Confidence is a cocktail served stiff on the Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing.
One swig can fill a man's heart with ambition and he'll ride the buzz to obtain the second most coveted title in surfing. Or its initial taste will be followed by the fear of failure, leaving only a bitter aftertaste before the next event.
Wade Carmichael felt a competitive hangover following his maiden ‘QS win at Haleiwa. With the catapult up the ratings (40 spots) came an avalanche of pressure to qualify at the last event of the season. All he had to do was display the same form from last week, but Sunset is an unruly beast — especially at 6 to 8 feet with bigger wash through sets on repeat. Wade lost in Round 2 needing only a 5.68. His performance would signify a change in pace for qualifying hopefuls; nobody was safe to rest on their laurels. Not even confidence could invigorate one to overcome the conditions. Not at Sunset where game plans mean nothing and everyone is charging like their careers depend on it.
Make No Mistake About It
Filipe Toledo placed runner up at Haleiwa and chose not to surf Sunset, sabotaging himself out of the Triple Crown title race. Now calm down Brazo bashers — he didn't pass on Sunset after seeing the forecasted conditions. He went into the season with plans to warm up at Haleiwa and then focus all of his attention at Pipeline. Considering that he's nipping at Fanning's heels, who's won under pressure at Pipe before, time spent studying Pipe's intricacies was the best call.
The Dream Crusher
I made the mistake of looking at Nate Yeoman's Facebook before his Round of 96 heat and found this.
"Go and spend 100% of your time at Sunset Beach, morning, noon and night, every day, 50 foot or flat, rain or shine. Know every swell and wind condition. Get to know all the different reefs intimately. Surf a few sessions without a leash to learn how to hold onto your board and when you lose it. Learn how to swim in fast and where your board goes. Take friends who are passionate to train at your level. Leave others at home. Surf with Pancho and Michael Ho and ask them questions. And decide to win. Not to earn points or dollars. Win because it’s who you are and the only outcome you’ll accept. Fight like the future of your family is at stake".
This was a comment left by a man who knows a thing or two about surfing Sunset, a competitive juggernaut named Ian Cairns. After reading it, I heard the Rocky theme song and could see Nate body surfing through the end bowl in preparation. Chasing college tuition for his daughter by the tail of his surfboard. But Sunset Beach isn't sentimental and it's far from sympathetic. Sadly for those who like underdog stories, Nate Yeomans lost.
Jamie O'Brien Is Merciless
Ezekiel Lau was another finalist at Haleiwa who was feeling chipper heading into Sunset. The Hawaiian power house won an event here back in 2013, and is currently sitting at 18th in the ratings. It was a dream scenario until he saw who was in his heat. Jamie O'Brien is a super villain come Triple Crown time. He doesn't feel pressure from points and is extra-motivated to play the spoiler. Unfortunately for Zeke's qualification dream, Jamie robbed the transfer spot by a mere 0.06 points in the dying moments of their heat. Something tells us Zeke wasn't laughing.
Not All Who Wander Are Crushed
Despite losing a ton of talent from the draw, not everyone faltered. Dusty Payne pulled off a miracle last year on the Triple Crown to re-qualify and is looking poised to do it again. Despite a lackluster year on the big leagues, Dusty is finding stride in the final two Primes of the season. Winning his heat with a combined score of 8.84 points, he got the job done even if it wasn't in a glamorous fashion. But isn't that what the Qualifying Series is all about anyhow? —Jake Tellkmap