This was probably one of the biggest weeks of the calendar year for Hawaii surfers, who pretty well dominated everything from Championship Tour down to the junior level.
The most surprising and welcomed result must be Keanu Asing earning his first career world tour victory at the Quiksilver Pro France. This CT season began with unexpected results before settling back into a more standard pattern of late. But Asing’s win is one of the most unlikely that I ever remember on the men’s Championship Tour.
More so than Sebastian Zietz’s win as a wild card at Margaret River or Jack Freestone’s run to the final in Rio. Asing had never made finals day at a CT event and here he was being chaired up the beach and onto the podium to take home the trophy.
This isn’t to say he hasn’t had the talent for such a result. Talent and desire have never been the issue. One of the factors has been whether Keanu has the physical prowess to stand out against the his competition. He’s much more diminutive than just about everyone he paddles out with. He once said his favorite surfer was Jordy Smith, but the two couldn’t seem more different from an outsider’s perspective.
However, that all fell to the wayside in France, as Asing knocked out the world’s two top-ranked surfers — John John Florence and Gabriel Medina — in his final two heats. He also eliminated Matt Banting, Stu Kennedy and Ace Buchan along the way.
It’s a monstrous result as Asing attempts to re-qualify for 2017. He jumped all the way from 33rd to 21st place, now within that essential top 22. He has more work to do at the final two events, but this unlikely result has him back well in the mix.
Zietz also had a solid week in France, reaching round five to jump back up three spots to 13th for the year. He hadn’t moved beyond round four since the win at Margaret River, so this result keeps him comfortable to pick up his spot again next season.
For Florence and Medina, the gap has tightened to a 2,700-point lead for John John. Making the semifinal at least assured Florence of maintaining the top spot, but Asing beating Medina in the final also helped keep the small cushion. Only Portugal and Pipeline remain with those two having pulled away from the pack.
On the women’s side, the world championship was decided as Tyler Wright clinched the 2016 crown by reaching the final of the Roxy Pro France. That gave her an insurmountable margin over No. 2 Courtney Conlogue with just the Maui Pro still on tap.
But it was Carissa Moore who finished things off with her first victory of the season. We hold Moore to such a high standard that her current third-place ranking feels like an underachievement. But her 2016 is feeling a lot like her 2014 season, when she had a few middling results midway through the year, but finished with a win in Maui and went on to earn the 2015 world title a year later.
If she earns a third straight Maui Pro title, she may place herself on a similar track as she’ll be trying to unseat Wright next season.
Tatiana Weston-Webb reached her fourth semifinal of the season and has pretty well solidified herself in that No. 4 ranking. It’s been a great sophomore season for Tati, improving upon her seventh-place rookie ranking last year. It wasn’t long ago that there seemed to be a clear top five of Wright, Conlogue, Moore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore. That has certainly changed now with Tati, Malia Manuel and Johanne Defay all capable of making runs at those elite spots.
The groms also showed off on Oahu at the Turtle Bay Resort Pro Junior, with Noa Mizuno and Mahina Maeda each earning their respective titles at Hawaii’s final junior contest of the year. Mizuno is a Team Hawaii veteran and has garnered some Junior success this season. Maeda is probably the most accomplished junior (if we want to even label her that) in the world and has had huge results on the Qualifying Series to go with her wild card CT invite.
The competitive season is coming to a close, though the waves are just kicking up on Hawaii’s north shores. But this week was all Hawaii everywhere.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.