The VANS World Cup of Surfing pre-dates the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series, this being the 38th year of the event. In that time, surfers from Australia and Hawaii have claimed 16 titles each at Sunset Beach.
Today's powerful surf with wave face heights of up to 15 feet favored those who have invested the time and relish in the power that this expansive, shifting lineup is feared for: predominately local Hawaii surfers and visiting Australians.
"I've been surfing here since I was eight years old," said Kemper. "To me it's local knowledge of surfing out here and putting in your time. I mean this morning there was a bunch of kids out here who surf unbelievable - some of the best surfers in the world - but they're out here the day before the contest practicing rather than those of us who are out here year round. We surf out here everyday, it's our backyard and I think that's what really comes into play."
Aussie Jay Thompson's is fired up by the power on tap and Sunset and draws his own confidence from having put in the time over many years. He posted the highest individual wave score of the competition today: 9.7 points.
"Sunset's built for a bigger bloke like myself," said Thompson. "We grow up on a lot of right hand points. In Australia there's a lot of big waves and a lot of power. We spend a lot of time out here too, whenever there's swell. I just like coming here. Big waves are something we don't get to surf all year round in events and everyone just looks forward to it. Perfect Haleiwa, perfect Sunset, and perfect Pipeline... at the end of the day it's what we're here for and it's just beautiful to surf here in waves like that."
There has only ever been one surfer from the US Mainland to win here: CJ Hobgood (Florida), in 2008. Even Kelly Slater, who returns to compete at Sunset Beach tomorrow for the first time in six years, has struggled at this venue - his average result after 12 attempts is 25th; his best a 3rd in 1998.
While this event consists of 4-man heats, most will tell you you're on your own when it comes to Sunset. And who would know better than Sunny Garcia, who also enters the fray tomorrow. Sunny has been competing here for 27 years and won in 1994 and 2000. He has his own ideas on why Slater has never tasted the success here that he has become so accustomed to over his 20+ year career.
"Kelly surfs every wave in Hawaii exceptionally well, but with 4-man heats and such a big playing field, he's not able to get into guys heads like he does on a small peak," says Garcia. "Sitting next to Kelly on a small peak can be very intimidating. At Sunset you're not worried about Kelly Slater, you're worried about the West Peak. I think he's the greatest surfer of all time. Do I think he's beatable? Yes. Do I want to beat him? Absolutely. Every chance I get, I want to give him a ribbing."
There are 64 surfers in contention for the VANS World Cup: Hawaii holds 24 spots, and Australia 21, along with athletes from USA, Brazil, France, Tahiti, South Africa, Ireland, and Portugal.
Other top seeds entering the draw tomorrow include: John Florence (HAW), Gabriel Medina, and Triple Crown title contenders Sebastien Zietz (HAW) and Alejo Muniz (BRA).
The second jewel of the 30th anniversary VANS Triple Crown of Surfing hydrated by vitaminwater - the VANS World Cup is expected to resume tomorrow in slightly smaller quality waves than today.
Round of 96
H1 : Ian Gentil (HAW) 12.20pts ; Jean Da Silva (BRA) 9.74pts ; Dion Atkinson (AUS) 8.40pts ; Kai Barger (HAW) 0.00pts
H2 : Tom Whitaker (AUS) 11.83pts ; Alex Smith (HAW) 11.23pts ; Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 10.00pts ; Charles Martin (GLP) 7.74pts
H3 : Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 10.83pts ; Glenn Hall (IRL) 7.60pts ; Mitch Crews (AUS) 5.30pts ; Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 2.23pts
H4 : Gabe Kling (USA) 13.04pts ; Chris Ward (USA) 12.60pts ; Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 11.73pts ; Jano Belo (BRA) 4.53pts
H5 : Nathan Hedge (AUS) 12.43pts ; Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 8.10pts ; Keanu Asing (BRA) 6.86pts ; Olamana Eleogram (HAW) 4.74pts
H6 : Jesse Mendes (BRA) 14.73pts ; Ian Walsh (HAW) 13.10pts ; Tim Reyes (USA) 12.67pts ; Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.44pts
H7 : Jay Thompson (AUS) 16.56pts ; Lincoln Taylor (AUS) 11.14pts ; Willian Cardoso (BRA) 8.57pts ; Love Hodel (HAW) 7.27pts
H8 : Jack Freestone (AUS) 16.10pts ; Granger Larsen (HAW) 11.57pts ; Makai McNamara (HAW) 11.36pts ; Cory Arrambide (USA) 7.40pts
H9 : Billy Kemper (HAW) 17.00pts ; Perth Standlick (AUS) 12.97pts ; Brian Toth (PRI) 8.00pts ; Myles Padaca (HAW) 0.00
H10 : Evan Valiere (HAW) 13.16pts ; Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 12.66pts ; Dale Staples (ZAF) 10.60pts ; Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 4.33pts
H11 : Nat Young (USA) 11.44pts ; Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA) 9.00pts ; Matt Banting (AUS) 8.67pts ; Evan Geiselman (USA) 3.86pts
H12 : Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 14.33pts ; Joan Duru (FRA) 13.14pts ; Hank Gaskell (HAW) 12.84pts ; Hizunome Bettero (BRA) 11.30pts
H13 : Marc Lacomare (FRA) 16.33pts; Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 13.10pts; Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) 9.47pts; Tomas Hermes (BRA) 8.34pts
H14: Dusty Payne (HAW) 14.67pts; Garrett Parkes (AUS) 11.86pts; Gavin Gillette (HAW) 10.84pts; Dane Gudauskas (USA) 8.10pts
H15: Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 14.70pts; Nathaniel Curran (USA) 11.77pts; Mason Ho (HAW) 6.43pts; Mitchel Coleborn (AUS) 5.63pts
H16: Koa Smith (HAW) 12.90pts; Nathan Yeomans (USA) 11.87pts; Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 8.50pts; Heath Josks (AUS) 7.00pts
World Cup of Surfing Champions
2011 - John John Florence, Hawaii
2010 - Raoni Monteiro, Brazil
2009 - Joel Parkinson, Australia
2008 - C.J. Hobgood, USA
2007 - Makuakai Rothman, Hawaii
2006 - Joel Parkinson, Australia
2005 - Jake Patterson, Australia
2004 - Andy Irons, Hawaii
2003 - Jake Patterson, Australia
2002 - Joel Parkinson, Australia
2001 - Myles Padaca, Hawaii
2000 - Sunny Garcia, Hawaii
1999 - Zane Harrison, Australia
1998 - Shane Dorian, Hawaii
1997 - Michael Rommelse, Australia
1996 - Paul Patterson, Australia
1995 - Shane Powell, Australia
1994 - Sunny Garcia, Hawaii
1993 - John Gomes, Hawaii
1992 - Martin Potter, United Kingdom
1991 - Fabio Gouveia, Brazil
1990 - Derek Ho, Hawaii
1989 - Hans Hedemann, Hawaii
1988 - Tom Carroll, Australia
1987 - Gary Elkerton, Australia
1986 - Hans Hedemann, Hawaii
1985 - Michael Ho, Hawaii
1984 - Michael Ho, Hawaii
1983 - Michael Ho, Hawaii
1982 - Tom Carroll, Australia
1981 - Dane Kealoha, Hawaii
1980 - Ian Cairns, Australia
1979 - Mark Richards, Australia
1978 - Buzzy Kerbox, Hawaii
1977 - Shaun Tomson, South Africa
1976 - Ian Cairns, Australia
1975 - Mark Richards, Australia