Sunset Beach may not have been shattering too many boards today, but she was dashing Triple Crown dreams like it was going out style. Of the many bright-eyed hopefuls that found themselves on the chopping block amid the 4-foot-plus sets today at the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing, Aussie Jay Thompson, who finished second in the Reef Hawaiian Pro last week, slipped in his heat with a third-place finish. Add a frustrating performance by Joel Centeio, the man who led the race for the crown going into today, and the figurative door to a Triple Crown victory remains as open as ever. And of those looking to bridge the gap, none seem as ferocious and determined as six-time Triple Crown champ Sunny Garcia.
At 39, Sunny's found a zest in his surfing that has left other surfers, event officials, and media pundits claiming him to be a viable threat once more. Forget Ponce de Leon, Sunny's found the Fountain of Youth - the trick being an insatiable thirst for stomping the life out of your competition in a heat. In his matchup today against the decidedly younger crew of Nic Muscroft, Dylan Melamed, and Yadin Nicol, Sunny put on a performance worthy of his rep and would move on to the next round. Power surfing and Sunset go together almost as well as vampires and teenagers.
On a somber note a fit Andy Irons bowed out to Joan Duru and Chris Davidson in the waning minutes of his round of 64 heat. No one wanted to see AI tumble out of the event, but two mid-range scores and a mean hack don't always cut it. Even heat winner Chris Davidson expressed his remorse when Andy couldn't find a second score to birth him into the next round. But don't shed too many for AI, he's drawn a wildcard entry for Pipe, and we all know what he's capable of accomplishing there.
On the sunnier side of the event, the alabaster-toned Nat Young threw down a smoker of a heat today, dismantling competitive vets Damien Fahrenfort, Glenn Hall, and Damien Hobgood. Young, who's a self-proclaimed Sunset rookie, posted a 9.3 and an 8, and proved that somehow, someway, the Santa Cruz contingency always performs well in Hawaii.
"The guys I'm staying with, Kieren Horn and Jarrad Howse, I've gone out surfing with them and they showed me where to sit," said Young. "I kind of had an idea of where to go. I didn't feel that lost out there. I knew which waves to go on: the ones that looked like a peak, not a huge wall on it."
Rounding out the final heat of the day, Mick Fanning made his Triple Crown debut and did not disappoint as he advanced through his heat, finishing the surf just shy of perennial favorite Pancho Sullivan. Not sure if Parko was watching from the shadows or the bleachers, but Fanning's looking f–kin sharp and tough as nails right now.
We're looking at a week's worth of man-eating swell headed towards the islands, so stay glued to Surfermag.com.