If Wednesday's iconic Sunset conditions weren't enough, finals day at the men's Qualifying Series (QS) Sunset Open 1,000-level event received more pumping swell. In the end, it was Maui's Cody Young who dominated a heavily-stacked Final to claim his first-ever QS win after powering through a marathon day in 12-to-15 foot swell on hand.
Young faced three former Sunset victors including defending event champion, and fellow Maui native, Billy Kemper, 2017 Sunset Open winner Jack Robinson, and 2018 HIC Pro champ Kiron Jabour of Oahu, Hawaii. But, the first-time QS finalist put nerves aside and posted an impeccable 17.77 (out of a possible 20) heat total -- including a near-perfect 9.10 (out of a possible 10) and 8.67 back-to-back.
"I've been surfing Sunset since I was 10-years-old, so to make my first Final and take it out here means the world," Young said. "I've had a lot of big Finals where I trip myself out going into it thinking I'm stoked to make the Final, and that was it. This time I treated it like any other heat and I couldn't be happier that it worked out like that. I knew I was going to have to throw huge scores just having Billy, who won it last year in that heat. Along with Jack who's been so good out here and was really in-form, and then Kiron who just won here in October so I almost felt like the underdog."
Young's consistency was the key to earn him a Finals appearance after securing a spot into the Quarterfinals and Semifinals with runner-up advancements before taking over his Semifinal heat against fellow Maui natives Imaikalani deVault and Ian Gentil, along with eventual fourth-place finisher Jabour. Now, the young competitor prepares for a big 2019 with 1,000 points to jumpstart his season before next week's Volcom Pipe Pro QS 3,000.
"It's definitely a good start to the year and I'll carry a lot of confidence into the rest of this season," Young continued. "I could use a little bit of money right now so it's definitely going to pay off. I'm going to carry a lot of confidence into the higher-rated events and hopefully qualify for the Tour eventually."
Robinson: Sunset Technician At Work
Young's overpowering presence in the Final put all of his fellow competitors in a combination situation, meaning they needed two new scores to total Young's. Until eventual runner-up Robinson unleashed a near-perfect 9.50, the event's highest single-wave score, under the ten-minute mark to give himself a fighting chance. The Australian posted the event's best heat total of an 18.37 in his Quarterfinal before breezing past his Semifinal bout. But, Robinson couldn't find the score to back up his near-perfection before the final horn sounded.
"I'm stoked to get a warm-up at firing Sunset and surf against some good names and that was a pretty good heat," Robinson said. "It felt great to get some heats in and get the blood flowing. As soon as Cody got those big scores I thought 'Oh yeah, here we go. This will be fun.' I was totally confident about getting another big score but just ran out of time. I've made a fair few Finals at Sunset so hopefully I can keep it rolling forever (laughs). I'm looking forward to getting on the Tour at some point and hoping to do it this year -- it's time."
Consistency Is Key For Kemper
Finishing third and fourth place, respectively, Kemper and Jabour put on a powerful display of surfing throughout the event that culminated in a Finals appearance to start 2019. Kemper remains one of the most consistent surfers at Sunset in recent memory with four Finals in the last five years - among varying events - including his win last year.
"I'm really glad with how consistent I was able to be making back-to-back Finals, that was my goal coming in and I couldn't be more stoked for Cody," Kemper said. "If anyone was going to win I was hoping it'd be Cody. I always love to see Maui on top."
2018 HIC Pro Champ Jabour Goes Back-to-Back Finals at Sunset
One of the event dark horses, Jabour, snuck his way into this year's Final with advancing through Round 4, Quarterfinal, and Semifinal affairs before a shot at his second Sunset win in just three months. But, it wasn't to be and now he, along with the other three finalists, moves into the Volcom Pipe Pro.
"It feels good to make another Final out here and I wanted to win but the boys were just in rhythm," Jabour said. "It was pumping conditions and just a good start to the year. Now it's time to keep working at it and get ready for next week. The Volcom Pipe Pro is a 3,000 and that's when points really start to matter."
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. Full results and heats scores are available at worldsurfleague.com and on the free WSL app.
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.
The next event on the Hawaii/ Tahiti Nui schedule is the Volcom Pipe Pro QS 3,000 beginning January 29 - February 10.