Billabong Pipe Masters

Faces of the Vans Triple Crown - Pt. 7

Dec 18, 2017

The entertainer

Sebastian Zietz

Kauai, Hawaii
2012 Vans Triple Crown Champion
10th Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

What makes the Vans Triple Crown different than other surfing events?
I think it’s definitely the size of the waves. On the QS, these are the only two “bigger” wave events and then you have Pipe, which is probably the scariest wave on Tour. So, just the intensity and the fact that you gotta charge and know how to surf big waves. That’s what sets it apart.

What does it take to win a Triple Crown title?
You have to be confident of your big wave surfing for sure. A lot of guys don’t have their quivers dialed because around the world you don’t ride a 6’8” everyday. Knowing how to do a big carve in big conditions and knowing how to get barreled, are the two most crucial things you need.

You talked about surfers not having their quivers adapted to Hawaii. Do you have to do the opposite when traveling?
It’s funny because over here in Oahu there’s a lot of bigger waves and you ride a lot of different boards. But in Kauai I pretty much ride my shortboard all day, because there are so many nooks and crannies. You can find rippable waves almost everyday.

Tell me about the day you won the 2012 Triple Crown title and got carried on top of your surfboard up the beach.
That was a magical moment. I was watching some other heats and Adam Melling needed to lose his heat for me to clinch it. And when he did, I got hosed down in beer.

"It was a big moment for me. It definitely skyrocketed me onto the Tour and changed my whole life."

Whose idea was to put you up on the board and have you “surf” your way to the tower?
I think it was my friend Rico’s (Jimenez) idea.

Describe a perfect day in the North Shore.
Wake up, make my own breakfast and then go have a surf at Off-the-Wall, Pipe, or the sandbar down here. That’s probably my favorite little zone. And then go eat lunch, cruise for a little bit and have an evening session, probably Sunset or V-Land.

Favorite grinds in the North Shore?
Pupukea Grill!


The artist of the ocean

Robert Wyland

Detroit, Michigan
North Shore resident for 33 years
World renowned artist
Environmental activist
35th Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

What makes the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing so unique?
This is really the Superbowl of surfing. It’s the time of year when waves really get big. It’s the sport of kings really, surfing was invented in Hawaii. I think it’s the best surfing event as well. To see what these guys do in these enormous waves is inspiring, it’s art!

Great point. What’s the relation between surfing and art?

"Surfing is an art. Out of any sport is probably the most artistic one."

As an artist, I can see that first hand. I can see the living art that is happening right in front of me. They are like artists on every sense of the word, because they all have their own styles. Right now, John John is the new artist and then you’ve got the old masters like Gerry Lopez, one of my favorites in the green room. I’m really a big fan.

What made you move to Hawaii?
I’ve moved to Maui first, back in 1979, specifically to swim and study humpback whales. Eventually I moved over to the North Shore and I’ve been here ever since.

What is it about the North Shore?
It’s a real community, everyone really respects each other. When there’s a cause, this community comes together like no other. It’s nice to be part of that. You have Jack Johnson and his foundation, all the surfers, Surfrider, and my foundation (Wyland Foundation). We want to champion as many causes as we can, in particular the health of the ocean which is critical on everybody’s mind. It’s the heart of the planet and we need to protect it.

Describe a perfect day in Hawaii.
This is the perfect day! Being at Pipe on a sunny day, good waves and the vibe. This place is like no other place on earth. As a successful artist, I can choose to live anywhere and the North Shore is my first choice. I’ll always be part of this.

Favorite grinds in the North Shore?
I like Haleiwa Joe’s, Lei Lei’s, I love fresh fish. People ask me if I eat fish, and I go: “Fish eats fish!”


The multitalented

Leah Dawson

Orlando, Florida
Part time North Shore resident
Camera operator at the Vans Triple Crown
Professional surfer, filmmaker and musician
10th Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

How did you get started as a camera operator at the Triple Crown?
I got a job right out of college as a production assistant and put my hand up when they asked someone to operate a camera. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

I’ve been around cameras my whole life, but didn’t have any experience shooting live broadcasts. So, it was really the hard work ethic and being at the right place at the right time that got me the job.

Did it open other doors for you, helping out your career in general?
Undoubtedly. I’ve been able to balance being an operator for part of the year and also have it influence my other work in film making and production. I’ve always strived to be the best surfer I can be, and utilize my surfing to build a platform in order to spread great messages and be a force for change. Every time that I work, it’s like a visual learning game for me. it’s been definitely a life long blessing.

What was the most interesting moment you caught on camera during the events?
I think when Jeremy Flores won Pipe, they were live on me when he was getting the winning wave. I remember just shaking, being so nervous not wanting to mess up the shot.

"Having a powerful zoom lens, you can see right into these guys’ faces, so you can really feel the emotion of the surfers. "

I love when I get goosebumps while I’m up on the tower because of someone else’s good ride. It’s really cool.

What’s the hardest part of the job?
Staying extremely, extremely focused for 9 hours straight. Anyone can point a camera and shoot, but the challenge really comes in the longevity. Being able to do it for a very sustained amount of time.

What are other projects you have going on right now?
I have a foundation with some friends of mine called Changing Tides Foundation and our overall goal is to help connect travelers with easy, palpable ways to give back along their travels. And to encourage us all to lower our footprint as we travel, so that we don’t bring more plastic and more trash. We wanna encourage people to give back to the communities that they are visiting, instead of just take, take, take.

What’s the top advice for a traveling surfer that wants to make a difference?
Be aware of your footprint. That comes with every decision that we make, every single thing that we buy.

What inspires you to surf?
The ocean inspires me to surf. There’s a language that I think surfers have with the ocean, where you are truly communicating with moving Mama Earth. That’s the most fascinating part to me. It’s always changing, it’s always morphing and it’s never gonna be the same. So there is always room for growth.

Favorite grinds in the North Shore?
The ones that I make! My kitchen for sure.


More Faces of the Vans Triple Crown:

PART 1       PART 2       PART 3       PART 4       PART 5       PART 6


Photos and interviews by Paulo Dias

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