Sunset Beach provided a combination of short period swells from the N and NNW today, in the 6 to 8ft range, signaling the start to the HIC Pro - an $95,000 ASP 4 star World Qualifying Series event and Official Qualifier for the upcoming Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The action heated up quickly as competitors set to work in the early rounds of competition.
After a standout performance here last year, Maui's Ian Walsh advanced through the first heat of the day and setting the pace in the tricky conditions.
"There's good waves out there it's just a really big playing field, so it's challenging to be in the right spot when the good one comes," said Walsh. "It's a bit of hit and miss, and if you get a good wave there's no room to mess up at all."
Most at home in larger, more challenging conditions, Walsh's experience always bodes well for him at Sunset.
Billy Kemper, the 2010 HIC Sunset Pro champion, showed a continuation of form with a first place heat win in Round 2.
"The conditions are actually pretty similar to the year that I won, not ideal conditions for Sunset, but it could be worse, it could be small," explained Kemper.
"The swell is breaking out in the middle (of the lineup), where it's deeper water and a lot harder to get a couple turns on a wave than it would be if it was from the west."
Kemper, born on Maui, now lives on the North Shore of Oahu and calls Sunset Beach his backyard. It showed. He took the highest total heat score score of the day.
For young up and coming surfers, the HIC PRO is an important opportunity to put on a jersey along side world famous local legends and past champions and hone their skills at what has long been considered the most challenging wave in the world - referring to the vastness of the Sunset Beach break, and the voluminous, powerful nature of the swells that pitch here.
At 17 years old, Jake Davis (San Clemente, CA) was able to produce an important, confidence boosting heat win in round 2.
"I've been coming to the North Shore every winter since I was three years old," said Davis. "This is my favorite place to come. I think this is the proving grounds. This is where everyone needs to show what they can do."
Another young standout was Riley Laing from (NSW, Australia). Just 16 years old, Lang took first in his Round 1 match-up, and second in Round 2 heat, with aspirations to further his course in the competition. His passion for powerful surf showed and will put him in good stead in this event.
"I love Hawaii, big swells and so much power in the waves," said Laing. "I love riding big boards and everything about Hawaii, I just love it."
Jeames Young, the 17 year old from Burleigh Heads, Australia advanced in second through this heat behind legend and past champion Sunny Garcia, 44, but not without struggle. Sunny schooled his challengers, with Young only advancing with a 7.27 total out of a possible 20.
"It was a close affair, but that's Sunset", explained Young. "(Garcia) was on the good ones, I kind of got the scraps, but that's the way it went. Stoked to make it through with Sunny."
Garcia, on the other hand, used superior contest experience and 28 years of local knowledge to clearly shine, brushing aside his younger competitors' heat strategies.
"The more they paddle up the point, the more I paddle up the point and it becomes this stupid game," said Garcia. "Everyone's sitting too far up the point, no one's getting waves. Frustrating to say the least, you know, because you want to just surf a heat and not play silly little games with the kids. I know that if I get one turn in I'm going to get a good score. If they want to play that game, I'm going to win every time." explained Sunny.
Vans presents The HIC Pro, an Official Qualifier for the upcoming Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The event requres 3 full days of surfing to crown a champion. Competition is expected to resume tomorrow morning as the present swell persists.