Kaua‘i Surfers Aim For Winter Prizes

Sebastian Zietz goes off the lip, and then some. Photos courtesy Association of Surfing Professionals

Waves – there are waves. Down at a certain North Shore spot recently, there were late afternoon lefts and rights going off like clockwork. I’m no sandbar and reef expert, and I’ve been told there have been much more epic days at this particular break, but the conditions were good enough to bring out the most surfers I’ve ever seen down there at one time.

Over on Oahu’s North Shore, the winter capital of professional surfing, the HIC Pro – a $95,000 4-Star ASP rated event – has top qualifying competitors from around the world, but it will also give many Kaua’i surfers a chance to make it into the Triple Crown, a series Andy Irons won four times (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006).

Already guaranteed a spot in the HIC Pro qualifier field are Kaua’i riders Sebastian Zietz, Gavin Gillette, Dylan Goodale, Koa Smith, Alex Smith, Roy Powers, Chris Foster, Kaimana Jaquias, Nathan Carvalho, Tyler Newton, Jesse Merle-Jones, Danny Fuller, Pancho Sullivan and Kamalei Alexander.

Alexander posted Kaua’i’s best finish in the 2011 HIC Pro, reaching the final heat and taking third place. Newton made it to the semi-finals, while Alex Smith, Kaimana Jaquias, Merle-Jones, Newton, Foster, Fuller and Evan Valiere all reached the Round of 32, giving Kaua’i 25 percent of the remaining field at that point.

Zietz, or “Seabass” as he is known, is the No. 2 seed in the event and will get to begin in the Round of 64. The rest of his island com-patriots will start in either the Round of 144, 128 or 96.

Last year’s final heat was a local tour de force with all four surfers hailing from Hawaii. Oahu’s Ezekiel Lau took home the championship, with Maui’s Ian Gentil in second and Maui’s Billy Kemper following Alexander in fourth place.

This year marks the 30th anniversary for the Triple Crown series, which has been traditionally dominated by Hawaii riders. After a four-year drought, John John Florence reclaimed the championship for Hawaii by winning the 2011 series.

Kamalei Alexander and Kai Garcia

Sunny Garcia is a six-time champion, more than anyone in history, and the only surfer to win it three consecutive years (1992-1994).

Before Andy Irons put Kaua’i on the map for surfing greatness, it was Kaipo Jaquias who brought a Triple Crown championship to the Garden Isle in 1996. His son Kaimana was just 3 years old at the time, but has since also made quite a name for himself. Kaipo is on the alternates list for this year’s HIC Pro, so if enough seeded participants fail to show, we could possibly see both father and son paddling out together.

The 2001 Triple Crown champion Myles Padaca, who comes from the Big Island but credits the Irons brothers for strengthening his approach during that title run 11 years ago, is again in this year’s HIC field and, at age 41, is one of the most senior participants. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the youngest participant, Oahu’s Kalani David, who will turn 15 on Nov. 4.

Following the HIC Pro (Oct. 29-Nov. 10) is the Reef Hawaiian Pro (Nov. 12-24), Vans World Cup of Surfing (Nov. 25-Dec. 6) and Billabong Pipe Masters (Dec. 8-20).