2017 Sunset Beach Pro: Early Rounds Update
The eighth annual Sunset Beach Pro and the season opener of the newly formed APP World Tour is off to a burly start with the best standup paddle surfers from across the globe gathered at Sunset’s formidable proving ground to test their ranks.
The competition kicked off Wednesday under a veil of heavy rain with unruly, double- and triple-overhead sets sloshing through the bay at Sunset. Contest directors almost had to call a lay-day due to the near impossible visibility. It was the type of conditions to put hair on a young contender’s chest.
“The weather earlier this week made me think I was in England instead of Hawaii,” APP World Tour leader Tristan Boxford told SUP magazine earlier today. “The rain was pouring like a waterfall through the scaffolding. It made the judges really work on the first day.”
The trial rounds got started early with impressive performances from a slew of prospective dark horses, not the least of which came from brothers Jeffrey and Finn Spencer. At just 13, Finn is the youngest competitor in the field.
On to the non-elimination heats of the Round One in the men’s division, likely contenders went to work with current world champion Caio Vaz taking the day’s second-highest score (15.44) behind the Tahitian title-threat Poenaiki Raioha, who dominated with a 17.24 heat total as the round carried into Day Two with better visibility but more wind.
“The standout performance of the men’s first round definitely came from Poenaiki Raioha,” said Boxford. “He comes prepared to contend every year and he’s looking better than ever.”
Raioha’s 9.17 Ride and Men’s Heat 7 Highlights
The Men’s Round Two Repocharge saw upsets for decorated Maui paddler Zane Schweitzer and the all-American Slater Trout, who were ousted from contention at the Sunset Beach Pro as the Brazilian former world champ Leco Salazar capped off their heat with a 13.7. Other contenders to advance before Round Two was put on standby yesterday included brothers Kieran and Fisher Grant, Kody Kerbox, and Carlos Bahia.
Next the women’s competition ensued, kicking off on a historic note with the event moving from Turtle Bay to Sunset for their first year competing at the new venue, leveling the playing field with the men.
And holy moly, did these women prove they’re capable. Current SUP racing world champion Fiona Wylde showed she’s been doing more than digging in the off season, putting her powerful surfing to good work and matching the men’s highest-scoring heat total with a 17.24.
Fiona Wylde’s 9.57 Ride and Women’s Heat 4 Highlights
“Fiona’s performance was phenomenal,” said Boxford. “The sets were pulsing in her heat and she got a bunch of great waves. She got probably the best wave of the day for a 9.57! It was incredible to see the women perform at this level out there.”
Brazilian former world champ Nicole Pacelli and the Australians Shakira Westdorp and Terrene Black also finished atop their own respective heats, with Black sending current world champ Izzi Gomez packing to the round two repocharge. -MM
Competition is picking up again today in iconic Sunset conditions and is expected to carry through Round Three of the men’s event and some of the women’s. Tune into the LIVE WEBCAST NOW for Day Three of the Sunset Beach Pro, and check the real-time event leaderboard for current scores.