They waited six full days to get back in the water for the HIC Pro and all that anticipation provided some great drama for Saturday’s final session, which turned into a monster day for the Garden Isle.
What started with 144 surfers in the crowded field, all hoping for a ticket into the upcoming Triple Crown of Surfing, ended with a final foursome that featured Hanalei’s Evan Valiere, Kilauea’s Gavin Gillette and Haena-born Pancho Sullivan.
Despite all that firepower, it was Mason Ho who dazzled his way into a first-place finish, displaying both textbook and progressive style through the day’s heats and ultimately closing the final with an 8.93 wave for a 16.26 total and the Sunset Beach title.
Ho’s championship also netted him a direct entry into the Round of 64 for the first two Triple Crown events.
Sullivan showed why he is a four-time HIC Pro champion and one of Oahu’s North Shore greats. Even at age 40, he was carving in style and took the runner-up spot, grabbing an 8.33 ride in the final on his way to a 13.00 total.
Sullivan moved to Oahu at age five and became one of the island’s biggest names, but he still hosts the Grom Comp at Pine Trees in the spring.
Valiere was becoming one of the event’s front-runners, showing a comfort level that sent him through many of his heats with little trouble.
That’s not to say he was dominating every wave. Valiere picked his spots perfectly and wasn’t wasting effort unnecessarily. For instance, he waited more than 15 minutes in the semifinals before taking on his first wave. The result was a 9.17, which all but guaranteed a final heat berth. In the final, Valiere was again patient, but unable to make the late moves he had become accustomed to.
An early 4.77 gave him a lead for the heat’s opening moments, but he was only able to back it up with a 3.83 and just had three scores in the wave-starved final. His 8.60 was good for third place.
Gillette showed some of that same patience in many of his heats, not jumping out to early leads but finding the late rides that provided enough scoring power to advance.
He broke that script in his semifinal, holding a steady lead with a 7.33 opening score and then staying in second when Valiere made his late move.
But like his Kauai counterpart, Gillette couldn’t find the right opportunities in the final, taking fourth place with a 4.57 total.
With no heats for six days, Saturday’s swell was a welcome sight for participants, fans, onlookers and event coordinators alike. There were 38 contestants all waiting almost a full week to get back in the water and take a crack at the top prize of $15,000, as well as the entry into the Triple Crown.
Five of those 38 have called Kauai home, so for three to reach the final heat was a great showing.
The all-Hawaii final was indicative of how most of the competition went. Of the 16 quarterfinalists, 11 were Hawaii representatives, as well as seven of the eight semifinalists.
The Triple Crown will begin with the Reef Hawaiian Pro, which gets underway at Haleiwa on Tuesday. That’s followed by the World Cup of Surfing back at Sunset Beach and finishes with Pipe Masters, which will also determine the 2013 ASP World Championship race between current leader Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater.