Benji Brand Clinches WSL Regional Title, Barron Mamiya Vans Triple Crown RookieDec 02, 2017
The final day of the Vans World Cup, event No. 2 of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and concluding World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) event of the year, saw multiple victories spread success across several surfers, including Conner Coffin (USA) who became the first Californian to take the event win, and Benji Brand (HAW) who earned the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Champion title.
Coffin’s win today over Kolohe Andino (USA), Wade Carmichael (AUS) and Griffin Colapinto (USA) saw him make a massive leap up the QS ratings from 212st to 25th, but at No. 21 on the Championship Tour (CT) he will be relying on the final event of the Vans Triple Crown and 2017 CT – the Billabong Pipe Masters – to protect his place among the world’s best for 2018.
In 2015, Coffin, 24, earned his place on the CT after he qualified right here at Sunset during the Vans World Cup with a Semifinal finish. Prior to this, he was a seasonal campaigner to the North Shore and has been traveling to Oahu since the age of 12.
"It means so much, I've been surfing over here for so long, I love Hawaii and I love coming here and I just want to say a huge thanks to all the locals and everyone here for letting us have these events," said Coffin during the awards presentation. "This year I've been on Tour, so we get good waves, but when I was doing the QS I looked forward to coming here because they're the only good waves we get to surf most of the year. It means so much to win here. So many of my favorite surfers have won this event, dream come true for sure."
"Congrats to everyone too, the level of surfing at Sunset now is insane," Coffin continued. "The turns Barron (Mamiya) was doing on a 6'0 or whatever he was riding were so gnarly. I kind of had to sit on him at the end of the Semifinal because I was tripping on how good he was surfing, and Benji (Brand) too. Congrats to everyone who made the Final and huge shout out to my brother for caddying for me, he's the man. So stoked to be here surfing with all my friends."
Colapinto, who has had an incredible performance on the North Shore this season after a runner-up finish at the Hawaiian Pro earlier this month, finished in fourth today and takes a strong lead on the Vans Triple Crown title heading into the Billabong Pipe Masters. He is trailed by fellow California surfer Andino who received the highest single wave score in the Final, an 8.17, and a second place finish in today's event.
Carmichael had a monumental day as he achieved a decade-long goal of qualifying for the CT after an impressive showdown in the second Quarterfinal with a 9.10 and 7.00. The power behind Carmichael's turns was in a league of its own and verifies he has the skill and progression to battle against the world's best.
"It's a dream come true," said Carmichael after realizing his ultimate goal. "I've been trying so hard, I finally got a real good crack at it and it came true, I'm stoked man."
Wade Carmichael. Photo: WSL / Heff
Carmichael had early success this season at Sunset with a runner up finish at the HIC Pro in October and made his real mark on the North Shore after he won the 2015 Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa Ali‘i Beach Park. A QS veteran, Carmichael is part of the New Era qualifiers that also includes Colapinto, Willian Cardoso (BRA) and Tomas Hermes (BRA).
As the new 2017 WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Champ, Benji Brand – who grew up between South Africa and Hawaii – earned a bid into all QS1,000 to QS6,000 events for 2018 and a huge leg-up into the QS10,000 events up until the mid-season date. He will also take home the Vans Regional Champion Scholarship for $5,000 to help with travel costs.
“I didn't really think I was going to end up in this position, it feels pretty good to end up first in the region especially doing Sunset at the end of the year,” commented Brand. “This wave is really special to me, I've competed my whole life out here. It feels really sick, psyching to do the prime's (QS10,000) next year. Never done all the primes so this is a great opportunity.”
2017 WSL Regional Champ Benji Brand. Photo: WSL / Heff
The youngest competitor in the event, Mamiya, 17, earned the Vans Triple Crown Rookie Award by besting a field of 18 others and has had an incredibly successful year after winning multiple regional Pro Junior events, the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Regional Junior Champion, qualification into the World Junior Championship and now today’s accomplishment.
“I'm stoked, I didn't even think I was going to win this award because I did really bad at Haleiwa, but I guess I made up for it here at Sunset,” said Mamiya atop the podium post-Final. “I'm stoked to win it and hopefully I can keep the momentum going until next year.”
Mamiya was the highest placing Hawaii athlete in the Vans World Cup and bowed out in the Semifinal after Andino narrowly beat him 13.63 to Mamiya’s 12.04.
Kaipo Guerrero and Barron Mamiya. Photo: WSL / Heff
In the Final, Andino stayed committed through the 35-minute heat, but Coffin displayed quick work and excellent top to bottom surfing with a rhythm that could not be beat.
Surfers battled for position in the challenging 4-6ft. surf (10-12ft. wave faces) and Carmichael picked up two waves in the first few minutes of the heat to build momentum. Coffin dropped his first keeper score, a 7.33 for smooth, dynamic surfing and took the lead from the Australian, followed by Andino’s 8.17 opening ride where he drew off the bottom for a nice snap and successful completion to shake up the standings.
Andino and Coffin hunted barrels and the eventual winner found quick cover on a set wave followed with a carving maneuver to add a 7.0 to his scoreboard. Carmichael fought hard with huge, arcing turns but neither he nor Colapinto, 17, could overtake the two heat leaders, even with a 7.57 from the teen.
The Vans Triple Crown now shifts to the famed Banzai Pipeline for the Billabong Pipe Masters, December 8 – 20. The capstone event for both the Vans Triple Crown and the 2017 WSL CT, The Billabong Pipe Masters will determine the new World Champion and all eyes will be on World Title contenders John John Florence (HAW), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Julian Wilson (AUS).