O’neill World Cup of Surfing Sunset Beach: Day 1

The O’Neill World Cup of Surfing felt like it hit fast-forward today as organizers utilized two surf spots to maximize the waves at hand and ensure that the event will wrap up tomorrow at the peak of the swell. Some surfers battled through three rounds as the heats clicked off two at a time. Head-high waves teamed up with high performance, small wave surfboards that rarely see the light of day this time of year in Hawaii, and the result was a rapid fire of maneuvers and more than 1,000 waves surfed. It’s all in a day’s work at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, where the most versatile and consistent performer across all three events will be crowned the annual series champion.

Julian Wilson, 22, led the storm front of 15 Aussie surfers who advanced today as part of the remaining 32. His flamboyance, energy and desire to prove himself on the world stage resulted in the top two-wave heat score of 15.83 out of 20.

“It’s really contestable and it’s fun,” said Wilson, who surfed his heats at Val’s Reef, the break close to shore inside the main Sunset lineup.

“This morning was the second time I surfed (Val’s Reef) in my heat. If you sit there and watch it for a while you can see which ones are the good ones and which ones aren’t. It’s a fun, little right so it suits me fine. The inside is so shallow that riding your magic board in your heats you don’t really want to risk it too much, but if it comes down to it in the later rounds then there’s definitely some opportunities to do big airs.

“Here in the event I want to win and I want to qualify and it’s a really hard task this year because it’s a transition year. I’ve only put in half a year and I had a really good half a year and I feel good. Even if I don’t qualify this year I’ll still be in a good position for next year.”

Wilson will need to win the event to have any chance at all of qualifying for the elite ASP World Tour of 2011. He’s far from giving up hope on that just yet.

World No.2 Jordy Smith (ZAF) didn’t disappoint as he took to the water for the first time this Triple Crown season and accounted for the elimination of hometown favorite Sunny Garcia (HAW). As one of the top seeds into this event, Smith only had to surf once today in the last of the seeded rounds.

“It’s not exactly Sunset, but I heard from the boys that Val’s is a pretty fun wave and I was excited to surf it because I’ve never really surfed it before,” said Smith, 22, from Durban.

“I enjoyed it, it’s a little funkier than I thought, but I definitely had some fun.

“I think this morning (the other contest site) Kammies looked a lot better than Val’s so hopefully if the tide does the same thing it’s going to get better over there.”

Defending O’Neill World Cup and Vans Triple Crown champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) proved he is the master of versatility, winning his way through two rounds to advance to the final day tomorrow. Parkinson won this event last year in gigantic storm surf but looked just as in control of his destiny in today’s more playful lineup. His mission for a third Triple Crown title is well and truly alive.

“Val’s Reef is the weirdest little reef in the way it comes in and the way it breaks,” said Parkinson. “It’s really tricky to surf. It’s probably the best waves I’ve ever had at Val’s.

“I’m lucky because I had a good shortboard – a good little 6’1” and if I didn’t have a good shortboard I wouldn’t know what to do. It is what it is and you’ve got to wake up and do what you can do.

“It’s like surfing two different events. You basically have to go out there with two different strategies of what you would do over here. I’ve never surfed either (break) in a contest.”

Along with the 15 Australians advancing, the remainder of the field consists of seven Americans, four surfers from Hawaii, four from Brazil, and two from South Africa.

The men won’t be the only focal point tomorrow as the O’Neill Women’s World Cup of Surfing will also surf to the final heat. World champion and Vans Triple Crown women’s leader Stephanie Gilmore heads the remaining field of 16 women. Their final is scheduled to hit the water at around Noon, with the men’s to finish at approximately 3pm.

Live internet coverage happens every day, starting at 7:45 a.m. with “THE CALL” – the Triple Crown’s live daily morning show that features all the latest news, highlights and happenings. The series will also be broadcast live on television around Hawaii on Oceanic Time Warner Digital Cable channels 250 and HD1250.

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing consists of three men’s and three women’s professional surfing events that are the final stop on the 2010 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour. In its 28th year, the Vans Triple Crown is considered the most prestigious title in surfing next to the ASP World Title.

Each event has an extended holding period with competition taking place on the biggest and best days of surf at each venue.