Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau hammered out his second victory at the HIC Pro today after taking on a beast heat that included Australia's Wade Carmichael, Maui's Tanner Hendrickson and North Shore's Mason Ho at Sunset Beach. This win grants Lau 3,000 points and moves him up three spots on the Qualifying Series (QS) ranking to the No. 9 position, after coming off of a massive win at the EDP Billabong Pro Cascais QS10,000 in October.
"I was coming into this event with the goal to win and get that 3,000 points and put me that much closer to requalification," commented Lau. "I had a little bit of a rough year on tour, I've had moments where I had good performances but a lot of it was just a learning curve for me and getting used to everything, so I really want to be there next year to get a better grasp of it and hopefully take some bigger guys down."
The 112-man field at the HIC Pro narrowed down to the four most in-form surfers of the competition, including Ho who has won the event in 2016 and 2013. The Final kicked off with Hendrickson putting the first score on the board, but Lau quickly pulled into the lead with a 4.83 for a few strong turns. Carmichael's power style was well-suited at Sunset and he scored a 5.77 on his first ride and followed up with an 8.00 to pull ahead of Lau.
The Australian seemed to unload every ounce of power into his surfing and looked nearly unbeatable, but Lau unleashed an aerial 360 no-grab maneuver for a 9.33 - the best wave of the day and second highest score of the event - and landed the win.
"I was kind of roaming a little bit in the beginning just trying to make something happen and then once he (Wade Carmichael) got his big score I was like alright, it's time to go big, so I started launching," said Lau. "I was super pumped, I kind of just Hail Mary-ied it and threw it up. I knew the wind was good for it. I've never done an air on this board, this is the first day I'm even riding it so for everything to just come together like that I was super stoked, I was pretty pumped paddling back out."
Carmichael was a true standout throughout the three days of competition and will now head into the Hawaiian Pro QS10,000 rated No. 8 - just one spot above Lau - on the QS.
"I'm feeling pretty good, would have felt better to get number one but it's a good start to my season here and hopefully I can take some momentum into Haleiwa," said Carmichael of his runner up finish at Sunset. "Just a bit of extra confidence is always good. The more heats you get the more used to your boards and more comfortable you get."
A World Surf League (WSL) QS3,000 event, the HIC Pro is the official local qualifier into the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and saw nine surfers from Hawaii earn a spot into the coveted surfing series, one of which was Maui's Cody Young. At just 18 years old, he was the youngest athlete to advance in the competition and narrowly missed out after a buzzer-beater heat by Hendrickson in the Semifinals. A bittersweet ending for Young, the junior will take his momentum into the Hawaiian Pro, which has a holding period from November 12 - 24.