Maui surfers Levi Young, Kai Paula thrive at Sunset Pro pres. by HIC
The World Surf League Sunset Pro presented by HIC, a regional Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 event, got competition underway as two-to-three foot swell began pulsing through Vals Reef of Sunset Beach.
Despite small conditions, competitors rose to the occasion and overpowered the waves with commanding performances in their Round of 96 and Round of 64 debuts. With the Round of 96 and Round of 64, Heats 1 – 4, contested in their entirety, remaining top-seeded competitors await their debuts.
Unfazed by the smaller conditions, Kylen Yamakawa (HAW) unleashed a day’s best performance on his backhand to earn a 14.90 (out of a possible 20) heat total and excellent 8.50 (out of a possible 10). The Honolulu, Oahu competitor was a standout at the first event of the 2022/23 season, the Priority Destinations Pro presented by Mastercard at Ala Moana Bowls, in his hometown and brought that confidence to the North Shore. The 30-year-old kept his approach light-hearted and it seemed to be a winning formula once again.
“The strategy was basically just like surfing a mock heat in the water at our local spot at Kewalos,” said Yamakawa. “So that was the strategy, to just have fun. I told my wife since Ala Moana Bowls went so well and if I can somehow squeak out a result here and qualify for the Challenger Series, then we’ll choose an event or two and make it a family vacation. For us it’s just have fun and if we can get a little travel in, that’s the goal.”
Maui’s Levi Young (HAW) also put on a clinic in his Round of 96 debut, accruing an remarkable 14.65 and 8.25 of his own with a dominant forehand attack. The now 18-year-old witnessed his older brother, Cody, win this event in 2019 and that helped spark ambitions of his own.
“I’m stoked to surf Sunset again, I love this wave,” said Young. “It felt great to get going, I haven’t started a heat like that in awhile and getting my points up early feels good. Seeing my brother (Cody) win this was so sick and I want to do it one day. I’m stoked to be in this event and give it a go.”
Fellow Mauian, rising talent Kai Paula (HAW) found his footing in a brilliant debut to earn an excellent 8.00 and move into the top-seeded Round of 64. Paula earned an equal 33rd at this event the last time it ran in 2020 and will be looking to better that after a tough start to his 2022/23 QS season at the Priority Destinations Pro presented by Mastercard.
“It felt really good to put a jersey on again and get right into a good rhythm,” said Paula. “I love coming to the North Shore to compete and I’m excited to make it happen, and get a result. This year I’ve been working on some filming and I also want to get on the Challenger Series.”
The Hawaiʻi/Tahiti Nui region is stacked with teenage talent and Jackson Dorian(HAW) added his name to that list in his WSL debut. Noted as one to watch as he grew under the influence of his father, former Championship Tour (CT) competitor and surfing icon Shane Dorian, the 16-year-old utilized his dynamic forehand to win both his Round of 96 and 64 heats. Both Dorian and Isaiah Moniz (HAW) eliminated top-seeded surfers Koa Smith (HAW) and Eala Stewart (HAW) to mark the first big upset of competition.
“It was good (to win both those heats), I was super nervous after a scary start in the last heat but got two good ones in the end,” said Dorian. “This kind of feels like Big Island right now, it’s smaller and fun little rights which is my favorite. I have the size advantage and it feels like home so I’m comfortable.”
Robert Grilho (HAW) added to that list of upsets by helping eliminate 2019 event victor Cody Young (HAW) as Luke Tema (HAW) and MaiKai Burdine (HAW) notched big Round of 64 wins.
Also, putting on an impressive showcase with a big heat win, Philippe Chagas (BRA) garnered a 13.15 heat total as Kala Willard (HAW), Alex Smith (HAW), Makai McNamara (HAW), Jae Wood (HAW), Gregg Nakamura (HAW), Kainaru Kato(HAW), Liam Wilson (HAW), and Sage Tutterow (HAW).
The event is also supported by the Hawaiʻi Youth Surfing Development Organization (HYSDO), a local nonprofit working to support Hawaiʻi’s next generation through career and competitive development, in and out of the water.
Event organizers will reconvene to make a 7 a.m. HST call for a possible 8 a.m. HST start.
The Sunset Pro presented by HIC will run on the best three days of the event window beginning Oct. 28 – Nov, 6.
For more information, please visit www.WorldSurfLeague.com.