2008 Reef Hawaiian Pro: Day 1

CONDITIONS: 8-12 foot and proper out of the northwest
HEATS HELD: All of Men's Round of 160 and the first 7 heats of the Round of 128
NATURE'S CALL: No Kona for you!
PREDICTIONS: Young blood will take the first jewel.

You could smell it in the air this morning. {{{Eight}}} to 10 feet of thumping, churning, foamy and frightening northwest swell. The Kona Winds retreated sometime in the middle of the night and a light onshore flow blanketed the North Shore with a hazy film that only massive surf can bring. The old timers were hauling their 9'0"s to the water at Sunset. The young and hungry were busy waxing up freshly shaped pintails at Pipe. And every fierce competitor in the Reef Hawaiian Pro was standing in the sinky sand at Haleiwa, coffee in hand, watching shifty bombs steamroll out front.

Holding off competition on Wednesday proved to be not such a bad idea as the outside buoy marking the harbor channel dipped in and out of sight every ten seconds or so…and the thing's about 15 feet tall, mind you. But having the first proper swell of the season show up for Day 1 is only part of the story — the other piece is something that only the North Shore can bring out in competitive surfing.

It is, of course, the clash of the ages. And while surfers of different generations go head-to-head across the globe all year, here there is just something about the seniority and experience of the veterans versus the hungry and go-for-broke attitudes of the young guys. Here, your success as a surfer on the North Shore hinges entirely on proving oneself in challenging, confusing and massive conditions. Your prowess in sub-par mini-ramps or flawless walls means nothing, because you don't get that here. What you get is a chance — and often only one — to prove that you can survive. And no one can escape that. The old timers had to once and the young bloods are right now. It's respect, brah…easy as that.

So it would seem fitting that legends like Occy, Peter Mel and Liam McNamara would set the pins up out there today. Occy, who arrived two days ago with his family in tow, set the standards nice and high early on with that brutal, calculated backhand of his. When most other competitors were speed checking or wobbling out in the heaving bowls of the rights, Occy was accelerating and executing massive lippers, driving carves and ankle-snapping floaters perfectly. McNamara too was unfazed with the velocity and power of Haleiwa, landing him a decisive win in his Round of 160 heat. And Eddie invitee and Maverick's kingpin Pete Mel set the stage for nailing the illusive Haleiwa tube. All three won their heats today and all three are in form to travel on to the final rounds.

But it was the likes of mere groms Hank Gaskell, Dusty Payne, Chas Chidester and above all Sebastian Zietz that took proving oneself to the next level. Sure, the old boys set the pins up, but these kids knocked 'em down. In his Round of 128 heat (his second today), Seabass closed down the day's competition with a well-earned 18.27 — the highest heat total of the day. Shortly before, Gaskell held the highest total with a 17.17. And before him it was Payne, with a 16.00. But it was local boy Chidester that squared up on the longest tube of the day, earning him a near perfect 9.67 — the highest scoring wave of the event so far.

And while conditions are predicted to drop a bit tomorrow, there will be no shortage of critical bombs exploding across Haleiwa. And as surfers fall out, we will begin to see the youth leaders go head-to-head with the veteran soldiers — their chance to prove they can handle whatever the big boys can and even more, earn their respect. Stay tuned.

To see all the live action, go to: www.TripleCrownOfSurfing.com. And for all your daily wrap-ups, keep it here at SurfingTheMag.com.