Ola and his woman, Monyca Byrne-Wickey — a rising star in her own right — at Haleiwa. Photo: Ryan Foley

North Shore Underground

A week into Triple Crown season, the Vans x SURFING North Shore Underground surfers are already bouncing between highs and lows. On the lanai of the Nike 6.0 house at Off the Wall on Tuesday, Evan Valiere and Ola Eleogram talk about their respective starts to the winter: Evan, two heat wins deep at Haleiwa and sporting head to toe H's thanks to a newly inked Hurley deal; Ola, by contrast — still sponsorless and sporting a Movember 'stache — came last in his first heat at Haleiwa.

"I came out here Monday morning because I heard it'd be good," Ola says, motioning to Off-the-Wall. "I came down without even checking. But the other guys I was with who made their heats surfed Haleiwa. So maybe that would have been a better idea, and I would have actually made my heat too. But I wanted to get some good ones out here and practice at Pipe, because I knew a lot of guys were still on Kauai [for Andy Irons' memorial] and I'd have the chance to get some waves."

He chuckles at himself. "So I warmed up at Pipe for Haleiwa."

One and done: Ola's early exit from the Reef Hawaiian Pro is not the season opener he had in mind. Photo: Ryan Foley

At the Reef Hawaiian Pro, Ola took bad advice and grabbed a too-small 6'2", sitting inside while his competitors roped better waves out the back.

"It was just bad strategy," he says. "Rookie mistake. I should have learned by now; I've been doing contests long enough."

“When it's crowded like that, I like to surf it when it's scary so nobody wants the wave.” —Evan Valiere

Evan, by contrast, won his first heat — and then another. He came back to surf Pipe in the afternoon but, as he puts it, "I didn't get any waves like I wanted. I feel like [Monday's] was the type of swell that was good, but it wasn't big enough to scare people, so everyone wanted every single wave that came through. When it's crowded like that, I like to surf it when it's scary so nobody wants the wave, and whoever's in the spot can just go for it."

Evan, pre-sponsorship. Photo: Ryan Foley

Evan, post-sponsorship and post-heat win. Photo: Ryan Foley

Spoken like a true nutter. As for the Haleiwa contest, Evan is facing Joel Parkinson in the morning, and Parko happens to be surfing out front of the Nike house at the moment. Carve, carve, smash, like his heel was never filleted from its hoof this summer.

"Well," Evan says, watching, "I know I got nothing to lose."

And he doesn't. The next day, Parko will rebound from injury with a first-wave-back Perfect 10, following it with a 9.87, and it'll take last-minute heroics from Evan to net a 9.0 and a 7.50 of his own to advance. He’ll win the heat after as well, landing a slot in the Round of 32 —the only NSU surfer remaining in the Haleiwa draw — and a rematch with Parkinson.

Ola, meanwhile, must wait for Sunset to redeem himself.

"I was pretty bummed out yesterday, pretty bummed that I lost," he says. "The Triple Crown means everything to Hawaii surfers. We surf contests all year long just to get into these events, then I come and lose my first heat due to not being smart. So I was pretty upset. But then I came back here" — he nods toward Off the Wall again — "and finally convinced myself to go out even though I was really bummed, and I got some good ones last night. It was a good day even though I lost. I went to sleep happy because I got some sick barrels."

Fatal tubes — nothing better to take the edge off a heat loss. Ola Eleogram unwinds. Photo: Jeff Flindt