- 01 December 2012 | Surfing
Up to 15-foot waves invaded the Vans World Cup of Surfing 2012, at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, for the Round of 96 heats.
It is now or never. The World Qualifying Series (WQS) will be over after the finals of the second jewel of the Triple Crown of Surfing and there are still critical definitions ahead.
Who will stay and who will be promoted to the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour? Australians and Hawaiians have dominated the first Sunset Beach waves, with Billy Kemper setting the the day's top scorer - 17 points out of a maximum 20.
"I've been surfing here since I was eight years old," said Kemper. "To me it's local knowledge of surfing out here and putting in your time".
"I mean this morning there was a bunch of kids out here who surf unbelievable - some of the best surfers in the world - but they're out here the day before the contest practicing rather than those of us who are out here year round".
Jay Thompson is fired up by the power on tap and Sunset and draws his own confidence from having put in the time over many years. He posted the highest individual wave score of the competition today: 9.7 points.
"Sunset's built for a bigger bloke like myself," said Thompson. "We grow up on a lot of right hand points. In Australia there's a lot of big waves and a lot of power. We spend a lot of time out here too, whenever there's swell. I just like coming here"
CJ Hobgood is the only surfer from the US Mainland to win the World Cup of Surfing. Even Kelly Slater, who returns to compete at Sunset Beach for the first time in six years, has struggled at this venue - his average result after 12 attempts is 25th; his best a 3rd in 1998.
"Kelly surfs every wave in Hawaii exceptionally well, but with 4-man heats and such a big playing field, he's not able to get into guys heads like he does on a small peak," says Garcia.
"Sitting next to Kelly on a small peak can be very intimidating. At Sunset you're not worried about Kelly Slater, you're worried about the West Peak. I think he's the greatest surfer of all time. Do I think he's beatable? Yes. Do I want to beat him? Absolutely".