Riley Laing (AUS) and Brisa Hennessy (HAW) were victorious at the Sunset Pro Junior today in clean 6-8-foot waves against a stacked field of teenage competitors who showed no reservations at the infamous big wave break.
Laing surfed four times today yet remained energized and strong through the final against Griffin Colapinto (USA), Christopher Bluthardt (HAW) and Noa Mizuno (HAW). Hennessy showed equal energy against competitors Meah Collins (USA), Zoe McDougall (HAW) and Honolua Blomfield (HAW) in shifting Sunset conditions during the women's final.
Seventeen-year-old Laing was the only Australian surfer of the competition, and took the win in a tight final against San Clemente's Colapinto, who held the lead for majority of the heat. Laing caught a wave in the dying minutes and managed two turns and a floater for a 6.8 and the win. The 25-minute final saw Oahu's Mizuno and Bluthardt place third and fourth respectively behind Colapinto.
Hailing from New South Wales, Laing has been heralded as the youngest surfer to tackle Shipsterns Bluff, a Tasmanian big wave slab, at only 13 years old. But a big win had evaded the 17-year-old, until now.
"This is my first win since Under 12, I had one win in Under 12's and then after that I'd get a lot of fourths, seconds, so I'm stoked to get a win at Sunset, it's one of my favorite waves on the North Shore," said Laing post Final. "Had an amazing time out there… All my mates like Griffin and Noa, so good to surf against all those boys, everyone was ripping the whole day, so hats off to them."
The women's final was a tough matchup against three of Oahu's top junior talents: Hennessy, 16, McDougall, 16, and Blomfield, 16, and also saw former Sunset Junior Pro winner Meah Collins (USA), 16 representing from California.
Hennessy recently returned from Portugal where she competed in the World Junior Championships, and mentions that this win at Sunset is a good start to 2016.
"This win means a lot to me because I'm trying to qualify for World Juniors again," the Kailua local said. "I did it actually recently in Portugal so I'm just trying to re qualify. We only have three events here for the Pro Junior circuit, so I'm just really happy to get a win here, to maybe hopefully get another spot into the World Juniors."
The surfer has seen great success so far in her career, but Sunset has been a challenge to overcome.
"This win feels amazing, I mean I've always kind of had a difficult time at Sunset, and my coach Kahea Hart and Kekoa Bacalso and Greg Nakamura and Pancho Sullivan all help me overcome and just learn more about Sunset and I'm just so blessed to have taken the win here."
A JP1,000 event, Laing and Hennessy racked up points toward their regional ranking and took home a check for $2,000 and $900 respectively. The Sunset Pro Junior marks the first competition of the World Surf League (WSL) 2016 Hawaii schedule, and will be followed up by the Sunset Pro Men's QS1,000 event during this holding period, with contest officials looking forward to a week's worth of waves on the horizon.