The plan was to
hold the semifinal heats and the final the next day, but a storm closed out all
the beaches until Thursday, when the sea went flat. On Sunday, when the surf
came back up to 10 feet, Hemmings elected to go ahead, first with a repechage
heat of third-place finishers to round out the field for the three semifinals
at six men each. Two more Hawaiians slipped into contention, giving them one
fewer than the Australians. The surf was good—long, well-formed waves, some off
the point and others opening up in Sunset's middle—but a continually shifting
wind tended to blow surfers off waves they thought they had. Nobody backed off
voluntarily—including Townend, who edged out his compatriot Cairns for a berth
in the final.
the six finalists set out—Hawaii's Aikau and James Jones, South Africa's
Paarman, and Aussies Warren, Townend and Mark Richards, the 19-year-old
defending champion who was battling a bad back in the hope of being the
contest's first repeat winner. The surf itself seemed to stiffen for this last
onslaught, which would end when 48 waves had been ridden. There were many good
rides, but as the end neared it was clear that the top contenders were Warren,
Richards and Aikau. The Australians were swift and stylish. In contrast, Aikau,
dark and powerfully built, seemed to overpower waves, but not quite enough of
For the first
time in memory, all of the finalists were met with spontaneous applause as they
emerged from the water and, also for the first time in memory, there was no
complaint with the judging. Richards hugged Warren after accepting his $2,000
second-place check, and Aikau, who finished third, was graceful in defeat. A
few Hawaiians muttered "damned Australians" when they heard about the
hui, but it was clear they were annoyed only because they hadn't thought of
forming one themselves. There will almost surely be a "Sons of Hawaii"
somewhere along the 1977 Grand Prix trail.
As soon as the
meet was over, a few of the contestants prepared to go home, but the corporate
kings of Australia settled in to wait for the IPS-sanctioned $6,000 Duke
Classic and the $3,000 Masters' Pipeline in December and the $10,000 Men's
World Cup in January. Would the conglomerate come back for future Smirnoffs if
there was no increase in the prize money?
"No way to
keep us out," said one of the Aussies. "It was the first and it's still
the best, and besides, it's here. But don't quote me."