Round 4 fired up the competition at Tahiti's Rangiroa Open Pro as surfers tallied record wave scores to fight for a slot in the Quarterfinals. Hawaii's Kaito Kino secured a perfect 10-point ride, the second of the day and third of the event.
Kaito, 21, man-handled a set wave after taking off deep and pulling into a tube, then defied odds by making an exit and pulling in for another barrel.
"I saw a big set coming in and I thought I was too deep," said the Honolulu native. "I saw the other guys paddling for it so I just went. I pulled in and it had this big chandelier and then I was on the foam ball. I was just staying relaxed...the foam ball kicked me and gave me speed and pushed me out, then I came around and got another barrel. I was psyched."
Kino's first time to Tahiti has made a huge impression, and the young surfer says it might just be his new favorite place.
"I'm enjoying this contest so much and I'm feeling good. Everyone's been ripping!," he continued. "I'm really stoked to see all the Tahitians getting sick barrels and the Hawaiians are doing really well too. I'm just having fun and I really like watching guys getting barreled."
Another impressive 10-point wave was completed by 17-year-old Mauiki Raioha (PYF), his second of the event. Judges voted unanimously on the well-executed barrel, a perfect 10 for the books. He wasn't able, however, to find a solid backup score to advance.
In Round 4 of Heat 1, the undeniable leader was Kai Mana Henry (HAW), who attacked the 12-foot faces with classic power surfing. Henry posted two near-perfect scores, a 9.50 and 9.25, for the highest two-wave total of the event, an 18.75. The rapid-fire heat kept spectators on their toes as Tahitians and Hawaiians tackled the shifting lineup.
Henry, 37, talked about the level of surfing from the Tahitians today:
"Their barrels are unbelievable, they're so good out here. They push it so hard and they want it so bad and it's their home so they really want to make a statement. It's amazing to see these guys charge like that."
The Maui native also mentioned that the new Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region has been a huge advantage.
"It's great, I think it's the best idea they could have come up with. Just to have that many more contests for all of us to qualify to get into these contests is a blessing. And all the Tahitian people are so nice and welcoming, there is so much aloha, you feel like you're at home here and it's just perfect."
Still in the running is local standout Heifara Tahutini (PYF), who nudged Raioha out of the competition, despite his 10. Staying busy throughout the 30-minute heat, Tahutini clocked a 9.90 on a set wave and pulled deep into the barrel for some serious shade. Although his backup score was a mid-range 5.00, it was enough to lock him into the Quarterfinals.
Contest organizers anticipate a 7:00am start in the morning with a midday break depending on the Hotu A Ura Pass currents. A winner will be crowned tomorrow, the final day of the holding period, around 2:00pm in similar wave conditions that were seen today.