SUNSET BEACH, Oahu, Hawaii/USA – The Hurley Pro Sunset Beach presented by SHISEIDO, the second stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour, kicked off in sizeable conditions after four-consecutive off days. Men’s Opening Round 1 and Elimination Round 2 were completed in 10-to-15 foot surf ahead of a week of promising swell. Event replacement surfer Barron Mamiya and CT rookie Callum Robson (AUS) upset World No. 1 Kelly Slater (USA) in a relatively low-scoring affair. The pair sent the recent Pipeline winner into the treacherous Elimination Round.
The 11x WSL Champion came out swinging in Elimination Round Heat 1 against wildcard Koa Smith (HAW) and injury replacement Matthew McGillivray with a 6.67 score to pressure the heat leader Smith at the halfway mark. However, McGillivray’s impeccable forehand and positioning for time behind the curtain earned him a 7.67 under the five-minute mark to steal a heat win from Slater. In second place, Slater also advanced and eliminated Smith from the draw.
“It’s not easy out there,” said Slater. “I don’t surf Sunset very much, so I was trying to work out my lineup on the fly. On the way out, I figured out a pretty good lineup about how far I was, where those things were cornering, and how deep on the point I was. I felt good. I wouldn’t say I was relaxed. I didn’t feel calm at all. My blood sugar felt wrong, the whole energy of the heat felt wrong to me, and I didn’t feel like it was my day. I had to go home and reset and give myself a little mantra, telling myself just to enjoy it. I channelled Sunny (Garcia) out there a little bit. Just thinking about all the things he’d used to tell me if I was messing up.”
Two-time World Champion John John Florence (HAW) advanced in first out of his opening matchup at Sunset, drawing his signature long carves on the open face for two good scores and the win. Behind him, the battle between Owen Wright (AUS) and Ethan Ewing (AUS) came down to the final-second fireworks by Ewing. He started late on a bomb and committed to two massive turns for the second advancing spot ahead of his compatriot.
In the day’s opening heat, Jordy Smith (ZAF) matched the ocean’s power with his own, pushing the limits on a massive layback snap and a big re-entry to post the day and the event’s first excellent score of 8.00 points (out of a possible 10). Smith, who won a Qualifying Series event at Sunset before, faced compatriot Matthew McGillivray and Ryan Callinan (AUS) and advanced straight into the Round of 32.
“It’s definitely reassuring that my surfing suits this wave,” said Smith. “I’ve had some great success out here right from the very first time I surfed in that event. But this is a whole separate deal, coming up against the best surfers in the world. You just got to lay it all on the line.”