HONOLULU (Dec. 1, 2011) -- When he's on, he's really on. Dane Reynolds (Ventura, CA) took a gnarly Sunset day by the horns today, and put on the show of the contest in the final heat of the Vans World Cup of Surfing's Round of 64. His turns were on point, his carves were outrageous.
Bombing 10- to 12-foot Sunset was a surfer's battlefield, claiming more than its share of high seeds. While many were prepared to push themselves to the edge to advance, Reynolds did what he always does: tunes into the beat of his own drum. The result was a whopping 18.37 point heat with top scores of 9.37 and 9.0. He obliterated Hank Gaskell (Hawaii), Julian Wilson (Australia) and Tomas Hermes (Brazil) without even giving them a second thought.
"I actually had very little confidence going into that heat, I don't really know the Sunset lineup and I was on a board I've never ridden before," said Reynolds. "But maybe you're better off not knowing the lineup.
"I saw Hank and Julian sitting about 10 or 15 yards further out than me, muscling the peak. No matter what the lineup, I like to sit further inside. I like to see the waves coming at me. I guess I got one they couldn't catch, a smaller wave with nice lines. I did a couple of turns on it, it felt good, but I didn't know if it was a three or an eight. Turns out it was a 9.3 or something.
"Competition for me is just an opportunity to see what pans out. I got really nervous, but it's pretty rad to feel that sort of intense pressure. I kinda dig it. It makes you surf in a different way. And whatever happens, you always learn something from it.
"The waves I got weren't very big for today. I never really forced it. They just had nice lines."
Among the casualties were Taylor Knox (USA), Adriano De Souza (Brazil), Brett Simpson (USA), and Kolohe Andino (USA), bowing out in their opening heats.
Testament to the tough conditions were the heat winning scores: At the other end of the spectrum to Reynolds, also advancing, was Dane Gudauskas (California) with a two wave total of 7.67. The difference lay in the highly variable conditions that included sweeping closeout sets, freaky west peaks, and speed bump wave faces. If you could find your way through the minefield, the rewards included deep barrels, towering vertical walls and a ticket to the next round.
Hawaii's Ian Walsh encountered some of the craziest conditions in his heat against Joel Centeio (Hawaii), Jadson Andre (Brazil), and Kolohe Andino (California). He positioned himself for an excellent 8-point opening ride from way outside, but then had the world come down around him for the rest of the heat. Fortunately, a small backup score was enough for a win.
"I got lucky, I got a big peak in the beginning that went the whole way," said Walsh. "Then the rest of the heat I was just getting pounded. I was duckdiving, ditching my board. Every time I'd get back to where I got that first wave one would break 15 feet farther out and nail me back 50 or 60 yards. If you're on the wrong side of the impact zone here, there's no worse place to be.
"Basically the west bowl is coming together with the north bowl and making this giant triangle of whitewash that's doubling up on itself. Once you get caught up in that, you're leg's hitting the back of your head, everything's ripping around and you're trying to keep the jersey down from flying off your head. It feels like you're holding your breath through a car accident.
"I've been cursed in this event. For three years I've made the semi's, so hopefully this year I can get into the final and give it a run for the title."
Australians Taj Burrow, Ace Buchan and Josh Kerr flew the Southern Cross high today, Burrow keeping his Vans Triple Crown title goal on track, while Kerr proved he's one of the most versatile and accomplished surfers on tour.
"It's very prestigious," said Taj. "Three big events in Hawaii in three completely different waves that are all very challenging. So to come out on top at the end of all three would be rewarding. I've come close but never won so it would be a good one to tick off the list."
Kerr was impressive today, scoring two rides in the seven-point range for 15.04. The playing field was vastly different today compared with shoulder-high surf at Haleiwa last week.
"Last week we were going left at 1-foot Haleiwa throwing airs, and this week we're just trying to hold on with our (biggest boards) at Sunset, just trying to make a turn and stay on the board," said Kerr. "But that's what Hawaii's all about - the diversity, and you've got to love that. You don't know what to expect when you come to Hawaii, you've just got to have every board ready and be ready to go. I'm just excited to enjoy the six weeks, make some heats, and get some barrels."
The Brazilians fell the hardest today, eight of the nine who surfed today lost. The lone Brazilian left is Raoni Monteiro, who advanced behind Sunny Garcia.
Organizers expect to run the final day of the Vans World Cup of Surfing tomorrow in gradually decreasing, but solid, surf in the 6- to 10-foot range.
Stay tuned as Dane surfs in Heat 8 of Round 32.
Above: Reynolds: Always Best Left to His Own Devices.