Rainos Hayes

The Trained Eye

By Andrew Oliver

One of the more familiar faces of the Vans Triple Crown is the perpetually stoked Rainos Hayes, Billabong Hawai‘i Team Manager and personal coach to WSL athletes Seth Moniz and Courtney Conlogue.

Rainos has well over two decades of experience coaching junior and professional athletes in Hawai‘i and around the world. As a lifelong North Shore resident and former professional surfer himself, Rainos has an intimate understanding of all three Vans Triple Crown venues, and is one of the most sought-after and respected coaches on the North Shore.

Rainos’ breadth of knowledge and personal experience in competitive surfing in Hawai‘i is unparalleled. Freesurf caught up with him to talk about the Vans Triple Crown and the significance of these events to Hawai‘i’s competitive surfers.

What are the keys to success in the Vans Triple Crown?

I think one of the keys to success in Hawai‘i is having spent time at the breaks. Having as much of a personal relationship as you can have with Hale‘iwa, Sunset, or Pipeline is huge in making a result. If you can know the subtleties and nuances of the break and know how to play the game, know what the judges are really looking for, then you are that much closer to the result you want. On the other hand, the guy who hasn’t spent the time, doesn’t know what he’s looking at… he is left just guessing.

Who are you looking out for at this year’s Vans Triple Crown?

I’m always looking for the Hawai‘i guys to do well in the Triple Crown, and we have great representation compared to the rest of the world in these two QS 10,000 events.

The local guys need to be the specialists they really are, on any given day, at these breaks. These events are so key because with two good results in these events and you could actually be on Tour. If you have any type of result rolling in here, say maybe even 5,000 points in your back pocket, and you can come up with two finals in these two events, there you go. You can make the Tour just like Dusty [Payne] or Seabass [Sebastian Zietz] did, or flip a result just like Pancho [Sullivan] did, and get on the World Tour.

I love that! It’s almost like you could skip all the travel to events around the world; just stay home, surf two world-class venues (Hale‘iwa and Sunset) until you master those spots, then dominate those events when the Vans Triple Crown comes along.

[Laughs] You can almost do that! But I would love to see them capitalize on these events as much as possible. The guys that have a lot of experience at these breaks and surf well enough to win them, guys like Billy Kemper or Tanner Hendrickson, and the up-and-coming guys like Josh Moniz, they have their shot right now to do it.

There are guys that are coming here who are going to capitalize on that shot. Someone like Jack Robinson who’s had a few decent results this year, he’s coming into Hale‘iwa and Sunset, two venues where he is pretty deadly, and he’s not here to lose. He’s all in. Those events could very well be what pushes him over the edge.

And I’d love to see that for our local guys. They have their shot right now, too, and you know, it doesn’t matter what round they start in. Makua Rothman and Mason Ho are other prime examples of guys who have great relationships with both of these waves and are excellent performers. Makua has won at Sunset at the World Cup before.

On the other side, there are examples of guys kind of crumbling to that pressure of being at home in two huge back-to-back events in waves that are incredibly challenging. Even if you’re from here, the conditions are tough. On the one hand, the golden opportunity is here for the local guys, but it’s not a cakewalk by any means.

No, it’s not. Some prime examples of guys who have done exceptionally well at home but then maybe weren’t able to completely capitalize to get the results they needed, or to flip it onto qualifying for the World Tour, would be someone like Joel Centeio or even Freddy Patacchia, who was on the World Tour but never had the results in the Triple Crown that he was truly capable of. They should’ve had a leg up on everybody, but there is no guarantee. Granted, both of those guys have had amazing results in Hawai‘i, and even in the Triple Crown, but they weren’t able to necessarily dominate the Triple Crown, which they were both more than capable of doing.

It speaks to how important and difficult each event is individually. Winning at Hale‘iwa, Sunset, or, obviously, the Billabong Pipe Masters, are huge accomplishments on their own. Whether it catapults you to the CT or not, winning one of the Vans Triple Crown events, like Joel did, for example… that’s the highlight of his professional career. It is something he should be incredibly proud of. But where you’re coming from is looking back at the dominance of guys like Andy, Sunny, Michael or Derek Ho.

Hawai‘i guys were synonymous with winning the Triple Crown back in the day and I would love to see that same emphasis placed on the Triple Crown again. Bring back that same level of dominance from our local surfers. It is something that is unique to Hawai‘i. Three world-class venues that are all exceptionally high risk and whoever is able to risk it for those six weeks, comes out on top. It takes a lot of grit and determination. It shows who was ready for the real deal. And I like that. It takes a lot of commitment to win the Triple Crown. You definitely have to be all in.

Back in the day, there were more local guys who really were that much better than the majority of the guys on Tour. I think what has changed is our local guys are still at that level, but the rest of the world has caught up. It’s hard to argue that guys like Gabriel Medina, Jeremy Flores, Italo Ferreira, or someone like Owen Wright, are not some of the very best surfers in the world today, especially at performing in heavy surf. There was a time when the Tour guys weren’t the best at performing in heavy surf and the local guys like: Dane Kealoha, Tony Moniz, Michael Ho, and Johnny Boy Gomes smoked them. They were far better than the traveling surfers. Nowadays, the traveling surfers, the majority of that top 32, are pretty much the best in the world.

With that said, the local guys get a shot at it and have a chance. Hopefully, the Triple Crown comes to life for these guys, who are worth every bit of their weight in big surf, a spark to perform like they are truly capable of performing in these events. And that could be game-changing for them. This year, you can look at Barron Mamiya. He is probably in the very best scenario he could be in. He’s put himself in a position to capitalize on two places he has deep relationships with. He’s young, and this could be a life-changer for him. And that’s what you hope for.



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