Hawaii juniors sweep US Open titles; Tati into semifinals

Over the past decade, the U.S. Open of Surfing has been a pretty successful event for Hawaii’s best surfers. The Huntington Beach pier can sometimes lack in the quality wave department, but Hawaii’s talent pool has navigated nicely through its hit-or-miss conditions.

Adding to that streak of success are both Cody Young and Brisa Hennessy, who claimed U.S. Open of Surfing Junior championship titles on Saturday.

First up was Hennessy, who continues to show progression and an inevitable acceleration towards the world tour. In a stacked heat against some of the world’s top juniors, Hennessy won her first contest of the 2017 season. She was able to outpoint runner-up Caroline Marks, Teresa Bonvalot and Meah Collins. But Hennessy hasn’t only been successful as a Junior competitor this season. She’s currently in 23rd on the Qualifying Series rankings after some good results in Barbados and Australia.

Hennessy was Hawaii’s top-ranked junior wahine last season and she should be moving past Zoe McDougall for the top spot this year after Saturday’s win.

Past Huntington Beach winners include Malia Manuel, Coco Ho and Tatiana Weston-Webb, each of whom were chaired up to the winner’s podium at various stages of their careers. Hennessy now joins that illustrious group and seems a likely co-competitor at some point.

With one former Team Hawaii champion already crowned, the following heat included another with the same goal. The Junior Men’s final saw Maui’s Young start things off with an excellent score on the first exchange. He slammed a pair of turns, showed off the “Huntington hop” for a bit and finished off the wave for an 8.33 score. He backed it up shortly thereafter with a 7.13, setting the bar at a 15.46 total.

The rest of the finalists remained tightly bunched throughout the heat. Australia’s Reef Heazlewood appeared to be underscored on his opening wave, which looked stronger than the 6.83 to come in from the judges. But he continued to fight for numbers, ultimately coming up just shy with a 14.93 for the runner-up spot. American Kade Matson (13.57) and Barbados’ Che Allan (10.50) took third and fourth place, respectively.

Young was absolutely dominant and deserving of this U.S. Open title. He had a perfect event, winning all five of his four-man heats. It’s one thing to survive and advance. It’s another to be the standard-bearer every step of the way.

This is Young’s first ever contest victory. He came close multiple times in 2016, reaching four final heats, but he was finally able to finish the job this time around.

With both Young and Hennessy earning titles, there will be some positive momentum heading into finals day for both Ho and Weston-Webb. The women’s Championship Tour event will conclude today with just four wahine still in the field. Ho will take on defending champ Weston-Webb in the first semifinal, with the winner taking on either Courtney Conlogue or Sage Erickson for the U.S. Open crown.

It’s been a quick and drastic turnaround for Tati, who had been off to a very slow start to 2017. Not having reached a quarterfinal through the first four events, she finished runner-up at the Fiji Pro and is now two heat wins away from defending her Huntington title. This will also be a substantial result for Ho, guaranteeing her best finish to this point this season.

The men’s QS event should also wrap up today and though no Hawaii surfers remain in the final eight, a few of the biggest names are still alive. Filipe Toledo and Kanoa Igarashi are the surfers to beat and likely to face each other in the semifinals, with the winner being a heavy favorite in the final.

Having already completed the Oceanside leg, the California crawl concludes today. It would be great for Coco or Tati to add one more U.S. Open title to make a happy Hawaii trio.

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

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