HANK FOTO (Inset) Kai: 135-pounds of bent-knee torque on a narrow pintail can amount to a ton of acceleration. FOTO (Right) “The North Shore’s own Pomai Hoapilli throttles his way through heat after heat, gaining recognition he deserves from fellow competitors, spectators on the beach and a massive webcast audience during the final rounds of the Sunset Pro. He’s in it for the simple love of riding a wave and the lifestyle that goes with it. Pomai grew up surfing at Rocky Point. He’s just as happy in the shorebreak on a sloppy day as he is in that timeless moment on that epic day, for the love of looking at things the same way his Hawaiian ancestors did—a way of life few get to soak up. He is yet another reason the budding Standup World Tour deserves all the credit it gets for bringing to a wider audience North Shore Hawaiian waterman like Pomai—sand between his toes and saltwater in his blood. This guy is the real thing.” -Pete Hodgson
On the heels of a spectacular inaugural year, the 2011 Standup Paddling World Tour picks up at the Sunset Pro where the 2010 Big Island tour finals left off, with…
Twenty-plus-foot waves came crashing in from the northwest to signal that the second year on the tour would be just as filled with juice—on and off the water—as the inaugural year was.
The Sunset Beach Pro trials and first-round competitors took the heavy early-February surf in stride, despite dangerous, lumpy, close-interval sets that indiscriminately swung wide and cleaned out a whole squad of paddlers without warning. With the waves cleaning up for the main event it became less a matter of survival stances and racing closing walls and more of a technical competition, allowing riders to showcase high-performance skills that have improved four-fold in only a year.
It was never a given that last year’s top dogs would return to the final round. This was made more obvious to the massive webcast-viewing audience once they got a look at the local and international talent that had arrived to stake a claim at a world title run.
Earning his way to the finals with his signature sharp snapbacks and the occasional floater on the inside section, 2010 tour champ Kai Lenny took the lead early on, but North Shore shaper and top 2010 contender Robin Johnston was right there, needing a very feasible score of 7.25 to surpass Kai as the clock was running out; there were just 45 seconds remaining and Kai was out of position to catch a wave and score. “I felt like I was doing pretty well. I could have used that one better wave but couldn’t find it. It was pretty nerve-wracking.”
So Kai and everybody else had to wait and watch Johnston’s classic, firing-off-the bottom launches immediately go into play the second he dropped into that incredible last Sunset wedge. Time stood still as he kicked out and the judges tallied the score, the outcome very much in question until results were announced on the winner’s podium: Kai Lenny slipped past Robin by 0.1, the narrowest victory ever on the young standup tour.
The now 18-year-old Lenny wins his second consecutive Sunset Beach Pro and is “stoked that [he’s] starting the year off good again.” This contest featured nearly 100 competitors from around the world, and was the first of 8 events on the expanded 2011 Standup World Tour. Next stop: Brittany, France.