Santa Cruz surfer Shaun Burns (USA) scored the first barrel and best ride of the WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui's 2018 competitive season at the Sunset Open, a Men's QS (QS) 1,000 event, after threading through a 10-foot tube and completing a swooping cutback turn on a beautiful set wave today at Sunset Beach.
In Round 2 Heat 2, Burns went against decorated athlete Kai Lenny (HAW), Edrick Baldwin (HAW) and Tyler Newton (HAW) and found his excellent ride midway through the 24-minute heat after battling back and forth with Lenny on mid-range scores.
"That was a good one, I was sitting a little bit wider than the other guys so they were just a tiny bit too deep," commented Burns on his 9.00 ride. "Once I realized that they weren't going I just swung it. With all this wind I think it opened up the barrel a little bit so I just slid right in and came out, I was just so stoked I came out. And then did another turn so I think with a barrel and a turn I got the good score."
Under the tutelage of seasoned pro Torrey Meister (HAW), Burns has traveled to the North Shore for the past two years and is using this event to gain valuable experience as he tallies up points on the professional tour.
"Thank you to the Meister family for letting me stay here right now," Burns continued. "Just learning from him, it's been fun every surf session and I'm learning more and more… That was probably the best wave I've ever had at Sunset."
The wind was a challenging element today and athletes battled gusts of up to 30mph, but for waterman Kai Lenny, it felt like just another day on Maui, notorious for its wind-blown surf. Lenny is coming off of an epic free surf session at Pe‘ahi Sunday, where wave heights reached 50-feet and the world's best big wave surfers set new standards.
"This past week we had an incredible big swell out of Pe‘ahi, Jaws, and comparing that to Sunset, you know I think Sunset is a little sister of Jaws, it's really powerful and one of the gnarlier waves on the North Shore when it's big," said Lenny. "The adjustment is pretty easy, I think it's harder to go from small waves to really big waves, versus going from really big waves to smaller waves, because nothing scares you after surfing 50-foot waves."
The 2018 Sunset Open marks one year since Lenny made his maiden appearance in a QS event. Last year, he advanced to the Sunset Open Semifinals and was ultimately ousted after an interference call cut his winning streak short.
"I'm just really excited to be pushing my surfing, the only way to get better at surfing is to obviously put your time in and that can take a while, but also, basically compete against the best surfers," said Lenny. "I'm just starting here on the QS and I feel like a 1,000 at Sunset is probably the equivalent of a 10,000 in terms of caliber of surfing… It actually keeps me really sharp for the Big Wave World Tour, I look at this more as a training aspect of my surfing more than anything. The goal is always to do as good as you can though, if you're going to compete you might as well win right?"
North Shore's Kalani David (HAW) returned to competition after breaking his wrist in 2017 a day before the Vans World Cup, and went against World Champion and 6x Vans Triple Crown winner Sunny Garcia (HAW) today in the opening heat of Round 2.
"I'm just pretty much putting on a jersey and going surfing with everyone I grew up surfing with… just another day out on the water surfing with Sunny, it was good, it was fun," said David. "I grew up watching Sunny surf and he was just looking for the sets and trying to do the biggest turns he could and I knew that, so I was trying to get more of the bowl-y waves. I tried to be a little more technical because I knew once he does three big turns, he'll get an 8. So I knew I had to do a little bit more."
David opened up the heat with a 5.25 for an early lead however Garcia grabbed his two best rides - a 4.40 and 7.40 - to pull ahead and put the pressure on David. The other two competitors in the heat, Landon McNamara (HAW) and Shinpei Horiguchi (JPN) tallied a few rides but were unable to catch up to the front runners to advance. David ended with a 7.60 and 6.75 for the heat win.
"I'm just looking forward to getting two waves and keep making heats until I hopefully make the Finals," David continued. "I've never won a QS yet and that's my biggest goal, and hopefully I can do it in my backyard at Sunset."
Aside from his wrist injury, in 2017 David underwent heart surgery after battling a rare genetic disorder that was uncovered during a life-threatening seizure. The athlete is stronger than ever now and proven to be incredibly resilient and motivated after competing in the 2017 HIC Pro and 2017 Hawaiian Pro.
"I'm feeling great. Two steps forward, one step back, but I'm feeling great," said David. "My wrist is a little sore, I'm having a little trouble with it right now, but I'm just taking care of myself, just trying to keep the seizures away and stay healthy every day and stress-free."