Keanu Asing earned a career-best result today at the Quiksilver Pro France, staving off the charge of Gabriel Medina to take out a vital victory in his quest for requalification in 2017. The diminutive Hawaiian jumps up twelve spots to 21st on the Jeep Leaderboard after his win over the 2014 World Champion, not only furthering his own cause but also helping shore up the gap fellow Hawaiian John John Florence maintains over Medina at the top of the ratings.
As things stand with just two events to go -- Peniche, Portugal followed by Pipeline in Hawaii -- Florence will head into the next event not only wearing the yellow jersey but with a 2700 point lead on his 2016 World Title rival. Had Medina won the Quik Pro, that gap would have been just 700.
As the tide dropped and the power faded from the newly arrived swell, inevitable comparisons were being made with Kewalo Basin, a left in Waikiki that Asing grew up surfing. Despite his own earlier, modest assertion that his "only secret was hard work," it was ultimately a timely display of tight, technical, and tactical surfing that saw Asing emerge from the Final victorious. Along the way, he put the much-fancied Medina in combos. Twice.
"The work's not done yet," an elated Asing said of his requalification quest. "I hope I did something good for John too, after beating him in our Semi. It literally felt like two lifetimes out there… I have no words to explain this feeling."
Asing came into the event as a rank outsider for the win. He wasn't an underdog only because of a run of patchy results on the tour this season, but also due to the not inconsiderable amount of time that has passed since he last found himself atop a podium.
"I never even made a WQS final, so this is crazy to win a Championship Tour event," he said. "Every time I put on a jersey it's to try and win, but honestly, the last time I won an event was probably as a junior. Looking at my results, I just came off a 25th at Trestles. But 90 percent is between your ears, it's all about confidence."
As the win continued to sink in, Asing's thoughts also turned to the sizable financial rewards of a Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour win. "I just got engaged, so maybe that helped inspire me too… now at least we have some money to pay for the wedding."
If there was anyone in France more pleased to learn that the remaining three heats of the Quiksilver Pro France were to be moved some quarter of a mile north to Guardians this afternoon, it was defending event champion Gabriel Medina. The Brazilian has been staying right above the back-up venue and surfing it more than anyone. Yet, after advancing from his Semi with Kolohe Andino with a typically audacious display that included a crowd-rousing, full rotation alley-oop mid-priority paddle battle, Medina appeared to have peaked one heat too early, and never hit his stride in the Final. Still, if he was rueing the points surge that win would have brought, he showed very little sign of it.
"Congratulations to both Keanu and Carissa, they deserved it," said Medina, who was the defending event champion. "Of course Tyler, too. I'm super proud of her, I'm a good friend of Owen so I'm stoked for them. I would've loved the win but making the Final brings the gap closer, it feels good to be closer. This was a good warm-up for Portugal, I'll never give it up."
As dusk began to fall and temperatures continued to plummet, making it feel like Finals day had not only shifted banks but also climate zones, the final word was left to the man whose last victory came before he'd reached drinking age.
And befittingly for so unassuming and humble a victor, even that was a doting tribute to past greats.
"I've seen Andy Irons do this when I was growing up," said Asing, grabbing the mic and sending the crowd off to commence the evening's festivities. "Merci beaucoup!"