The World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) Pe’ahi Challenge completed men’s Round 1 today in epic 35 – 45 foot waves. With only the top three finishers from each six-man heat advancing out of Round 1, the world’s best big wave surfers battled the elements to secure a spot in the Semifinals.
Two-time Pe‘ahi Challenge winner Billy Kemper (HAW) is off to a solid start after a big win in Round 1 Heat 1. The 27-year old garnered a 21.51 heat total (out of a possible 30) to advance straight to the Semifinals. Kemper’s win puts him within striking distance of a third-straight event victory when competition resumes tomorrow. Cristian Merello (CHL) and Mark Healey (HAW) will also advance to the next round with second and third place finishes, respectively. Koa Rothman (HAW) fell just 0.99 points short of advancing and will be eliminated along with Francisco Porcella (ITA) and replacement surfer Jimel Corzo (MEX).
“If there’s one way to kick off an event, I think that’s it,” said Kemper. “You got to work to play so that was definitely some hard work. I just kept my head in the right place and kept digging until I found the gold, and I found a really good wave. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out, but I’m very lucky that they [judges] gave me the score that they did. That was probably one of the best barrels I’ve ever got out here, so, almost made it, but I’m just stoked. I’m in a really good head place so I’m here to have fun.”
2014/15 BWT Champion Makuakai Rothman (HAW) is back in rhythm with his first heat win since last year’s Puerto Escondido Challenge. Rothman’s best wave earned him the highest single wave score of Heat 2, a 6.27, but his ride came with the price of a massive wipeout. The current BWT No. 7 will now focus on the Semifinals to continue his run at Pe‘ahi. Injury replacement Danilo Couto (BRA) went all out in the dangerous lineup to earn the second position. Two-time BWT Champion Greg Long (USA) battled through multiple wipeouts but eventually found a wave to earn him a spot in the Semifinals with a 13.94 heat total.
“That was a pretty good couple flips on the water,” Rothman said. “I’m just so happy to make a heat. This is my third year, and I haven’t made a heat until now, so it feels really good to be moving on. The swell is beautiful. There’s definitely some big bombs. We made a good call and stoked to have my feet up and relaxing and get ready for tomorrow.”
Ian Walsh’s (HAW) incredible Heat 3 performance raised the bar as he earned a commanding 26.13 two-wave total out of a possible 30. Walsh also secured the highest single-wave score of the day, an impressive 8.90, for a massive drop into a 45-foot wave that he navigated expertly through to the inside bowl. The Haiku native found the two best waves of the 60-minute heat and advanced into the Semifinals well ahead of his fellow competitors.
“It’s definitely pretty lully and a very intense incoming swell so you can feel the long period and the energy in the ocean,” commented Walsh. “When they do come, there is some opportunity. We just got a little bit of a North wind so kind of picking and choosing the right waves and trying to just make sure you’re in the right place when they come. Those are my first two waves to open up the 2017/2018 winter, and it’s conveniently at home for me here. I’m glad we’re getting a start to the winter this early and hopefully this snowballs into something pretty special.”
BWT Rankings leader Kai Lenny (HAW) followed closely behind Walsh with a 19.37 combined total. Heat 3 also saw darkhorse Ryan Hipwood (AUS) secure the third place position over top seeds Pedro Calado (BRA), Trevor Carlson (HAW) and Nic Lamb (USA).
Lucas Chianca (BRA) won the last heat of the day to close out Round 1. The Brazilian’s 20.50 heat total included outstanding maneuvers to vault him into the Semis. World No. 2 Jamie Mitchell (AUS) will join Chianca in the Semifinals, along with Albee Layer (HAW).
Grant “Twiggy” Baker (ZAF) was not able to make the call time for his Round 1 heat and was replaced by Corzo in Round 1 Heat 1. Shane Dorian (HAW) withdrew from the event due to a back injury and was replaced by Couto.
Tomorrow’s call will be at 7:30 a.m. for a possible 8:00 a.m. HST start.
Surfline, Official Forecasters for the 2017/2018 WSL BWT season are calling for:
The long period NW swell that filled in throughout the afternoon should peak during the early morning hours on Saturday based on the data we’ve seen on the Northwest Hawaii buoy (about a half day indicator for Jaws). Saturday will see an easing trend in surf, although the early morning hours should offer strong surf in the 25-35’ range on the face, with the max sets pushing 40’+. Wind should be quite light in the morning, with light to moderate NE trades developing in the later morning and especially for the afternoon.
The Pe’ahi Challenge will be broadcast LIVE tomorrow via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal, Sport TV in Portugal and the EDGEsport Network.
Due to safety and environmental concerns, there is no location available for on-site spectating for the Pe’ahi Challenge. Big wave surfing fans are invited to watch the event on the live webcast that will feature close-in angles, slow-motion replays, and analysis. For those on Maui, viewing parties will be held at Charley’s Restaurant at 142 Hana Highway, Paia, HI 96779 (808-579-8085) and at Lulu’s Lahaina Surf Club Bar and Grill at 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy #A1 Lahaina, HI 96761.
2017/18 BWT Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Billy Kemper (HAW) 21.51, Cristian Merello (CHL) 19.94, Mark Healey (HAW) 18.83, Koa Rothman (HAW) 17.84, Francisco Porcella (ITA) 11.37, Jimel Corzo (MEX) 0.20
Heat 2: Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 17.27, Danilo Couto (BRA) 14.84, Greg Long (USA) 13.94, Will Skudin (USA) 10.71, Tom Lowe (GBR) 7.54, Aaron Gold (HAW) 3.20
Heat 3: Ian Walsh (HAW) 26.13, Kai Lenny (HAW) 19.37, Ryan Hipwood (AUS) 15.03, Pedro Calado (BRA) 14.71, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 13.57, Nic Lamb (USA) 0.20
Heat 4: Lucas Chianca (BRA) 20.50, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 17.87, Albee Layer (HAW) 12.41, Joao De Macedo (PRT) 11.64, Nathan Florence (HAW) 9.34, Shaun Walsh (HAW) 3.54
2017/18 BWT Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge Semifinal Match-Ups:
SF 1: Billy Kemper (HAW), Cristian Merello (CHL), Mark Healey (HAW), Makuakai Rothman (HAW), Danilo Couto (BRA), Greg Long (USA)
SF 2: Ian Walsh (HAW), Kai Lenny (HAW), Ryan Hipwood (AUS), Lucas Chianca (BRA), Jamie Mitchell (AUS), Albee Layer (HAW)
2017/18 BWT Women’s Pe’ahi Challenge Final Match-Up:
Final: Paige Alms (HAW) Justine Dupont (FRA), Andrea Moeller (BRA), Keala Kennelly (HAW), Felicity Palmateer (AUS), Bianca Valenti (USA)