Men's Rounds 1 and 2 of the White Buffalo HYUGA Pro, a WSL QS 1,000 competition, kicked off at Okuragahama Beach to commence the first annual event for the men alongside the Women's QS 3,000, which is in its 4th year of running. Japan dominated the field and saw standout performances from Shun Murakami, who posted one of the highest single wave scores of the day, Hiroto Arai and Joh Azuchi.
Athletes displayed progressive surfing at the beach break with Azuchi setting the bar during Heat 1 of Round 2 with a combined heat total of 12.17 (out of a possible 20). A strong forehand saw Azuchi advance in first ahead of Soma Hirahara, Masatoshi Ohno and Daiki Matsunaga and he will be eager to improve his ranking on the QS after a full year competing around the world.
The waves provided plenty of aerial opportunities and Hawaii's Noah Beschen went above the lip to represent the next evolution of surfing. Fresh off a runner-up finish at the Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup, Beschen is a household name on Oahu's North Shore thanks to father and former Championship Tour mainstay, Shane Beschen. But Noah is etching a name for himself through his own radical surfing and popular YouTube series, Raw Cut, and is proving to be a steely competitor on the QS.
Beschen advanced in second behind Masahiro Sekiguchi with a 6.50 and 6.23 and will surf in Heat 5 of Round 3 once competition resumes. He will match up against Rio Waida, Hiroya Miwa and Jin Suzuki on his Finals day quest and will look to bring his best fundamental surfing to the world-class beach break.
Another aerialist was Ketut Agus who matched up against Rinta Oooto and Taichi Hagita in Heat 8. Advancing behind Oooto, Agus flowed through the lineup with poise and tact for a combined heat score of 9.93 to Oooto's 13.93. From the island nation of Bali, Agus has produced strong results at the Pro Junior level but earned his first QS win in 2019 at Lagundri Bay for the Nias Pro in Indonesia. He hopes to further cement his status as one of Indo's upstarts with more advancements throughout the White Buffalo HYUGA Pro.
South Africa's Slade Prestwich has remained busy throughout 2019 and earned a win at theVic Bay Classic in South Africa back in June to climb the QS rankings. Today, he earned the highest single wave score of the day, an excellent 8.50 for a series of precise maneuvers on his forehand. Prestwich easily took the heat win from competitors Sasuke Kawatani, who advanced in second, Guy Sato and Monnojo Yahagi by staying busy in the lineup with eight scoring rides, including his backup score of a 6.77.
2016 Regional QS Winner, Hiroto Arai earned first place advancement out of Heat 13 ahead of Shuji Nishi and is on a QS grind after competing in 13 events so far in 2019. His forehand proved to be a weapon against competitors and the 24-year-old now has a place in Round 3 once the event is called back on.
Parallel to the competition, athletes, community members and event organizers gathered at Okuragahama Beach for a cleanup effort to ensure an important initiative of WSL PURE, leaving event locations better than they were found. It was a robust turnout and a fulfilling way to enjoy day 1 of the White Buffalo HYUGA Pro.
The White Buffalo HYUGA Pro is an international WSL competition that features a Women's Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000 and an inaugural Men's QS 1,000, held between October 16 - 20. This marks the final event of the 2019 season for Japan until it becomes the focal point for international multi-sports during the Olympic Games Tokyo from July 24 - August 9, 2020. Tune into WorldSurfLeague.com to watch LIVE action, which will begin tomorrow with the Women's QS 3,000 event.