Andy Irons, Sunny Garcia, Derek Ho - a trio of names that rings a bell for any Hawaii surf enthusiast.
These three legends represent the only local surfers who have been crowned World Champion, the most prestigious title in professional surfing. But Hawaii hasn't seen a male homegrown champ since Irons claimed it back in 2004, which seems nearly impossible given the uncanny talent that erupts from the remote chain of islands in the Pacific. Cue names like Sebastian Zietz, Jamie O'Brien and Mason Ho for a reminder of Hawaii's ferocious aptitude and who could leave out North Shore's golden boy and WSL's current Championship Tour frontrunner, John John Florence.
Meanwhile, there is a fresh and undeniably progressive clutch of kids that also claim stake to Hawaii's waves and are surfacing via the WSL Junior Qualifying Series (JQS). While these groms might have a long row to hoe in terms of chasing the Tour, it is not far-fetched to think WSL Hawaii is currently grooming the World Champions of tomorrow.
The final chance at regional qualification for the World Junior Championship takes place October 11 - 15 during the Turtle Bay Resort Pro Junior, which will see nearly 60 boys and girls vie for six coveted slots. The current top four boys and top two girls on Hawaii's regional ratings will fight to maintain their place and ultimately qualify to compete in the Championships in Australia.
Cody Young (Makawao, Maui), Noa Mizuno (Kuliouou, Oahu), Noah Hill (west side, Maui) and Christopher Bluthardt (Honolulu, Oahu) lead the men's rankings respectively, while Brisa Hennessy (Kailua, Oahu) and Zoe McDougall (Sunset Beach, Oahu) hold the top two spots in the women's division.
North Shore mainstay and former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Pancho Sullivan spoke about the deep talent pool in Hawaii and what it means for the future of the sport. "With the WSL supporting the junior program and all of the coaching and support the next generation has, I think we are going to continue to see an even greater number of surfers on tour from all of the Hawaiian Islands."
Who is on Sullivan's grom radar? "Obviously Cody Young would be a favorite, but I wouldn't count out anyone who has been putting in the work," he said. On the women's side, Pancho named regional ratings leader Brisa Hennessy. "She is incredibly smart, works incredibly hard and is committed to her development. She is an ISA World Champion now and already has the experience of competing on the biggest stage. She seems to understand the blueprint of how to get to the next level and enjoys being a student of her craft."
Former World Tour surfer and progressive surfing legend Shane Beschen furthers the notion of the upcoming generation: "The next crop of Hawaii juniors are an incredible group of well-rounded surfers who can excel in all conditions. I think they will have a great future in the sport of surfing."
Beschen's son, Noah, is one of the top 15-and-under aerial standouts on the North Shore and will be competing at the Turtle Bay Resort Pro Junior. Noah has been traveling this year for QS events but looks to hone his skills this winter at home.
Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau has been surfing and traveling with Cody Young and Noa Mizuno as Quiksilver team riders and predicts a bright future for the juniors. "They are the next big talents coming out of Hawaii," said Lau, also adding Barron Mamiya and Kaulana Apo to the mix. "All these kids possess the certain set of gifts it takes to compete at the top level," said Lau. "But only time will tell who will rise to the occasion."