After more than a decade of trying to win the first leg of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, Haleiwa's own Megan Abubo, 29, finally sampled the sweet taste of home-town victory today, winning the $30,000 Reef Hawaiian Pro in front of a hugely adoring local crowd.
The result guaranteed Abubo's qualification for the 2008 elite Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour (WCT) and takes her to an early lead on the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series ratings. Megan's victory also earned her a tidy $4,500.
The other big news of the day was Florida's Karina Petroni, whose third place finish in the final earned her a spot on the 2008 ASP WCT. Petroni, 19, will be the only newcomer to the WCT ranks next year and the first Floridian to enter the top ranks since former world champion Lisa Andersen in 2002. Petroni also pocketed $2,200 for her efforts.
Runner-up to Abubo in the final was seven-time world champion and two-time Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion Layne Beachley (Australia, $2,500). Fourth place was Big Island Hawaii surfer Leilani Gryde ($2,000).
It was a dream come true for Abubo, who not only won but posted the first perfect 10 point ride of her career in the first round of competition. Abubo looked focused and determined from her opening heat, staying 'in the moment' to maintain critical positioning on the biggest waves, while attempting and succeeding with top-to-bottom power turns.
"To win at home is everyone's dream come true," said Abubo. "I couldn't ask for anymore than that. I was surfing out here ever since I was a little kid. I grew up in Waialua and I used to ride my bike here everyday after school. "This has been one of my lifelong goals to win this event. To win at home, especially at Hale'iwa is so special for me. The Vans Triple Crown, being from Hawai'i, is the biggest thing next to the world title. We all want to win it because it shows that you've mastered Hawaiian waters."
VANS team-rider Karina Petroni (Florida) was ecstatic to be the next surfer to follow in Lisa Andersen's footstep. "It feels fantastic, it really does," said Petroni. "I'll be the first East Coaster since Lisa (Andersen) and I'll go on and represent for the United States.
"This has been the biggest surf I've had. I've been in Hawai'i for two weeks and this is my first Hawaiian final and it was awesome. I think my mom's going to be happy. She doesn't really understand the whole numbers thing, but my friends do and I think we're going to party tonight!"
Australia's Layne Beachley, virtually the matriarch of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, has been a feature of the Series since it first began for the women back in 1997. Beachley won that first Vans Triple Crown title, then backed it up again in '98. Her result today puts her at second on the Triple Crown series ratings and on par for a third series title.
"This was easily the best surf we've had on tour all season," said Beachley. "We haven't had that good of a year for surf on tour. "I would say the conditions were really shifting and really challenging. It was very difficult to read. The current was making things challenging and I think we got washed out to Kauai at one stage but we eventually found our way back to Oahu. It's great to be back at the Triple Crown and to get off to a good start."
Jacqueline Silva (Brazil), who was eliminated in the quarter finals earlier in the day earned enough points to win the 2007 ASP World Qualifying Series Tour. Second place went to Stephanie Gilmore (Aus); third was Jessi Miley-Dyer (Aus); fourth was Abubo; and ffth was Melanie Redman-Carr (Aus).
The Reef Hawaiian Pro is the first jewel of the 25th anniversary Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Carrying the highest WQS rating of 6-stars, this event is critical in determining the lineup for the elite World Championship Tour next year.
The $740,000 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing consists of the Reef Hawaiian Pro, Haleiwa, Nov. 12-24, the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing, Sunset Beach, Nov.25-Dec.6, and the Billabong Pro Maui (women), Honolua Bay, Maui, Dec. 8-20.
In addition to $740,000 in prize money, both the men's and women's Vans Triple Crown champions will receive a limited edition $25,000 Chevy Colorado truck.
All of the action and the complete results from this year's Vans Triple Crown of Surfing can be experienced live via the Triple Crown of Surfing website.