Lay days for the men's Sunset Open QS 1,000 came to an end today with energy in the North Pacific beginning to show at one of North Shore, Oahu's, iconic breaks. The early goings are in the books with Round 1 and Round 2, Heats 1-12, completed.
Now, the stage is set for top seeds to make their debut tomorrow to face some of today's standouts and those who await their Round 2 starts.
Cole Frye Finds Sunset Redemption
One of those threats, Cole Frye, came out of the gates swinging early on in Round 1, with a 16.10 (out of a possible 20) heat total that would ultimately prove to be the day's best. Frye displayed a well-timed forehand attack to garner an early 8.00 (out of a possible 10) for the event's first excellent ride. In the day's last heat, Frye dramatically battled his way out of Round 2, finding the score he needed to advance with just seconds left on the clock. "I was so pumped after my first heat, I think the adrenaline was the biggest difference between surfing this morning and again this afternoon," Frye said. "I knew I needed the score, saw a set coming, and just turned and went for it -- super stoked to make it through."
Coming off a disappointing early loss in last Saturday's Sunset Pro Junior, 17-year-old Frye showed great poise in bouncing back and progressing to Round 3, where he will meet the event's top seeds. A new northwest swell gradually filled in at Sunset Beach over the course of the day, with clean offshore tradewinds gradually giving way to light sea breezes by midday.
Positioning and smart wave selection were the early keys to success, as the rising swell shifted the focus from Sunset Point toward the West Bowl by late morning.
"I'm really looking forward to surfing against some of my heroes," Frye continued. "Pumping Sunset with only a few guys out, should be really fun."
The Peruvians are Back, and in Good Form
Also making the most of today's conditions was Peru's Sebastian Correa, who dropped a massive 9.00 in his Round 2 heat for the highest wave score of the day. It was also the event's only successful barrel, with Correa threading through from deep off the Point, finding an exit and maintaining speed. One of four Peruvian surfers in the event, Correa was able to back himself up with enough to win his heat and move on to Round 3. "I didn't even know the heat had started, but I saw a good wave come after Chris [Foster] got the first wave, so I figured it was on," said Correa. "I saw the second wave and was in position, but I didn't see the barrel until I was standing up. It was so sick, I was so deep and I was stoked to make it." "I have some experience out here; it's helped me a lot to stay with Ezra Sitt at his house," Correa continued. "And, my brother [Alonso Correa] did well in the [Vans] Triple Crown here, so I called him before and he gave me some advice. I come to the North Shore every winter."
Ian Walsh Returns to Form at Sunset
The Maui native and big-wave specialist hit the water for the last heat of the day, taking advantage of the afternoon's best conditions with confident, on-rail surfing. Walsh has been victorious at Sunset before, and his seasoned experience was evident from the start. "It was challenging today to be in the right place when a set came, and with a new swell building it's a bit of time in between the good sets," reflected Walsh. "If you're out of position for a set you might not get another really good opportunity, so you really have to maximize whatever you stand up on." "I think the biggest thing that keeps me motivated is just the feeling of competing, and trying to figure out the ocean as best you can in such a short amount of time," Walsh continued. "I just enjoy surfing though. If the conditions and the forecast look really good, then I get really excited and I just want to surf. I guess the biggest thing is just putting on a jersey. I don't put it on too much during the year, so it's fun to have that little internal pressure to perform in a certain amount of time."
The Next Generation Continues to Show Face
The event was a blend of faces old and new, including Luke Swanson, who, along with Levi Young, was the youngest competitor today at the age of 14. Swanson bested Young to advance out of the Round 1 draw, but surfed his way into a tough Round 2 heat against 2015 Big Wave World Champion Makuakai Rothman, Eli Hanneman, and Ulualoha Napeahi. Though Swanson was unable to get past Round 2 today, he came away from the event with a Quarterfinal finish at the Sunset Pro Junior, gaining even more valuable Sunset Beach experience. "Those guys have been surfing out here their whole lives, so I'm not super bummed to lose -- it's a good learning experience because you can see what they're doing and how they're winning," said Swanson after his heat Round 2 heat. "I like surfing Sunset because it's kind of unexpected. It looks like it's going to slope and then it'll give you a lot of energy so you can do a big turn or carve. I have Freddy Patacchia Jr. helping me out, and wherever I can get advice from anyone around here I also try to do that."
"Today was all about working the Sunset lineup," Hawaii/ Tahiti Nui Tour Manager Marty Thomas said. "Trying to make heats and get into the business end of the draw. We're looking solid for potentially the best day of the holding period tomorrow [Wednesday January 23], with favorable winds as this swell peaks and top seeds hit the water." The Sunset Open/Pro Junior is presented by the Hawaii Youth Surfing Development Organization (HYSDO), a 501c3 nonprofit providing greater opportunities for local youth in and around surfing. Community partners (including WSL) are currently undertaking long-term erosion mitigation efforts at Sunset Beach. The public is encouraged to be mindful of limited parking, carpool or choose public transportation where possible, and use designated beach access points when on-site to protect the new sand dunes.