2015 Sunset Beach Pro Top Picks
The waiting period is open for the 2015 Sunset Beach Pro — the first and most prestigious event of the men’s Standup World Tour — with giant swell forecasted to deliver yet another epic start to the World Tour season on Oahu’s North Shore. Sunset is a massive arena among Oahu’s most famous proving grounds, making the opening event-title of the world tour the most coveted win of the season. As the tour rounds into its 6th year of competition, the international lineup of competitors is an all-star cast of world-class athletes, all hungry to start the season strong. Here are SUP magazine’s top picks for the 2015 Sunset Beach Pro.
1. Kai Lenny
It’s no secret that current world champion, Maui’s Kai Lenny, is far and beyond the most well-rounded waterman on the Standup World Tour. At only 22 years old, Kai’s track record speaks for itself — four out of five SUP surfing world titles, three years in a row finishing top-2 in the Standup World Series race league, a win at this year’s first-ever Standup competition at Pipeline, star of the recently released film, The SUP Movie, and a reputation for SUP surfing 30-foot + Jaws. After finishing second last year at the Sunset Pro, first in 2013 and second in 2012, Kai is the undoubtable favorite going into the sixth season tour-opener.
2. Sean Poynter
California’s Sean Poynter — third-place overall finisher of the 2014 Standup World Tour season — spent all of January in New Zealand for an intense training program before coming to Hawaii to prepare for the Sunset Pro. Upon returning home from New Zealand, and then to Hawaii to train for the contest, Poynter told SUP, “I’ve been a sponsored competitor since the seventh grade, and I feel like I really just started my career as a professional athlete. I am in the best shape of my life.” Poynter was a man on a mission in the 2014 season, championing the men’s most recent competition, Location X Morocco, with multiple excellent scores ahead of friend and Starboard teammate Zane Schweitzer in the final. While a title at Sunset has historically eluded Starboard’s top surf competitor, look out for a breakthrough performance in this week’s competition.
3. Caio Vaz
The Brazilian contingent is alive and thriving on this year’s Standup World Tour, with no more an exemplary competitor than last year’s Sunset Beach Pro winner, Caio Vaz. Vaz came in second on last year’s world tour—and the year before that—nipping at the heal’s of Kai Lenny with winning performances on the tour’s first two stops, Hawaii and Brazil. Along with brother Ian Vaz, who took 9th on last year’s tour, look out for the Art in Surf athlete to rally hard to win a second SUP world title for Brazil in 2015, beginning with a top rank at Sunset.
4. Leco Salazar
Leco Salazar had a comparatively tough season in 2014, finishing 8th overall after losing a neck-and-neck final against Kai Lenny at the tour’s final stop in France. But don’t let last year’s stats fool you — Leco is the only competitor whose name isn’t “Kai Lenny” to hold a world title, which the Brazilian took in 2012 with a narrow but defining lead on runner-up Sean Poynter. Vengeance is as motivating a factor as any, and after last year, expect Salazar to seek redemption with a no-holds-barred approach at the 2015 Sunset Beach Pro.
SUP’s predicted shocker: Zane Schweitzer
That game-changing, month-long training program Sean Poynter attended in New Zealand? Yeah, Zane Schweitzer was there as well. Schweitzer, a long-time world tour SUP and surf competitor who’s traditionally made his mark at the head of the race pack, is also in the best shape of his life coming into the 2015 surf season, and he’s no slouch when it comes to powerful waves like Sunset, even on his backhand. It won’t be a shocker if Schweitzer takes the crown, since he’s a proven contender coming from a clan of standout SUP athletes, but it’ll definitely be an upset for which we’ll take pride in claiming foresight.
SUP’s thoughts go out to: Mo Freitas
North Shore’s own Mo Freitas suffered a broken pelvis in the weeks leading up to the Sunset Beach Pro during a surf session at Haleiwa Beach. As of now, he’s steadily recovering but not able to compete in this year’s season opener. Look out for last year’s 6th-ranked overall world tour competitor to come back strong for Brazil in April. Get well soon, Mo!
Stay tuned to watermanleague.com for updates on the competition, which coordinators expect will kick off tomorrow. Tune in there for the live webcast.
Check back with SUPthemag.com for exclusive event coverage, athlete interviews and photos from the 2015 Sunset Beach Pro.