Kauai boys make early waves at Volcom Pipe Pro

  • Keoki/WSL

    Danny Fuller slams the lip during his first-round heat at the Volcom Pipe Pro, Saturday on Oahu. The Kauai surfer went on to win that opening heat, but he was then knocked out in round two.

It was by no means a stellar day of surf at Pipeline on Saturday. What is often an ocean winter paradise was more of a punchy beach break. Any barrels were fleeting head high shampoo rinsers and barely navigable. But with an inconsistent waiting period ahead and a deep field on hand, the Volcom Pipe Pro got underway in some tough winds, a strong current and diminishing open faces.

Despite those difficulties, Kauai’s representatives did a great job surviving and hoping for better days ahead.

Tyler Newton, coming off his victory at Da Hui Backdoor Shootout, made it through his two heats on the day to move into round three. Newton had an early start, slated in the first heat of round one. He didn’t seem to mind as he advanced in second place along with Kaito Kino. He was then able to get through with another second behind Justin Becret in round two. The second heat was a little more dicey and Newton managed to jump into that necessary spot on his final ride.

He has shown what he’s capable of at Pipeline in the big conditions. Saturday showed some additional versatility and grit to just keep himself in the mix on a day when some of his best attributes weren’t going to be able to shine.

Gavin Gillette pulled double duty as well and managed to win each of his two heats on the day. He and Makuakai Rothman got through in round one. Gillette was then the veteran in round two and performed as such with a casual two-wave effort that easily netted him the top spot. The Kilauea surfer’s best Volcom Pipe Pro performance was a 25th place in 2015.

Also representing the Kilauea hui, Koa Smith had a slow start to his second-round heat but managed to smash the lip on his first substantial wave and threw up the best score of the heat on his way to victory. Smith has finished 13th at this event the past two seasons and always seems to be consistently on the verge of taking it down. He’s going to quickly have his work cut out for him because his third-round heat will also feature Billy Kemper and Kauai’s south side up and comer, Kainehe Hunt.

Hunt, who is also referred to as “long grom” thanks to his height and lanky limbs, had a battle in his second-round heat. He made the most of a pair of choppy waves with limited sections and advanced in second place, knocking off Maui’s Eli Hanneman in the process. This early matchup against Kemper, Smith and South Africa’s Jordy Maree will be one to watch. Kemper and Smith must be considered the favorites, but Hunt already carries himself like a veteran at just 17 years of age.

Evan Valiere did what he needed to do in order to pull off a second-round win. His 9.93 point total included the two best scores of his heat and he’ll head into round three hoping that the waves improve a bit to show some of his barrel prowess. Valiere maneuvered his way to the quarterfinals here last year for a ninth-place result.

Some notables who were not so fortunate on day one were Chris Foster, Danny Fuller, Eli Olson and Ulu Napeahi, all of whom are out of action. Today’s second day of competition will feature Kai Lenny and Kalani David in second-round heats, as well as the first glimpses of some of the top seeds including Jamie O’Brien and Dusty Payne in round three.

Sebastian Zietz, Ezekiel Lau and defending Volcom Pipe Pro champion Josh Moniz get another round off and will be in action when we get to round four. It could be a packed few days with the Surfline forecast indicating that Sunday through Wednesday are the best opportunities to complete the event.

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

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