Sunset Beach has caused a lot of damage over the years.
It has broken countless boards and cords, along with human flesh and bone. Perhaps more importantly, Sunset Beach is a breaker of hearts. She woos and teases WQS warriors, only to squander their efforts with a vicious kick to the head. The Vans World Cup was the last chance for CT hopefuls to (literally) carve their names into the 2016 Dream Tour, and the nervous energy was emanating through Stanfield's timeworn yapper.
At the beginning of the day, six surfers (Deivid Silva, Stuart Kennedy, Soli Bailey, Dusty Payne, Conner Coffin and Jesse Mendes) outside the current cut line were in a position to qualify with a big result at Sunset. Despite valiant efforts from the whole squad, it was Conner Coffin who tamed this aquatic beast and secured his spot amongst the top 34. In a world of tail flicks and nose picks, Conner's powerful approach is a breath of fresh air. It'll serve him well against the world's best in 2016.
Although the QS season is officially over, the fates of two surfers still hang in the balance. Because Miguel Pupo and Kolohe Andino are currently within the top 10 of the QS rankings and outside of the top 22 on the CT, they can still re-qualify through the CT with a big result at Pipe, in which case two QS spots would open up, allowing Stuart Kennedy and Dusty Payne to qualify for the 2016 CT. The two Tour-hopefuls will be biding their time between surf sessions and performing nightly foot massages for Andino and Pupo.
With the Hawaiian sun setting somewhere towards Japan, one man stood tall above the rest. Mick Fanning, AKA White Lightning, AKA Shark Slayer, AKA your current Jeep Rankings leader and probable 2015 World Champion, proved once again why he is the best competitor in the current surfing world. Nothing dazzling, nothing flashy, just pure technical skill and competitive expertise saw him chaired up the beach by teammates Owen Wright and Matt Wilkinson.
But Mick's win doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. The real champion of the day was a 22-year-old Santa Barbara native. As the sand turns cold, wounded warriors will trudge back to their beachfront huts. Most will receive condolences from friends and family, but Mr. Coffin will return to congratulatory hugs, chugs, and lady jugs (girls love winners). Meanwhile, an exhausted Sunset Beach waves goodbye to her suitors with a wry grin. They'll be back, she thinks to herself. They always come back. —Michael Ciaramella