Alana Blanchard Surfs, Too
To explain women’s surfing, compare it to something completely different, like men’s surfing. Coco Ho and Carissa Moore are Dane and Jordy. They’re the next big thing. They’re supposed to win the Haleiwa contest and change surfing. Alana Blanchard is Robert Pattinson. She’s supposed to look really pretty and make vampire movies. Robert Pattinson doesn’t surf.
No, this is wrong, but this is what we all seem to think. Even the contest announcers today, as Alana cut through the more-decorated field of the Vans Hawaiian Pro, kept calling her a “beautiful young woman” and referencing her appearance. They didn’t do this to her competitors, some of whom are pretty hot. Alana has been typecast. By winning the first event of the Vans Triple Crown, maybe Alana has taken a step toward changing perceptions about her.
The day started off with a bad surprise, like an unexpectedly cold shower or a burned tongue on coffee. Two men’s heats, arbitrarily, were sent into the declining swell before the women took over for good. Andy Irons was in the second heat, physically. Technically he was in the heat. Half an hour and 5.5 points later, he was out, finishing last to Wiggolly Dantas, Jesse Merle-Jones and Yuri Sodre, really. With a double-overhead swell forecast for Sunday, really. One of the Triple Crown’s biggest draws…favorite sons…best comeback stories…dismissed. Dumb.
But there was little time to dwell on Phillip Andrew, as the women stormed out into their Round of 32 and still-windy, still-weakish waves at Haleiwa. Carissa Moore was the thing to cheer about, on a 5’5” diamond-tail Mayhem “Rocket” that had Target logos on all three fins. But the targets might as well have been on her back. Last year’s event winner and the most celebrated little sweetheart in surfing had to wade through a swamp of pro surfer henchwomen. Though talented, they’re now relatively anonymous next to Rissy, or ASP Rookie of the Year shoo-in Coco. Especially here on Oahu. One of these two teen queens was going to win and feel really honored just to compete against all these amazing surfers at this special wave, and thanks to her sponsors and her dad.
Until semifinal #2, when Coco fell on a wave-ending floater that would have given her the score and Carissa just didn’t get any waves at all. Neither girl made the final, meaning it was up to the remaining four: Steph Gilmore (the obvious favorite), Sofia Mulanovich, Rebecca Woods, and that hot one. Alana.
Steph stuck to the rights and led the heat until the end. The surf was quickly turning fecal. Opportunities were scarce. Steph was goose-stepping to the finish line, when Alana held her off of a running left and carved it up for high 7’s from the judges. Alana took the lead, and Coco and Leila Hurst stood up out of their bleachers, suddenly excited. They lifted Bruna Schmitz onto their shoulders to see how hard it would be to carry someone up the beach, should that be necessary. When a last-second flurry of waves failed to dethrone Alana from first place, the 18-year-old was chaired over the sand and maybe legitimized in the eyes of the surfing world. Maybe. She now leads the Triple Crown ratings going into the Gidget Pro at Sunset Beach, and if she can manage to take down the Crown, we’ll have no choice but to take her seriously. Maybe. Pretty girls have it so hard.