The final day of the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach was met with pounding rain, thunderstorms, and a dying swell. By no means optimum conditions for Sunset, the 3- to 4-foot surf on hand still offered up enough of a platform for World Tour and 'QS surfers alike to dramatically battle it out in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. By events end, the conditions began to glass off but the rain continued to pour as Hawaii's own Zeke Lau defeated Damien Hobgood, Raoni Monteiro, and Frederico Morais respectively to take the win.
Throughout the duration of the contest—which included a day of massive 12-foot surf—Lau looked to be an event favorite as he weaved his powerful frame through an array of conditions. With his win today, Lau is now tied with Tahiti's Michel Bourez for the Triple Crown title race. At only 20 years old, Lau has cemented himself as one of Hawaii's next great hopes—something that the Honolulu native doesn't take lightly.
Lau, who was awarded a slot into the Pipe Masters, will be looking to further his lead over Bourez and the rest of the pack when the holding period for final World Tour event of the season opens on December 8. "It feels amazing to represent Hawaii. For me, that's the biggest thing. I really want to make Hawaii proud and take the Triple Crown title."
Throughout the final day of competition, the swell slowly faded and a host of big names, including Slater, Dane Reynolds, and Sebastien Zietz fell by the wayside. And by late afternoon, when the opening heat horn of the final blew, long lulls had become common place.
Needing a miracle to requalify for the World Tour, Brazil's Raoni Monteiro opened up the heat by posting a pair of solid scores. Monteiro, who's been without a major sponsor for some time, is no stranger to Sunset Beach and took the win here in 2010. It was clear from his approach that the Brazilian had no intention of losing. However, in the dying moments of the final, he would be overcome by the likes of Damien Hobgood and Lau.
Hobgood, who also needed a strong showing at this event to better his chances of requalification, was surfing razor sharp throughout the event. As the lone goofyfooter in the final, he was able to utilize his trademark backhand attack to claw his way within striking distance of the win. With mere minutes left, Hobgood took off on a rare, draining left at Sunset and emerged from the tube with a two-handed claim. But as fate would have it, he would come up just short.
Moments earlier, Lau, who opted to sit on Sunset's West Bowl for the majority of the final, also found an open keg and characteristically tore the living hell out of the open face, earning an 8.67. He would go on to back up that score with a solid 6-point ride. Sitting hundreds of yards out to sea and with the steady hum of the rain muffling the announcement of scores, neither Hobgood nor Lau immediately knew who had taken the win. Eventually, word of Lau's victory made it to the anxious-looking Hawaiian who erupted with a thunderous scream of approval.
After being chaired up the beach, Lau stood on the podium and thanked his family, friends, and the crowd for their support.
"This feels like a dream come true,” said Lau. "I don't even know what to say. That was the first final I made all year. To have come away with a win feels great. I just kept my faith and it came to me."
The conclusion of the Vans World Cup today also marked the final ‘QS event of the season and will help finalize the competitive roster for next year’s World Tour. As soon as we can confirm who made the cut, we’ll post it here.