Surf: {{{Eight}}} to 12 feet, extreme north and rolling
Events Held: The Rip Curl Cup Trials (four advance to the Main Event)
Nature’s Call: Holiday’s over, buddies
Predicted: Survival of the fittestLeave it to Sunset to bring us back to North Shore reality. Before competitors even had time to digest yesterday’s big turkey dinners, they woke up to a surprise cannon shot of a swell from the straight north. “Where did this thing come from?” said main-event wildcard Pancho Sullivan, one of the few competitors out for the pre-contest dawn-patrol. “I thought we’d be sleeping in today.”Apparently, so did everyone else. Vets like Mikala Jones were scrambling to pull their quivers together, Bruce Irons missed his flight over from Kauai and Gary “Kong” Elkerton, the former Sunset ruler who’s been ripping the North Shore all week, paddled out late for his first-round heat and never found a rhythm. After two-and-a-half weeks of East Coast-like conditions at Haleiwa, hurricane-force Konas and giant east (?) swells, Sunset reminded us that, sooner or later, the North Shore always comes back around.And for the few who were truly prepared for the unpredicted rebound, it meant a ticket into the main event of the prestigious Rip Curl Cup. Unlike Cup trials past, where only two of the 32 surfers get a shot at the Top 45, this year’s event accepted four to the Big Stage . In other words: make the final, and you’re in.Which is much easier said than done when’s Sunset’s looking like giant San Onofre with the occasional triple-overhead inside bowl section. Expert locals like Marcus Hickman, Nathan Carroll and Jamie {{{Sterling}}} were dodging foamies and scratching to find four and five-point-scoring rides — virtual guarantees for advancement. As Sterling said after his valiant but losing semifinal heat, “I spent more time under water than I did above it.”Most of the visitors didn’t find it any easier, as guys like Newcastle’s Travis Lynch, Spain’s Pablo Gulierrez and {{{Vans}}} Hawaiian Pro winner Troy Brooks stayed above water for a heat or two, but eventually sunk. Still, even Brooks, who’s on the WCT qualifying bubble depending on how the final two WCT events play out, is glad to see the Sunset he knows, loves and hates. “It’s a mess out there,” he said. “There were cleanups, closeouts and endless duckdives, but I’d take it any day over the conditions at Haleiwa.” Why? Because one stellar ride at Sunset — and there were a few of them out there today — makes the weeks of hard labor worth it. Just ask Tahiti’s Manoa Drollet, who caught the two highest scoring waves of the day and finished second overall. His first-heat smoker, a 9.5 that included a few casual gauges out the back and a stand-up disappearing act on the inside, seemed far too calculated to attribute to chance. “Well, maybe 50 percent chance,” he admitted. “Pancho’s [Sullivan] showed me all his lineups out here, so that definitely helps. But I’m definitely feeling lucky today. Maybe it’s time to play some dice.”Or perhaps you should put your money on local chargers Sean Moody (third place) and Love Hodel (fourth place), who used smarts and stamina to power their way to first-time WCT appearances. As Moody said, “I felt like I just put in a full day at 24-Hour Fitness, but it feels good.”But no one feels better right now than Ewa Beach’s Joel Centeio, who quietly emerged from the foam and mist to win his first Rip Curl Cup trials. With coach/caddy Rainos Hayes barking orders from the channel, Centeio took a nuts-and-bolts approach to a nuts-and-bolts wave: smooth, flowing carves outside, one big hook on the inside and out the back for more. As Hayes commented on his 20-year-old up-and-comer, “Not bad for a guy with chicken legs.”But Centeio more than anyone knows that chicken legs aren’t going to cut it tomorrow against the WCT heavyweights. When he came in from his fourth and final heat of the day, drenched, exhausted and noodle-armed, he made it clear he’s ready to digest another big meal: “All I want to do right now is eat.” — Evan SlaterGUNFIRE:When the impressive number of spectators weren’t squinting out to sea today, they were marveling at guest celeb and shark-attack survivor, Bethany Hamilton. Hamilton was at the event today to present the trophies and conduct a few interviews, but she wasn’t beaming ear-to-ear from all the attention. No, she was smiling because, after less than two months since losing her left arm to a tiger shark on Kauai, she’s already surfing again. The session went down a couple of days ago in all-time conditions at one of her favorite spots. She was already cleared to surf the next day, but seeing all her friends out there plus Andy Irons “just going off,” she called up Doc for the green light. Within minutes she was out on a longboard, figuring out the single-arm paddling thing. Her first couple of waves were unsuccessful, but on wave number three, she caught it, got to her feet, walked to the nose and ripped it all the way to the beach, stepping off on the sand. As she told her dad, Tom, that day, “It was just too good. I had to go out.”[Be sure to check Bethany’s fundraiser event tonight [Sat.] at Waimea Falls Park.]RESULTS:
Rip Curl Cup Trials
1.Joel Centeio
2.Manoa Drollet
3.Sean Moody
4.Love Hodel