There’s a handful of pros you’d expect to be the early leader of the Vans Triple Crown points race post the 2015 Hawaiian Pro. Like Filipe Toledo! That high flying 20-year-old with dazzling hazel eyes threatening to become the second crowned Brazilian World Champion. Or defending World Champion Gabriel Medina, looking so fierce and so powerful and so unstoppable during recent freesurfs at Ehukai Beach Park. Australia’s Julian Wilson, who has faced both Great White sharks and bombing Pipeline and has returned to the sand unscathed in both scenarios, comes to mind as well.
But none of these international surfers fit the bill as the current Triple Crown point’s leader (as of late November).
Instead, that much acclaimed designation lies with Wade Carmichael. All eyes – from the aforementioned competitors to the focal lenses of photographers spread across rainy Haleiwa Beach Park from November 18-21 – were locked on the young Australian with long hair, a full beard and beaming smile as he held the 2015 Hawaiian Pro trophy high on the results podium.
It wasn’t just a rabbit that the 23-year-old pulled out of his black top hat; also revealing itself was
a crown of flowers, a $40,000 check and 10,000 rating points. His name is now etched into surfing lore, following the likes of past winners such as Sebastian Zietz, Taj Burrow and Andy Irons.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Carmichael after posting a final winning 15.40. “I thought everyone got scores in the end and I couldn’t believe all the boys on the beach, I was just freaking out.”
And rightfully so! The bevy of points catapulted the 23-year-old from 59th to 13th on the WSL’s QS rankings, and also as the current leader for the VTC points race. With a strong showing in the Vans World Cup of Surfing – the second contest in the vaunted Triple Crown of Surfing – Carmichael has a mouthwatering opportunity to qualify for the one and only 2016 WSL Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour.
At the outset of the Hawaiian Pro, the talk throughout Haleiwa’s bustling streets of Carmichael. And wasn’t that of hometown favorites, either. Instead, all attention was focused on the lack of swell during an El Nino winter. For 6 days, the prestigious contests’ doors stood chained and locked as an international field of competitors filled the free surf lineups at Rockies, Off the Wall and Ehukai Beach Park.
A double overhead surf filling in on the 7th day of the waiting period gave the contest a green light, and in the four days of competition that followed, storyline after storyline formed with heat winners and later dissolved as the respective athletes bowed out. One constant was Carmichael, who quietly slipped through heat after heat with little fanfare.
The soon to be Hawaiian Pro Champion continued his run into the final day, though much of the spotlight was burning bright elsewhere. It was lighting up Filipe Toledo, who was spinning his way through the quarters and semis, looking to be in champion form. Hawaiian Zeke Lau followed suit throughout the final heats by showcasing his wide ranging arsenal, from a lofty air game to stoic power carves, and also in the mix during the closing of the contest was Maui’s Dusty Payne. All of whom would meet Carmichael in the final on the fourth day of competition.
Which made sport betting such a difficult task! Should money be placed on the sizzling Brazilian just in reach of the World Title? Or Lau, the powerful Hawaiian on the QS with a cold yet determined poker face? Perhaps the safest bet is on the defending Hawaiian Pro champion in Payne? What about this Carmichael fella?
With all bets made final, the opening minutes proved to be an air to air dogfight. Payne opened with an above the lip maneuver, rolling out a 5.83 and Lau fired back with an air that turned out to be a 7.27.
“Beginning of the heat had a lot of waves, so maybe I lost my cool a little bit and went on some waves I shouldn’t have,” said Lau. “Wade got the better of the exchanges so things kind of went his way.”
And Wade’s way was that of an everyman! Carmichael, exhibiting a blue collar nature, looked to be the antithesis of flash and flair and simply chose the best waves with casual yet fierce carves and turns. A rumor ebbed throughout the beach that if Carmichael continued sending so much spray towards the beach, the WSL would need to designate a splash zone at future contests so that onlookers wouldn’t be supersoaked.
A patient Toledo answered his Hawaiian and Australian counterparts with a 9.50, landing a full rotation – the highest score of the day. He looked calm, confident and within reach of the win.
But then he couldn’t find a backup score.
“The last ten minutes was completely flat, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I just need one wave,’” said Toledo. “And that middle wave came, and I couldn’t do anything better than a 5.30.”
The horn sounded to end the first gem in the 2015 Triple Crown, with Carmichael victorious. A chair up the beach ensued, followed by an awards ceremony that will be burned into the Australian’s memory for
the years to come. He’ll also remember the comments said by clamoring beachgoers as he headed towards the damp parking lot. On how inspiring his run was! The everyman, who values hard work and relishes in opportunities, taking down the hometown heroes and the international sensations! A 21st century David, with not one, not two, but three Goliaths still reeling from defeat!
“The year has been tough,” said Carmichael. “I started off well at Trestles with my third but I haven’t had much since then. But I feel like with this win here I’ll hopefully get a little roll at Sunset. I’m just stoked.”