Zeke Lau winning the Vans World Cup in maxing, occasionally brilliant 12-foot surf is news, but it’s not exactly a surprise to anyone. Sunset is the most Hawaiian wave on tour, which suits Zeke perfectly. A win today required a good game plan (thanks, Jake Paterson), bullet-proof stamina (thanks Darin Yap), good surfboards (thanks Britt Merrick) and a whole ton of confidence (thanks Mr and Mrs Lau). And while Lau’s scoreline wasn’t as dramatic as some others throughout the day, he nailed it when it mattered, which is what winning’s all about.
“This is everything,” said Lau. “For me to perform at home in front of my home crowd and represent, it feels amazing. In my mind I already put myself in the Final so I just kept my composure and kept my focus and I got here and I’m glad I came out with a win. My boards, Channel Island surfboards, have been working incredible, Britt Merrick’s been working with me very closely.” (The win put Lau at 12th on the WQS, which may come in handy if he has a poor showing at Pipe.)
And while Sunset is the most Hawaiian wave on tour, it’s also the most emotional. Every year around this time, a dozen or so CT hopefuls make it to a certain round in this event. After each heat win, the WSL’s supercomputer (aka Al Hunt) tallies the points needed to make the Top 10 cut — which of course keeps changing as different people advance. Surfers and friends and coaches and sponsors spend the entire day biting their nails. So it’s the most emotional wave, but ironically, also the most stats-based. And today, it was also big as hell.
Jesse Mendes, for example, came into Sunset as a long shot, but ended up runner-up after a blitzing day — and qualifying, barely. “It was a huge day,” Mendes said. “I’m just very thankful, in my first heat I dodged a bullet. If it wasn’t for God stopping the ocean I wouldn’t be here right now and probably not even qualified.”
Joan Duru found himself one spot on the other side of the coin, needing a second to requalifiy via the WQS but snagging third instead. “I hoped I could win to qualify before Pipe, but this is a really good warmup so I’m just going to keep the good vibes,” said Duru.
The most emotional moment of the day came from the most emotional surfer in the draw — Jadson Andre. He was trailing in the quarterfinals, and needed to advance to requalify. In the dying seconds, he snagged a solid wall and tagged it three times, with force. He waited in the channel until the scores were called out, and when an 8.1 was announced, he burst into happy tears and body shakes. Jaddy cares more than most. “I’m trying to understand what’s happening right now,” he said. “It’s the same as 2016 and I’m really emotional. Sunset is such a special place for me — I don’t think I ever surfed a wave that good in my life in at Sunset.”
Soli Bailey was another surfer who’s fate was decided at Sunset today. A solid, powerful rail game and a semifinal finish saw him rise up to 11th on the WQS, and with Kanoa double qualifying for sure via the WCT, he’s in. If Griffin double qualifies, then Zeke is in. If Zeke qualifies via the WCT, then Jack Freestone’s back on tour.
The Billabong Pipe Masters runs December 8-20. View official forecast.
2018 WSL Qualifying Series Final Top 10:
1 – Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
2 – Griffin Colapinto (USA)
3 – Seth Moniz (HAW)
4 – Ryan Callinan (AUS)
5 – Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
6 – Deivid Silva (BRA)
7 – Ricardo Christie (NZL)
8 – Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
9 – Jadson Andre (BRA)
10 – Jesse Mendes (BRA)
11 – Soli Bailey (AUS)
12 – Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
13- Jack Freestone (AUS)
Vans World Cup Results
1st – Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.66
2nd – Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.63
3rd – Joan Duru (FRA) 7.33
4th – Griffin Colapinto (USA) 4.67
Semifinal (1st and 2nd advance, 3rd = 5th place, 4th = 7th place)
SF1: Joan Duru (FRA) 16.43, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 13.66, Soli Bailey (AUS) 13.20, Jadson Andre (BRA) 0.54
SF2: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.96, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.83, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.83, Weslley Dantas (BRA) 5.10
Quarterfinal (1st and 2nd advance, 3rd = 9th place, 4th = 13th place)
QF1: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.77, Soli Bailey (AUS) 12.07, Carlos Munoz (CRI) 11.67, Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.33
QF2: Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.70, Joan Duru (FRA) 13.17, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 13.16, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 12.53
QF3: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 14.70, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 10.90, Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 6.94, Kyuss King (AUS) 3.33
QF4: Weslley Dantas (BRA) 14.50, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.83, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 9.87, Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 4.34