The waiting period for the Sunset Open is beginning to dwindle. Just four days remain with 74 surfers still in the hunt for a Qualifying Series title on Oahu.
One of those 74 is Kai Lenny, who is making his QS debut at this event. Lenny, 24, is anything but a novice, despite his lack of tour accomplishments. He’s been breaking ground around the globe as a waterman of all forms, but he’s been showing that he’s pretty comfortable in a contest setting. Lenny won both his first- and second-round heats to earn a spot in round three.
Round three will also feature some Kauai competitors with Chris Foster, Kaimana Jaquias, Koa Smith and Bruce Irons in the mix. Foster advanced via his second-round performance while the other three earned byes directly into the Round of 64.
Four others hope to join them as Evan Valiere, Reef McIntosh, Dylan Goodale and Danny Fuller each still have their second-round heats coming up when action resumes.
The Sunset Open is a continuation of the winter season and gives Hawaii surfers another chance to compete in uncrowded lineups. A lot of new or lesser known names started in round one of this event, but it’s been the more seasoned veterans finding their way through the draw.
Myles Padaca, Jason Shibata, Ulu Napeahi, Kekoa Bacalso and Mikey Bruneau showed the value of their experience with successful second-round heats.
Round three is where the top seeds enter the fray. We’ll get an early look at defending champ Keoni Yan in the second heat of round three, when he goes up against Hawaii QS champ Eli Olson, Shibata and Padaca. That crew runs the gamut of age and experience, but all are very accomplished at local events.
Josh Moniz, Billy Kemper, Sunny Garcia and Mason Ho are some others ready to debut and hoping to make some deep runs.
Things are going to have to pick up, no matter what the conditions are. With 36 heats still to go before crowning a champ, the final few days should be packed with action.
Two future stars took the titles in the Sunset Pro Junior events with Team Hawaii veterans Barron Mamiya and Zoe McDougall winning the men’s and women’s titles, respectively.
Mamiya put on a showcase in some big stuff when he held off a charging Finn McGill in second place, Kauli Vaast in third and Cody Young in fourth. Mamiya put up a pair of scores in the excellent range for a 16.85 total. McGill went off for a 9.10 late in the heat, but it wasn’t enough to overtake the lead.
Mamiya won his final three heats and was the best surfer throughout the contest. It’s a great start to the season for the 16-year-old.
For McDougall, it’s another announcement of her presence on the junior scene. She just turned 17 a week ago and is already among the nation’s top young wahine. Her heat totals were tops for all three rounds of competition and she held off Brisa Hennessy in the final for the title. Summer Ivy and Gabriela Bryan finished third and fourth, respectively.
We’ll see what happens when the main draw resumes, but Sunset is one of the state’s best spots in cooperative swells. The hopefully sizable waves usually produce some epic performances and whoever emerges with the win will have truly earned it.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.