Koa comes close, Mason makes mark with HIC Pro title

Koa Smith worked his way through an always loaded field to reach the HIC Pro semifinals, but it was Mason Ho who took home the title after reaching last year’s final heat.

Ho clearly loves the Hawaii surf season. He capped off the 2015 calendar year with a memorable run to the Pipe Masters semifinals and picked right up where he left off, this time earning the HIC Pro hardware. The win gives him automatic qualification into the first two legs of the Triple Crown of Surfing. He’s always a tough out on his home island and he’s a great ambassador and representative for this Hawaii-centric event.

For Smith, it’s his best ever Qualifying Series result and should get him his best ever QS ranking at year’s end. The Kilauea product had to outwork a lot of talented and familiar faces along the way, including brother Alex in round four. Koa also got by Evan Valiere in round three, winning his first three heats before finishing just 0.26 points behind Ho to be knocked out in the semifinals.

Like Alex Smith, Chris Foster fell in round four. Kaimana Jaquias, Gavin Gillette, Danny Fuller, Valiere and Dylan Goodale were all eliminated in round three, while Bruce Irons was out in round two.

Aussie Jack Robinson finished runner-up after also reaching the final heat at the 2015 HIC Pro. He’s another import who shines during the Hawaii season at all locations. His victory at last year’s Pipe Masters Invitational Qualifier got him into the main event.

Makuakai Rothman showed once again that he’s more than just a big-wave specialist by finishing in third place, while young Finn McGill, 16, worked his way through the field to finish fourth.

Other notables included quarterfinal showings for defending champ Ian Walsh, Tanner Hendrickson, Joel Centeio and Kaito Kino. Sunny Garcia, Noa Mizuno and Seth Moniz reached round four.

So now all eyes move towards the first leg of the Triple Crown with the Hawaiian Pro less than a week away. The Haleiwa kickoff always sets the tone for the Triple Crown and begins to create a short list for who may be in the running for the series title.

The local flavor of the HIC Pro has provided a great start to the winter. Now things really begin to heat up and we can once again immerse ourselves in the Triple Crown’s luster.

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

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