Buying ‘Stock’ In Kaua‘i Surfers

Alessa Quezon

Alessa Quezon (left) and Leila Hurst in France. Photo from ASP

I was having an interesting (is that the right word?) discussion with some friends recently. We were deciding which surfers we’d like to buy stock in right now, if such a market existed. One guy said, “Definitely not Slater,” which was met with mostly approval, before I chimed in with “Don’t count him out yet, he’s too good a contest surfer. He’ll win an event this year.”

Only 48 hours later, Kelly Slater, 40, took first place at the volatile Volcom Fiji Pro and jumped into second place in this season’s ASP world rankings.

While the 11-time world champ may not be a bargain with great long-term potential if offered as a stock on the open market, some of the best buys in the women’s ranks would likely come from this very island. The Kaua’i women took to the air and made the 7,000-mile journey to Europe for the Swatch Girls Pro France during the first week of June.

Leila Hurst, 18, ended up with the biggest haul, competing in both the Junior and 6-Star events and taking third place in both. The reigning ASP World Junior Champion won her first four Junior heats before a narrow defeat in the semifinals, going head-to-head with South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag (9.96 to 9.67).

Nage Melamed, 18, joined Hurst in the Junior event and won her first two heats before taking third in the Round of 16, just missing out on the one-on-one quarterfinal round.

The main attraction was the 6-Star competition, which can provide big points toward a surfer’s world ranking standing. Hurst capitalized on that possibility as she again found herself in the final four from the original 76-surfer field. Her first two rounds included familiar faces as she advanced alongside friend and Hawaii surfer Alessa Quizon, then with North Shore Kaua’i compatriot Bethany Hamilton in the following heat to reach the Round of 48.

A first and a second followed, placing Hurst into a Round of 12 three-woman heat that included Alana Blanchard. The Kaua’i pair took care of business and both moved into the quarterfinals, which began the head-to-head matchups. Hurst became the only Hawaii representative remaining as she advanced past France’s Alizee Arnaud, 13.50 to 8.75.

Despite the successful week, it was another hard-luck semifinal defeat, this time at the hands of New Zealand’s Paige Hareb by a 9.33 to 9.06 tally.

In the hyper-competitive field, Hurst ended the week with two of the six highest-scoring waves. She nailed a 9.80 in her Round of 12 victory, having already scored a 9.00 in the Round of 60. Her 17.25 in the Round of 12 was the fourth-best two-wave total of the event.

Just as Hurst would a round later, Blanchard fell victim to Hareb in the quarterfinals, giving her an Equal 5th finish. Wailua’s Malia Manuel was just behind, garnering an Equal 9th and Melamed picked up an Equal 13th. Hamilton took an Equal 37th finish after a close Round of 48 heat that saw second and fourth place separated by a mere 0.25 points.

In all, the Kaua’i women successfully advanced through 13 heats, winning nine of them outright.

They may no longer be considered penny stocks, but the Kaua’i women have shown both growth and potential. To quote Gaylord Focker, this island’s portfolio must be deemed “strong … to very strong.”