From seasoned veterans the likes of Mark Occhilupo, 42, (Australia) and Peter Mel, 38, (Santa Cruz, CA), to young local rookies like Lahaina, Maui’s Dusty Payne, 19, Haleiwa served up the best conditions possible for the opening day of the Reef Hawaiian Pro – the first event of the $815,000 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Flawless morning conditions offered the best scoring potential with waves in the six- to eight-foot range, drawing a crowd of thousands that revolved through this North Shore country town throughout the day. As the day progressed, sunshine gave way to vog and the morning’s sheet glass was interrupted by pulsing onshores, but the crowds and high scores prevailed.
It was a nostalgic moment when retired former world champion Mark Occhilupo took to the waves. Over the past 20 years he has provided some of the most memorable moments of the Vans Triple Crown and without a doubt was the biggest drawcard of the day. He emerged from round one with one of the top 10 heat scores of the day – 15.33 out of 20 points – then backed it up in round two with another 15.0 victory.
“I need a bit of a wave like that to get me going and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Occhilupo.
“I always want to do the Triple Crown and I’ll do it as long as I can. It’s great to see everyone having a go at Haleiwa, Sunset and Pipe.”
Occhilupo has been granted a wildcard into all three of the Vans Triple Crown events. Incredibly, over all these years, he has only ever won one event here: the 1985 Pipeline Masters.
“The North Shore feels like home. I’ve been coming here six weeks a year for the last 20 years and it feels like home.”
At the other end of the age and career spectrum, Maui pair Dusty Payne and Hank Gaskell, 22, put on a brilliant show in back-to-back heats to close out round one. Payne posted the highest individual wave score of 9.33 points out of 10 and a two-wave total of 16.0, while Gaskell surfaced with the highest heat total of the day: 17.17 (9.0 and 8.17).
“The waves are the nicest I’ve ever seen them at Hale’iwa,” said Gaskell.
“Tough competition makes me try harder. It was a tough heat and I just got the best waves I could.”
Other high-scoring standouts included Gavin Gillette (Kauai), who grew up surfing Haleiwa and showed the depth of his experience today; North Shore locals Marcus Hickman and Chaz Chidester; Mark Mathews (Australia); Peter Mel (Santa Cruz, CA.) and Tanner Gudauskas (San Clemente, CA.).
Competition concluded midway through the second round today. Organizers expect to resume at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning. To examine surf updates for the coming days, visit official forecasters Wetsand.com.