Last contest before summer goes off today at Ala Moana Bowls

The Triple Crown of Surfing is still a ways off, but Hawaii’s only professional surf contest until winter starts today, running through the weekend at Ala Moana Bowls on Oahu. Having been upgraded to a QS 1,000 event this year, the Local Motion Surf Into Summer Pro will feature many of Hawaii’s most polished local surfers, as well as some youngsters hoping to gain some experience and maybe even a couple of Qualifying Series points.

Honolulu will host 112 surfers entered into the draw – 85 from Hawaii and a few of those representing the Garden Isle. The most accomplished are Kaimana Jaquias and Evan Valiere, each among the top seeds and each receiving byes into the Round of 64. Valiere already has a tough opponent lined up in Kalani David, one of the state’s most progressive young surfers. The rest of their four-man heats will be filled in based on early-round results.

Jaquias made it to the quarterfinals at the Volcom Pipe Pro earlier this year and remains just outside the top 100 in the QS rankings. Valiere has kept his QS schedule limited, just participating in the Pipe Pro and reaching the third round. Each has had good results on Oahu in the past and wouldn’t be considered long shots to make deep runs this time around.

Perhaps the biggest name in the contest draw is Bruce Irons, who is scheduled to open up in the Round of 96. He’ll be taking on Jonah Morgan, Ezra Sitt and an advancer from round one. Irons is often named as many of Hawaii’s groms’ favorite surfer, particularly for his exploits at Pipeline and the rest of the world’s biggest, most treacherous waves. He’s not usually a QS participant, so any time he puts on a jersey feels like an event. He and fellow Kauai surfers Chris Foster and Kamalei Alexander get going in round two.

Some of the top seeds from around the state include Ezekiel Lau, Josh Moniz, Mason Ho, Granger Larsen and Joel Centeio in the third round. Defending champion Jason Shibata starts in the second round, as do Kekoa Bacalso, Mikey Bruneau, Myles Padaca and Kahea Hart. Team Hawaii junior coach Rainos Hayes opens up in round one.

According to Surfline, waves should be in the 3- to 4-foot range and the incoming northeasterly winds make Ala Moana a prime location throughout the weekend.

While being just a QS 1,000 doesn’t make Surf Into Summer an impactful contest in terms of international rankings, any event in Hawaiian waters takes on a personality of its own. There are bragging rights at stake, as well as an opportunity to surf typically crowded waves with just three other competitors. There’s the chance to make a name for oneself, like Honolulu civil engineer Gregg Nakamura reaching the final at the 2012 HIC Pro. There’s the opportunity for some of the next generation to surf alongside the legends, as will be the case when Ulu Boy Napeahi and Elijah Gates paddle out with Derek Ho in round two.

Navigating through 111 other surfers will net the winner just 1,000 rankings points and a $2,300 check, but there is still plenty at stake. It may not be the Pipe Masters, but any contest in Hawaii is still a contest in Hawaii.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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