Surf: 1-3′, painfully windblown lefts
Rounds held: Men’s Round 1, Heats 8-13, and all of Round 2
Nature’s Call: You ain’t on the dream tour yet, pally.
Predicted: Lots of counseling if this crap persists.
One snap. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Next thing you know, instead of scoring 12 of the world’s best waves you’re facing twelve more months of grueling travel, shitty venues and all the other WQS nightmares. Just ask Greg Emslie. Paddling back out toward the end of a solid heat, he looked up to see Jihad Kodhr fall from the sky after a single fins-out snap on a rare right. In one move, the Brazilian bumped Emslie to third in the heat, killing his forward momentum in the ‘QS season’s last event and officially freezing him at a 16th on the ratings. Now Emslie sits dangerously exposed to a dozen or more contenders, all anxious to bump him even further down the list of qualifiers for 2004 WCT. And all he’d needed to stop it was one decent wave.”This is the perfect end to a terrible season.” Emslie later noted, waving an arm at the Haleiwa’s horrid inside with disgust. “It’s the worst year ever. We’ve only had good waves twice ?- both times in Brazil!”It may be Hawaii. It may even be the first jewel of the Triple Crown. But the {{{Vans}}} Hawaiian Pro is still part of the WQS, and as such, it’s prone to all the problems, including crap surf. The waves barely pushed 3 feet today, turning Haleiwa from its usual roaring right bowl to a semi-mushy, almost impossible-to-connect left that proved more frustrating than fruitful. With the exception of Steve Clements’ blistering 9.5, and powerful performances by locals like Fred Patacchia, Joel Centeio and Pancho Sullivan, four-point scores became keepers and everyone was perplexed — even the winners. “You think you pick a good wave,” said Portugal’s Tiago Pires after winning his heat. “Then it just start . . . changing.”Fortunately for Emslie, not everyone was so successful. Marcelo Nunes, who sits just behind him at 17th, lost out, giving the South African a much-needed smile. Hawaiian Roy Powers also fell short, and the casualty list continued to include fellow longshots Mikaell Picon and Adrian Buchan. Meanwhile, the surfers with the most to gain with each round made their heats. Renan Rocha and Peterson Rosa inched upward for Brazil, anxiously fighting to squeeze into the precious three or four spots still up for grabs.

But even if the some competitors were as erratic as the surf, others remained surprisingly consistent, including America’s two most volatile hopefuls. Santa Barbara’s hot-and-cold hero Bobby Martinez lit up the lefts with a precise, super-fast frontside attack matched only by Patacchia and Troy Brooks. And then there’s the ultimate question mark, the one missing talent everyone agrees should be among the top 45.”Where’s Chris? Have you seen him?” Two years ago, if someone said “Where’s Wardo?” before a heat, you’d wonder if he was going to show. This year, Chris wasn’t sitting some place bogged down in mistakes, he was off to the side firing up. Never mind the fact that Ward is now sitting at 19th, right on the bubble of qualifying. From beginning to end, he put on a confident show of moves that made the gutless surf look punchy.

His opening ride was a series of spring-loaded, backside snaps that sailed to the inside without a stutter. And when Patrick Bevan somehow rallied to steal the lead in the closing minutes — leaving Chris out the back with Hawaiian spoiler Dustin Cuizon and ‘CT powerhouse Taylor Knox — he didn’t choke. Hell, he didn’t even blink. Chris simply positioned himself inside on the best wave of the best set and cranked in another brilliant ride to finish the job. It almost seemed, exactly opposite of what we’ve come to expect from San Clemente’s dysfunctional dynamo. But, as one spectator noted: “If Haleiwa can be a left, then Chris Ward can be consistent.”Let’s hope so. Because as Haleiwa’s proving this winter: nobody wants to spend another minute on the ‘QS, much less another year. — Matt WalkerFor more on the Vans Hawaiian Pro, go to