Buoyed by the success of 2x World Champion John John Florence and the gritty determination of Ezekiel Lau and Keanu Asing, a quartet of Hawaii's junior stars are signaling there's plenty more to come. While the upcoming Volcom Pipe Pro (Jan. 29 - Feb. 10) will put a spotlight on Hawaii's incredibly expansive depth chart, we asked WSL analyst Kaipo Guerrero for his insights on four of the Aloha state's breakthrough performers over the past year: Finn McGill, Barron Mamiya, Cody Young and Imaikalani Devault .
Guerrero has been watching these guys since they were surfing in the menehune division. "What separates the best Hawaiian surfers apart from each other isn't talent or preparation, it's something I call travel-ability," said Guerrero. "To travel well and stay focused when you're stuck in a place where the surf is inferior to home -- that's a difficult transition. But I think all four of these guys have what it takes to overcome that."
Finn McGill, age 17
Sunset Beach, Oahu
In December of 2016, at the age of 16, Finnegan Thunders McGill claimed a huge win at the most competitive trials event on tour: The Pipe Invitational on Oahu's North Shore. Not content, earlier this month, after a long recovery from a skateboard injury, McGill hit another milestone in Kiama, NSW, where he was just crowned the 2017 World Junior Champion. One of the biggest perks of that feat is a guaranteed late-round seed in any 2018 Qualifying Series event he enters. So McGill is hoping to follow the path just blazed by Californian's Griffin Colapinto, who leveraged the same fast-track seed he earned during the 2016 World Junior Championship to become the 2017 Qualifying Series champ. "Finn's CT-bound, for sure," says Guerrero. "He's got the seed, and his surfing checks all the boxes. I don't want to jinx him, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't on the CT in 2019. He's a smart kid, level-headed and he's got the travel-ability factor dialed. He just needs to stay off his skateboard."
Barron Mamiya, age 17
"He's a prodigy, his natural ability is astounding and he has great surfing in his DNA," Guerrero says. "Hawaii produces freakish talent, whether it's Andy Irons or John John Florence, Barron could be the next one in that lineage. His Pipe act is crazy. He's taking his surfing to another level, it's amazing to watch." High praise for a surfer not yet old enough to vote. Mamiya's surfing on the way to a 5th place finish at the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach, riding a 6'4" in huge conditions, was electric -- a combination of raw talent meets youthful exuberance. The performance earned him a well-deserved 2017 Triple Crown of Surfing Rookie of the Year honor. With a Pipe Pro Junior title already under his belt, the Volcom Pipe Pro could be the perfect send-off for Mamiya's maiden voyage on the QS Tour.
Cody Young, age 18
Cody Young's aggressive back-footed style and heavy metal power surfing is a mix of two of the Valley Isle's finest -- former CT surfer Dusty Payne and Maui legend Kaimana Henry. "I call him the man-child because he is full size, at 16 he was already man-sized and he possesses the wherewithal to structure a heat and compete at a very high level," says Guerrero. Young had a highly-decorated amateur career, winning the prestigious US Open of Surfing Pro Junior title at Huntington Pier this past summer, as well as grabbing the Bronze medal at the 2017 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships in Japan. "He's a power surfer and that could be a challenge on the QS, but in any wave of consequence, he's a surfer to watch out for."
Imaikalani Devault, age 20
Devault may be the least well known of the bunch (he was voted #1 Most Underrated in Surfing Magazine's Peer Poll a couple years back), but he's long on the upside. Once known best for his stylish aerial game and stunning section in Volcom's film, True To This, Devault was a standout local performer on the North Shore this winter at the first two events of the Triple Crown of Surfing. "He has tremendous mechanics to his surfing and he's naturally gifted. Technique-wise, he's amazing," said Guerrero. "Like Ezekiel Lau, Imai's a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools -- where education is heavily stressed. Unlike a lot of the home-schooled kids, however, he couldn't take a bunch of days off to go surfing. He's earned his surfing the hard way, much like Zeke. So, to me, he's someone who has that added drive to succeed."