The HIC Pro, the official local qualifier for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, will kickstart a powerful El Niño winter in Hawaii this year with the youngest, deepest crop of professional talent this 32-year event has ever seen. The HIC Pro is a World Surf League QS3,000-rated event that offers critical qualification points for Qualifying Series (QS) surfers working to make the elite Championship Tour (CT) in 2016.
With 59 local athletes qualifying for a start in the 112-man HIC Pro field, Hawaii equates for more than half of the contenders and remarkably, 34 percent are teenagers. At just 14 years old, Joh Azuchi (JPN) will be the youngest competitor in the HIC Pro while at age 15, Finn McGill (HAW) is the region's youngest contender.
If the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing represents the biggest stage in professional surfing, then the HIC Pro provides a first look at its future champions.
"The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is the holy grail of surfing to Hawaiians and the HIC Pro is a critical stepping stone to reach it for local surfers," said Jodi Wilmott, WSL Hawaii General Manager.
"The HIC Pro is hugely important in this capacity. Our kids cannot come out of their school years and graduate straight onto surfing's global pro stage. It requires strategic competitive steps to get there and the HIC Pro is exactly that. Without events like this, there is no path to the top for our Hawaii kids."
Back in 2005, John John Florence (HAW) was just 13 and made history as the youngest athlete to compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. He went on to win the title twice by the age of 22. North Shore's McGill is keen to follow in his footsteps.
"I'm so stoked that I finally qualified for the HIC Pro," McGill says. "Last year I waited all day, every day for an alternate spot to open. I honestly can't wait."
Looking to compete among Hawaii's top athletes this October, the North Shore surfer is feeling confident, despite the fact that Sunset is traditionally regarded as a heavy-water wave.
"It just comes naturally to me because I've surfed Sunset all of my life. I love it," he said.
Mental and physical fitness, along with specific wave knowledge are key to doing well at Sunset Beach. The HIC Pro provides the opportunity for young aspirants like McGill, as well as seasoned professionals, to fine-tune their winter game and equipment in advance of the Vans Triple Crown.
Catch the action live daily on the HIC Pro website from October 18 - November 10.