Kauai making waves at HIC Pro as surf spots fire globally

Brazil, Portugal, Hawaii. All have amazing surf spots and all are simultaneously playing host to some pretty important contests right now. The world tour is still setting up to crown a Rip Curl Pro Portugal champ, the Mahalo Surf Eco Festival is awarding some big Qualifying Series points and the HIC Pro has gotten underway on Oahu.

A group of 112 hopefuls began in the HIC Pro field at Sunset Beach, just as huge swell makes its way through the islands. Most of those entered into the official Triple Crown qualifier are from Hawaii, which makes the event more of a local showcase than a competition. But there is still cash up for grabs and the opportunity to compete at the state’s most prestigious venues.

The later rounds are definitely beginning to have a Kauai feel as a number of the Garden Isle’s standouts are progressing nicely through the field. Of 32 spots in the fourth round, 26 have already been filled. Five of those names are Kaimana Jaquias, Koa Smith, Alex Smith, Gavin Gillette and Kamalei Alexander. Dylan Goodale is still alive in the third round, hoping to make it six Kauai surfers in round four.

Gillette is a former finalist at the HIC Pro and could be due for a bit of good luck. He had a rough stretch last year where he would seem to always be in form but unable to make heats. He’s surfed less competitively this season than recent years, so he might be saving up his good fortune for this winter season on Oahu. Gillette will take on Kaito Kino, Hank Gaskell and American Chris Ward when action resumes.

Other names of note still in the field include former Triple Crown champion Myles Padaca, Joel Centeio, Billy Kemper, Kai Barger, Kalani David and Jamie O’Brien.

Bruce Irons and Evan Valiere each made it to round three, but each fell in foursomes won by Centeio and Ward, respectively.

Kauai’s Danny Fuller, who won last year’s HIC Pro, was knocked out in round two this time around.

With huge surf having been set to hit all of Hawaii’s north-facing shores late Thursday and into today, we’ll see if organizers deem it worthy of continuing the competition this morning. But the 15-day window gives them plenty of opportunity to be selective.

While the HIC Pro would have been the more convenient trek, Maui’s Tanner Hendrickson had a bigger opportunity on his calendar. The QS 3,000 Mahalo Surf Eco Festival in Brazil offered Hendrickson a chance at improving upon his current QS ranking, which sat at 19th before the contest. The cut line for a world tour qualification spot looks like it will fall anywhere from 12th to 15th, depending on some upcoming Championship Tour results.

But things didn’t go as well as Hendrickson would have hoped as he was knocked out in round two. That won’t crack his top five results of the year, which means he’ll need to improve elsewhere. There are still three QS 10,000 events on the schedule, so lots of moving and shaking will undoubtedly take place.

Kiron Jabour, Ezekiel Lau, Granger Larsen and Ian Gentil are all still carrying the Hawaiian flag in Brazil. Lau is the highest ranked of the four, coming in at 37th. A big result could propel him into Hendrickson’s area and make his final few months of 2015 very interesting.

Back in Europe, there are still nine heats to complete at the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, where Gabriel Medina is trying to make an incredible season-long comeback to win back-to-back world championships. He’ll be taking on Keanu Asing in an elimination fifth-round heat.

Surfline indicates the best swell should fill in Saturday afternoon local time (Friday night, Saturday morning Hawaii time), which is the final day of the contest waiting period.

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

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