By Daniel Ikaika Ito
Wyland is slurping 2011 Reef Hawaiian Pro Champion Taj Burrow so hard right now. The well-known "Marine Life" artist is shoving his iPhone in the middle of Taj's post heat interviews. Burrow just won the first jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and is still on stage after the awards ceremony doing the customary Q&A with the media, and the "Marine Michelangelo" is unabashedly interrupting.
"Hey, Taj," badgers Wyland, presenting Burrow his phone. "This is Taj in Paris and he wants to congratulate you!"
Wyland is relentless like the honey badger.
Taj turns to the reporters, "Wait one second."
Taj picks up the phone and asks if this call is a prank. Apparently it's not, which turns out to be pretty rad. Taj's parents, American expats that moved to Australia long ago, named their son after legendary blues musician Taj Mahal.
"My parents are musicians and my dad played in bands for years," Taj explained after handing the phone back and posing for a picture with Wyland badger. "They played a gig years ago and supported Taj Mahal and they thought he was a great guy and good musician and that's how I got the name."
"It was pretty bizarre to actually get to speak to him and he sounds like a legend," said a frothing Taj Burrow, now leading the 2011 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title race.
The phone call was a fitting end to an already weird year for the Reef Hawaiian Pro. La Nina-induced flat conditions at Haleiwa forced event organizers to wait 10 days to run the first day of competition. When the contest finally ran -- on the final three days of the holding period -- the sets were barely shoulder high.
Contest directors shortened heats for the early rounds from 30 to 20 minutes so they could cram three and a half days of competition into three. Adding to the weirdness of the short heats and unusually small North Shore surf was 2011 Women's World Champ Carissa Moore competing in the Reef Hawaiian Pro as a wildcard.
Since there was not enough sponsorship dollars to run a female Triple Crown, this was Moore's victory lap in Hawaii. Roy Powers and Maui's Ian Gentil eliminated the only female Tripe Crown competitor in the round of 96. Like many competitors, Moore suffered from lack of waves in her heat.
Although a northwest swell produced head high to overhead waves on the last day of the Reef Hawaiian Pro, it was still a wave-starved and challenging final heat.
"There was a few heats when you were just sitting there going, 'wow, is there anything that's even going to come?" said runner up Adam Melling, who was happy to make a final in Hawaii. "It's pretty nerve wracking when it's this size because there's lefts and rights and then there's nothing."
Taj agreed with Melling's assessment of Haleiwa. The conditions actually forced him to switch up his strategy.
"It was pretty difficult and you had to pick those waves and I'm not normally that patient, but I had to try to be patient this event," said Taj.
The waiting game paid off yesterday. Too bad nobody told the honey badger.
Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.90pts ; Adam Melling (AUS) 12.12.60pts ; Adriano De Souza (BRA) 12.50 pts ; Nat Young (USA) 6.10 pts
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.84pts ; Nat Young (USA) 12.70pts ; John John Florence (HAW) 11.50pts ; Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 10.67pts
Heat 2: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 13.54pts ; Adam Melling (AUS) 13.16pts ; Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.30pts ; Roy Powers (HAW) 4.57pts
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.10pts ; Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 15.60pts ; Evan Geiselman (USA) 15.00pts ; Kolohe Andino (HAW) 6.90pts
Heat 2: Nat Young (USA) 17.77pts ; John John Florence (HAW) 14.27pts ; Kieren Perrow (AUS) 5.50pts ; Glen Hall (IRL) 5.20pts
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.50pts ; Adriano De Souza (BRA) 12.30pts ; Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 12.20 pts ; Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.17pts
Heat 4: Roy Powers (HAW) 15.00pts ; Adam Melling (AUS) 9.90pts ; Brett Simpson (USA) 7.33pts ; Granger Larsen (HAW) 6.83pts
Round of 32
Heat 1: Evan Geiselman (USA)11.33pts ; Kieren Perrow (AUS)10.73pts ; Hodei Collazo (EUK) 6.84pts ; Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 2.90pts
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (HAW) 11.84pts ; Nat Young (USA) 9.70pts ; Adrien Toyon (REU)9.27pts ; Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.13pts
Heat 3: Glenn Hall (IRL) 15.43pts ; Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 14.37pts ; Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 10.34pts ; Leonardo Neves (BRA)10.00pts
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 16.27pts ; Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.26pts ; Thiago Camarao 7.77pts (BRA) ; Daniel Ross (AUS) 7.70pts
Heat 5: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 12.67pts ; Brett Simpson (USA) 12.34pts ; Dusty Payne (HAW) 9.60pts ; Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.30pts
Heat 6: Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 11.19pts ; Adam Melling (AUS) 10.73pts ; Dion Atkinson (AUS) 8.83pts ; Adam Robertson (AUS) 8.50pts
Heat 7: Roy Powers (HAW) 9.94pts ; Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.50pts ; Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.57pts ; Marc Lacomare (FRA) 5.83pts
Heat 8: Granger Larsen (HAW) 14.60pts ; Jesse Mendes (BRA) 12.60pts ; Nathaniel Curran (USA) 10.84pts ; Aritz Aramburu (EUK) 7.93pts
CLASH of the LEGENDS
Heat 2 : Ross Williams (HAW) 14.50pts ; Shane Dorian (HAW) 14.44 pts ; Rob Machado (USA) 10.83pts ; Kalani Robb (HAW) 8.27pts