed the rest. I am really pumped for Sunset. It is going to be big waves so it is going to be a big motivation.”