Makua Wins Triple Crown Event
A childhood dream came true for Oakley’s Sunset Beach resident Makuakai Rothman last week when he won the biggest professional surfing event of his career—the $125,000 O’Neill World Cup of Surfing, the 2nd stop of the prestigious Triple Crown of Surfing series that draws the closing curtain on the ASP World Surfing Tour each year.
In the dying two minutes of the final, Rothman secured the highest scoring ride of the 35-minute heat to edge out Oakley teammate Leonardo Neves. Neves had dominated the four-man, 35-minute final from the outset and the local Brazilian contingent were starting to celebrate when the wave of the final peaked up and Rothman took off.
Needing a near-perfect score of 9.2 points, Rothman found his way into the tube, earning 9.5 points to turn the tables and seal the victory. World champion-elect Mick Fanning, from Australia, took third place, and O’Neill World Cup giant-killer Daniel Ross, also from Australia, placed fourth in the final. Reaching the final was especially sweet for Ross, who has won his way onto the elite ASP World Championship Tour for 2008 with this result.
Conditions today ranged from clean wave face heights of up to 20 feet prior to the semi-finals, to strong, side-shore wind-blown surf of 10- to 12-feet for the final heats. All four finalists had to surf through four rounds and more than two hours of intense competition in today’s exhausting conditions.
Heading into the final, neither Rothman nor Neves were favored to win, despite the fact that Rothman was literally raised on the waves of Sunset. Fanning had set the waves alight in the earlier rounds today, and Ross had blazed his way through six rounds to reach the final, winning every heat on the way, and emerging with the two highest heat scores of the entire competition by its end.
But the Australians had apparently peaked too early while Rothman and Neves saved their best performances for last. Rothman won $15,000 and moved to fifth on the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing ratings. Neves pocketed $7,000, Fanning earned $4,000, and Ross took home $3,000.
"Besides winning the award for the biggest wave ever ridden when I was just a teenager, this was winning in my backyard at one of the biggest contests of the year. It means everything to me," said Rothman, 23. "I bled, cried, got my ass kicked, everything, on this beach. It’s just a blessing to make it."
"I know that (wave). I surfed here all my life and I knew. My caddy was telling me go deeper, but every time I went deeper, I was too deep to catch the wave. (The other guys were) too far out and I knew that. I just lined up on the house that my friend lived at all our lives and there’s always a bowl that would break there. And, the wave just came. I paddled as hard as I could and the rest was history after that."
Despite the last minute lead loss, Neves was gracious with second.
"The heat was too long. I lost in the last three minutes, but that’s okay because I got to surf good, perfect waves," said Neves, 28. "I love this place. Makua is a good guy and my friend for many years. I came here when he was a small kid now we’re in the same heat. He’s in first, I’m in second."
Fanning was ecstatic just to be in the running for the Vans Triple Crown title: "It was really hard out there. Nothing really came our way and Leo nailed that first two. Makua just lucked into one and I’m stoked for Makua. He’s a straight up surfer here and it’s awesome. I’m stoked because I’m back in the Triple Crown race."
Daniel Ross was elated to have qualified and reached the end of an intense event.
"I was pretty tired towards the end of the semi final because of the whole day," said Ross. "It’s an emotional day for me. It was my dream to qualify and surf with the best surfers in the world. I’m there now, so it’s going to be a great year for me next year."
"It hit me before the final, I was pretty emotional, I was on the phone with one of my good mates, my mom, my dad, my brother and everyone was so stoked for me. It was one of my best days I’ve ever had, it’s the best feeling."
Australian Bede Durbidge, who reached the final of the first event at Haleiwa, and the quarters here today, leads the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing ratings heading into the Pipeline Masters next week. Roy Powers (Hawaii) winner of the first event, is second on the Vans Triple Crown ratings, followed by Fanning, Buchan, and Oakley’s Rothman.
Brazil’s Jihad Khodr won the prestigious Nose Guard Rookie of the Vans Triple Crown.