2014 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Preview
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing has arrived on Oahu's North Shore, and it is Gabriel Medina who is poised to take the first Brazilian world title, unless Mick Fanning or Kelly Slater basically win the Pipe Masters. But that's hardly the only drama set to unfold as the world's best surfers take to Haleiwa, Sunset Beach and Pipeline to test their mettle. Here's what else you can expect to see this winter in Hawaii.
Remember this one? Last year, Mick Fanning clinched his third ASP World Title at Pipe with a few perfect waves like this. He's still in contention for the title this year and will be looking to rekindle some of last year's magic.
And then there's this guy. Kelly Slater is 42 with 11 ASP titles, and is still in the running this year as we go to Pipe. He broke a few bones in his toes last week in Fiji, so he won't be competing in the first two events of the Triple Crown. This could be Slater's last run, but then we say that every year. Last year he won the Pipe Masters and the Pipe Pro. Always expect something spectacular when Slater's in Hawaii.
When you look past the qualifications, world title and final standings, it's still about the Hawaiian culture.
John John Florence
Defending Triple Crown champ and local hero John John Florence is as dangerous in the air as in the barrel. He had to pull out of the first event, the Reef Hawaiian Pro, because of an injury. "Florence suffered a grade 2 strain to his muscle last week and has been advised not to surf at Haleiwa," according to a letter from his doctor. To the likely chagrin of other competitors, his injury is not expected to keep him out of the Billabong Pipe Masters, reported the ASP.
Sitting on the bubble of requalifying for the tour, you kind of hope CJ Hobgood has a big showing at Pipe and stays on the tour. As long as he's on the bubble, he'll do just about anything to make a few heats out and stay alive for another season.
Matt Wilkinson may be hanging onto his World Tour spot by a string, but a quarterfinal finish at Pipe would squeeze him into a comfortable position. Unfortunately, he's only made one quarterfinal this year.
Portugal's Tiago Pires, sitting at No. 28 in the ASP rankings, has been hovering around that qualification bubble more than he'd like. With some consistency in Hawaii, he may just live to surf another season.
Sebastian "Seabass" Zietz, at No. 22, looks like he will requalify for 2015. A big finish at Pipe will ensure that he sticks around next year.
Aside from all the numbers-crunching and stats, the Pipe Masters is just the most perfect way to end the year.
You won't see Joel Centio surf anywhere but maybe a handful of events in Hawaii, but that doesn't mean he's any less dangerous when he pulls a jersey on. He'll do some crazy floater on a double overhead wave at Sunset and blow your mind -- and get the score.
John John Florence
Hawaii's John John Florence is the defending Triple Crown champ and would be the favorite if he didn't have to pull out of the Reef Hawaiian Pro. He's expected to return for the Pipe Masters.
Freddy Patacchia had a solid season, amassing 20,000 points on the WCT, and he looks to keep the dream alive for the Hawaiian contingent.
Hawaiian power surfer Keanu Asing is ranked No. 9 on the WQS with 10,230 points. Big results at Haleiwa and Sunset could see him join the ASP World Tour rookie class in 2015.