SUNSET BEACH, Oahu/Hawaii (Friday, January 15, 2010) – A solid 6- to 8-foot swell graced the lineup for the opening day of the Da Hui presents the Sponsor Me Sunset Open, at Sunset Beach today and featured the most star-studded field to ever contest a 1-star World Qualifying Series event. Local power house Pancho Sullivan set a high bar for the 80 competitors who hit the water, posting the highest heat score of the day: 16.5 out of 20.
This is the first event of the strengthened 2010 Association of Surfing Professionals Hawaii tour and offers a total of $10,000 in prize money. A two-day event, it is possible that the winner of the Sponsor Me Sunset Open will be crowned at Sunset Beach tomorrow.
North Shore locals Fred Patacchia and Sunny Garcia were among those who joined Sullivan to advance to the final day of competition. Surprise early eliminations included that of November’s Reef Hawaiian Pro champion Joel Centeio (Haw), Sunset standout Flynn Novak (Haw), and Kai Barger (Haw).
Sullivan posted the highest heat score of the day, slipping straight into gear in the stiff offshore wind and vertical s of the Sunset Peak. His two-wave total comprised of individual scores of 8.5 and 8.0 was unsurpassed.
“This is an unbelievable turnout for a one-star, the only person missing is Kelly Slater,” said Sullivan with a laugh, before questioning if Slater has ever competed in a 1-star.
“To stay home and compete in waves like this is a dream.”
ASP World Qualifying Series events are scaled from 1- to 6-stars the more stars, the more points, prize money and usually allure. But the fact this event is being staged at one of the most coveted surf spots on the planet make it a dream to compete in, in spite of the 1-star rating.
Former world champion Sunny Garcia, who turned 40 yesterday, was straight back to work this-morning to his 26th year of surfing at Sunset Beach. Garcia advanced in second behind 19-year-old Kauai rookie Tyler Newton, who didn’t look to the be the slightest bit intimidated by either Sunset or the surfing superstars he shared the lineup with.
“The last time I saw that kid was when I lived on Kauai 10 or 11 years ago and he was just some tiny grom on the inside,” Garcia said, smiling. “At the time I was focused on surfing with Andy and Bruce (Irons) and didn’t really pay any attention to him. Looks like I need to now.”
While Hawaii surfers commanded their share of the limelight today, several internationals returned for another season and the reveled in the opportunity to open up their 2010 accounts at one of the world’s premier surfing destinations in wave quality that eclipse many of the highest rated events on offer today. Japan’s Shinpei Horiguchi and Teppei Tajima, and Florida’s Nils Schweizer (New Smyrna Beach) were among those who traveled to capitalize on the opportunity to compete at Sunset during the peak of the winter season.
“I don’t really travel to many contests around the world and I don’t do all the events in Japan either, but I really like the big waves,” said Horiguchi, who has been a big-wave feature here for the past four winters. “We never get anything like this in Japan!”
Schweizer scored the only perfect 10 of the day, locking into an impressive afternoon tube ride, then exiting to sign off with a huge, hooking turn.
Jamie O’Brien, who will take to the water when competition resumes, stepped up and contributed $5000 to help ASP Hawaii to stage the Sunset Open, making the contribution in the name of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
“I’m a proud supporter of Pipeline To A Cure For Cystic Fibrosis,” said O’Brien. “By supporting the ASP Hawaii events, I hope to raise awarness about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.”
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Care Center network is a model of effective and efficient health care delivery for a serious and chronic desease. Please go to www.cff.org for more information and show your support.
ASP Hawaii Managing Director Marty Thomas added: “It’s great to see our atheletes not only working to support their own sport, but also to bring help to those in need. Our hats are off to Jamie for his commitment.”