Maui’s Kemper victorious on finals day at Sunset Open

  • WSL / Contributed photo

    Billy Kemper was one with the barrel on Tuesday during finals day of the Sunset Open at Sunset Beach, Oahu. Maui’s Kemper, known more for his big-wave charging prowess, showed all the moves necessary to earn his first Qualifying Series event win since the 2010 HIC Pro.

Continuing to prove that he’s simply one of Hawaii’s best in all conditions, Maui’s Billy Kemper took home the Sunset Open title Tuesday afternoon at Sunset Beach on Oahu’s North Shore.

After finishing in second place on last season’s Big Wave Tour, Kemper came back and excelled in the relatively small (for him) conditions at Sunset to pick up the QS 1,000 victory. The waves were pumping and some lucky surfers found a few exceptional barrels, but from his start in round three and all the way until the finish, Kemper made it known he’d be one of the favorites.

The final was very hard to predict with all four finalists having earned their spots and capable of big numbers. In the end, it was Kemper prevailing, Ian Gentil taking runner-up, Ian Walsh finishing third and Barron Mamiya in fourth place.

Kemper’s opening matchup was one of the best heats of the contest as he scored a pair of nines on his first two waves for an 18.15 heat-winning total in round three. He barely snuck through round four by just 0.07 points, but he continued to find scoring opportunities from that moment on and made the most of them all. He had eight waves that all scored higher than 7.3, so he was continuously putting the pressure on his opponents with both actual numbers and just the possibility that one was soon to drop.

Kemper’s only other QS contest win was the HIC Pro, way back in 2010. He has a pair of Big Wave event victories to his name, but Tuesday’s was his first non-BWT title in a long while. We’ll see if he keeps any of this momentum going during the Volcom Pipe Pro, which begins on Monday.

Some international blood made deep runs at the Sunset Open. Three of the final eight competitors included the Tahitian pair of O’Neill Massin and Eliot Napias, as well as Aussie Jack Robinson, the defending event champ. But all three failed to advance out of the semifinals, leading us to an all-Hawaii final heat.

Robinson left his mark, as he often does. He squeezed himself into a very tight barrel that clamped down almost immediately. But it left him just enough space to see his way to the exit after having disappeared for an eternity. He got a perfect 10-point score from the judges, leading him to a round-four win.

Kauai’s Evan Valiere reached the fourth round, ultimately being knocked out by Finn McGill and Kekoa Cazimero. Ulu Napeahi was also eliminated in that highly competitive heat.

Valiere was on his game in round three, when he found a 9.25 wave to leap into first place. It was a necessary find as he only caught two scoring waves, but they were enough for a 14.00 heat-winning total.

Kaimana Jaquias wasn’t able to get any traction in his opening heat, seeing Josh Moniz and France’s Tristan Guilbaud earn the top two positions. Jaquias and early-round winners Danny Fuller and Chris Foster were all knocked out in round three, leaving Valiere as Kauai’s only remaining competitor at that point.

Other notables from around the state were semifinalist Olamana Eleogram, quarterfinalists Keoni Yan, Elijah Gates, Nathan Florence, Cazimero and McGill. Sunny Garcia, Kai Lenny, Makai McNamara and Imai Devault were all eliminated in round four.

The Volcom Pipe Pro is next up, beginning its waiting period Monday and running through Feb. 10. Two-time defending world champion John John Florence and Sebastian Zietz are the two WSL wild cards scheduled to be in the field. Koa Smith, Valiere, Jaquias, Fuller and Foster are also all slated to compete.


David Simon can be reached at


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