After an epic trials event and spectacular morning for the Top 32 on Wednesday in a maxing-out Sunset Beach, Friday dawned more manageable for the assembled riders at first stop of the inaugural Stand Up World Tour. With solid sets still coming through, the stage was set for the most spectacular display of riding in the history of stand-up paddlesurfing competition.
With waves at 6 to 8 feet with the occasional bigger sets, the whole fleet was on fire, with explosive turns and barrel rides becoming standard for each heat. Major upsets in the second round included the exit of local favorites Kainoa McGee, Duane DeSoto and Chuck Patterson.
Sunset Beach local Kamaki Worthington was shining in the challenging and unpredictable surf, as was the young Kai Lenny, proving himself among the collective of ocean sports legends. Also standing out was Ekolu Kalama from Molokai, Bonga Perkins and Kekoa Uemura from Oahu, charging hard and providing a spectacle for the assembled crowds.
For the Semifinals, the level of competitive, performance surfing was through the roof, and despite some incredible riding, Kalama, Perkins, TJ Saemen and Aaron Napoleon all fell to the hands of the on-form Worthington, Uemura, Frenchman Peyo Lizaruzu and the young phenom Lenny.
“I’m on top of the world right now. I can't believe it.” -Kai Lenny
Head Judge Leleo Kinimaka introduced the beach start for the Final heat, providing entertainment for the assembled crowds as the riders not only had to focus on the waves but also the fearsome Sunset Beach shorebreak! What followed was one of the most spectacular finals imaginable, with all riders pulling out the stops to be crowned Champion of the Sunset Beach Pro.
Uemura was on fire and putting it all on the line, earning the award for the most radical wipeout. Worthington, fresh from an epic Semifinal (where he scored the Single Biggest Move award from Da Hui and $1,000 for his efforts), was charging hard, with critical turns and fluid riding at his homebreak.
Lizaruzu was demonstrating his exceptional ability, proving that his position in this prestigious final was more than deserved. But all this talent was not enough to stop 17-year-old Kai Lenny from dominating start to finish, with an incredible display of performance riding and event maturity well beyond his years.
“I’m on top of the world right now,” Lenny said after the event. “It was my goal from the beginning to try to win it, but honestly, after seeing the level and going against some of the big boys, I was thinking, ‘at least I made it to the Finals, I’m just going to surf and have fun.’ I can’t believe it, it’s pretty cool.”
As winner of the first-ever World Championship event (and stop one on the Stand Up World Tour) the future is bright for this teenager from Maui. His talent, humble nature and focus has allowed him to take the world by storm and place him firmly at the head of the ratings after the first event.
Next up, the tour heads to France in May, Tahiti in June and California in October.
For more info, check the Waterman League site.