The story line of the week, which saw Kai Lenny coming through a huge field in his Qualifying Series debut, came to an unfortunate end during Finals Day, Saturday at the Sunset Open. Having advanced to the final eight competitors from an original field of 112, it was a ruling unique to contest settings that knocked him from the event.
Overall, it was a fantastic QS debut for Lenny, the Maui waterman. Dipping his toe into these ranks showed quickly and with ease that he has no problem taking his free surf and adventurous persona into a structured lineup with a jersey on.
But after having taken the most difficult path possible from round one and advancing through five successive heats into the semifinals, an interference ended his chances at a dream debut. Lenny seemed on his way to the podium after earning an 8.25 for the best single-wave score of the first semifinal heat. But needing only a modest backup to put him comfortably into the top two, he saw the dreaded triangle on his next wave. That all but eliminated Lenny, as he would only get to use one wave for his total score, compared to his opponents’ two best.
Lenny won his heats in rounds one through four, then took second in the quarterfinals before his exit in the semifinal. As just a QS 1,000 event, the Sunset Open is much more about prestige than points. Lenny already had a fairly good amount of that, but this departure from the Big Wave Tour to carve up sizable waves with no stand-up paddle and no foiling has made it crystal clear that Lenny is one of Hawaii’s most complete all-around watermen.
The eventual win went to Australia’s Jack Robinson, who gained his first ever QS victory. Robinson loves this wave, having taken second place behind Mason Ho at the HIC Pro this past November. Aussie Jack is one to keep an eye on during this year’s QS season. He has come up swiftly after a good Junior career and could start to make some noise with regularity on the QS scene.
The same can be said for Oahu’s Finn McGill, who finished in second place overall, just one-tenth of a point behind Robinson (14.35 to 14.25). Every event around Hawaii has been a showcase for McGill recently and at just 16 years of age, he’s shown great maturity in a variety of waves.
Brazil’s Bino Lopes and Peru’s Miguel Tudela finished third and fourth, respectively, to complete the final heat.
Kauai’s top finishers were Kaimana Jaquias, Koa Smith and Evan Valiere, who each tied for 17th place with fourth-round exits. Danny Fuller took an equal 25th place result, also being eliminated in round four.
Like Lenny, Hawaii’s Benji Brand, Ian Walsh and Imai Devault all finished just a round shy of the final heat. Josh Moniz, Kekoa Cazimero, Barron Mamiya, Cody Young, Seth Moniz and Sheldon Paishon all fell out in the quarterfinals.
Starting today, the fun moves to another epic North Shore Oahu location with the Volcom Pipe Pro. Despite being only a QS 3,000, it’s one of every season’s more sought after QS titles with the likes of John John Florence, Kelly Slater and Adriano de Souza — world champions all — entering the field.
Just like those heavyweights, Koa Smith has a bye directly into round three. Jaquias and Bruce Irons are scheduled to start in round two and Valiere, Dylan Goodale and Chris Foster all open up in the initial Round of 112.
The Pro Bowl is also on today, but, yeah … watch the surfing, if it’s a go.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.