Once regarded as the most heralded wave on the North Shore, the iconic venue has since taken a backseat to Rocky Point, Off the Wall, and Pipe over the past decade as the top venues for performance surfing. But today, amid 10-foot sets, Sunset regained some of its esteem.
Among the Sunset finalists, John Florence took down his competitors with powerful on-rail surfing combined with his phenomenal tube-riding talents. Replacing the stiff styles that have dominated Sunset competition in the recent past, Florence’s nonchalance stood in contrast. With his casual grab-rail cutbacks, deep carves, and poised tuberides, the 19-year-old forced us to look at Sunset in a slightly new light.
“This is my first 6-Star Prime win, it’s at home, it’s one of my home breaks, and all my family and friends are here, so it’s one of the best moments of my life, for sure,” said Florence. “I hope more of the younger guys start surfing out here more. It’s big, it’s scary, but when it’s on, it’s probably the most rippable 10-foot wave in the world.”
Before the electric final heat, Ola Eleogram managed to captivate the crowd in his quarterfinal against Dusty Payne, Jordy Smith, and Travis Logie with what was undoubtedly the best tuberide of the event. Opting to sit slightly inside the pack, Eleogram weaved himself through several sections of a heaving Sunset tube to emerge directly in front of a Jet Ski in the channel. Without flinching, Eleogram ollied over the Ski’s sled and followed up with a massive roundhouse. The beach erupted and the judges rewarded the only perfect 10 of the event to the homegrown Maui surfer.
“Ola’s 10 was honestly one of the best barrels I’ve ever seen at Sunset,” said Dusty Payne, who also put on a clinic in the heat to advance. “I was watching it from the water and was just screaming when he came out.”
For Ola, who was shaking with excitement in his post-heat interview, his 10-point ride will not soon be forgotten. “It was really all a blur,” he said. “It was just a really hollow wave and I was determined to make my way out of it. When I finally came out, I had to bunny-hop over the sled.”
The World Cup of Surfing offered a venue for some of Hawaii’s best young surfers to shine–including standout performances by semifinalist Dusty Payne and finalist Hank Gaskell–but more than anything it showed that John John Florence holds a competitive edge over more than just Pipeline.