Oahu’s Young earns impressive Sunset Open championship

  • Chlala/WSL

    Dusty Payne doing work on a Sunset Beach open face during last week’s Sunset Open. Payne took an equal 17th-place result. Cody Young topped the event for his first ever Qualifying Series win.

There are times where you see a movie or TV show and think “that individual is too good for this,” like Prince showing up on an episode of ‘New Girl’ or Matthew McConaughey in about 10 different Matthew McConaughey movies.

That always seems to be the case with the Sunset Open, which wrapped this week in huge surf along Oahu’s North Shore. Not that the setting isn’t iconic, but the fact that it’s only a QS 1,000 contest makes it seem less critical than it is and than it should be considered. The packed field put up some big numbers and provided a great showcase for what Hawaii surfers can do in these winter months with all eyes focused in their direction.

Cody Young was not necessarily a surprise champion, but the 20-year-old certainly earned the victory and took down a lot of competitors who were popular selections to win the event. Young picked up his first Qualifying Series tour victory on Thursday in pumping 12-to-15 foot swell by outlasting the loaded 112-man field and finishing things off with what must be considered the toughest four-man heat of his young career.

In the final, he took down defending champion Billy Kemper, the 2017 Sunset Open champ in Jack Robinson and the defending HIC Pro champion Kiron Jabour. Out of this field, nobody else has had that kind of recent success at Sunset Beach.

Young has had good showings at Sunset, as well. He was ninth at the HIC Pro last year, as well as fifth the year prior. But it required a much more complete effort to wind up on the podium raising the trophy. With his experience in the junior ranks and having only participated in the smaller QS contests regularly, Young has shown big-time ability amongst his peers. This wasn’t the first time he’s been in a field of this caliber, but it is the first time he’s managed to be on their level enough to seem like a legitimate threat.

Young crushed his final heat and needed to do so. He stacked up three straight great rides, including his top two in back-to-back fashion. It gave him a 17.77 total that his opponents required a combination to overcome. Robinson was also phenomenal and his 9.50 on his final attempt brought him closer, but he needed another opportunity and finished in second with a 16.83. Kemper tallied a 14.13 for third and Jabour finished fourth with a 13.77.

Kauai’s Kainehe Hunt and Koa Smith each reached the quarterfinals, taking equal 13th-place results. Gavin Gillette was out one round earlier in 17th, as was Tyler Newton in 25th. Evan Valiere finished 33rd.

It’s strange to have this QS 1,000 and the same wave then be worth 10,000 points at the end of the year. But if Young is anywhere near as good at that time as he was this week, then he can start to set his goals a bit higher than they might have already been.


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


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