ASP World Title Contender Fanning Enters The Fray at O'Neill World Cup
SUNSET BEACH, Oahu/Hawaii - ASP World title campaigner Mick Fanning (Australia) clocked in at the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing today, hitting the water at Sunset Beach for his debut heat of the 2009 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing presented by Rockstar Energy Drink. He looked sharp, highly motivated and ready to get to work as he advanced behind Sunset Beach’s favorite son, Pancho Sullivan. Even though this event has no bearing on his world title campaign, it’s a critical warm-up to next week’s ultimate, season-ending battle at Pipeline.
Fanning’s entrance came during the last heat of an intense day that was full of action, upsets, and super clean waves in the six-foot range. Those spectators who stuck it out were rewarded - not only by Fanning’s highly anticipated flair, but by Pancho’s radical, full-body, on-rail attack that was fueled by his determination to lay claim to his home break.
"I was excited!" said Fanning, 28, after the heat. "I haven’t had a heat for a while so it was good. Just stoked to be out there with Pancho. He’s one of my favorite guys out at Sunset. Stoked to get through."
Pancho seemed relieved to get his opening heat behind him and notch up an early win.
"These dieing swells that move over to the point are really tricky," said Pancho, 36. "I wasn’t really finding a rhythm in the ning of the heat. I saw the other guys getting waves and I just wanted to get to my feet and join the fun."
Nat Young (Santa Cruz), 18, continued to win over an adoring Hawaiian crowd, taking it a step further today in posting the highest heat total of the event to date: 17.33 points out of a possible 20. His backhand blitz was electrifying and earned him individual wave scores of 9.33 and 8.0. While he was looking more like a seasoned Sunset veteran than the greenhorn grom he his, he still managed to downplay his score-topping performance.
"Ian Cairns has been giving me some pointers and telling me which waves are good," said Young. "The guys I’m staying with, Kieren Horn and Jarrad Howse, I’ve gone out surfing with them and they showed me where to sit.
"I’m just seeing how many heats I can make and having fun with it. Sunset is a fun wave, but I definitely have a lot to learn.
"I kind of had an idea of where to go. I didn’t feel that lost out there. I knew which waves to go on: the ones that looked like a peak, not a huge wall on it."
The downplay continued with his recollection of his 9.33:
"It was a good wave and I did three turns and didn’t fall. I didn’t think it was gonna be a 9, but I was stoked when I heard it was."
While there was plenty of good news to go around, it didn’t find its way to Joel Centeio - winner of the first event of the series last week at Haleiwa and Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series points leader until today. After a blistering run of nine consecutive heat wins in the Vans Triple Crown, it all came crashing down in the second-last heat of the day when he was eliminated in third place behind Neco Padaratz (Brazil) and Daniel Ross (Australia).
In losing, Centeio has opened up the door for Sunny Garcia to make a push for his seventh Vans Triple Crown title. Garcia, 39, will have to step it up again in his next heat, drawn against 2007 Vans Triple Crown champion Bede Durbidge (Australia), and red hot Hawaiians Granger Larsen (Maui) and Sebastian Zietz (Kauai).
The winner of the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing will receive $20,000. The Vans Triple Crown Triple Threat also offers a $50,000 bonus for the most consistent performer across all three events. Hawaii’s Joel Centeio currently leads the series ratings after his win at Haleiwa and his successful run so far here at Sunset Beach.