Photos: Moona Whyte
Keahi competed on the Sunset Beach Pro 2017 and reports about his performance on the first big SUP competition after he recovered from a shoulder injury. He was able to reach the quarter finals, despite his result on the heat would qualify him for the next stage on 2 of the other heats.
SUNSET BEACH PRO 2017
After injuring myself last year right before the sunset event was about to start I couldn’t wait for another opportunity to surf the Sunset pro this year. This has always been one of my favorite events and after seeing the conditions they scored last year, missing it hurt me a lot. After spending lots of time in Hawaii over the last 5 years I’ve really grown to love the bigger and more powerful surf and Sunset is one of the only events that is exactly that. Its raw, its hard, its powerful but if you’re lucky you can get some of the best waves of your life there. For me, I’ve always hated the 4 man hassling heats in small beach breaks so a wave like sunset that is a massive playing field is always a nice change. That being said, its also can throw you some curve balls especially in a short heat out there so sometimes its a bit of love hate relationship.
Coming into this event I was feeling good. Its been over a year since I did my shoulder now and after working hard for the last 6 months training and strengthening it back up, it feels great to be back to 100%. My boards were feeling good and I’d had a great start to the winter in hawaii with some very fun swells to warm up. Unfortunately for us we weren’t really dealt the best forecast for this event with a lot of bad winds, but with a 2 week waiting period we are able to pick it apart and find a few pretty good windows in the end. It wasn’t as amazing as last year, but it was fun sunset and sometimes that’s all you can ask for.
There’s always a few nerves putting the jersey back on again for the first time but by the time the first day finally rolled around it felt amazing to get back out there. As an injury replacement, I ended up with a pretty tough first round draw and had to go up against Poenaki Raihoa, Kody Kerbox and Tehotu Wong for my first heat. After starting off with an ok opening wave, In typical Sunset fashion, I ended up taking a solid clean up set on the head and spent a good 5-10 minutes taking waves on the head and just doing the lap back around the channel. Moments like that really take it out of you but it felt good to battle back for a solid second place behind Poenaki with a good couple good waves at the end of the heat which allowed me to skip round 2 and go directly into round 3.
Although the swell dropped the following day, with some super clean and fun looking conditions we got underway once again with round 3 for day 2. This time I was lucky enough to get off to a good start with a solid 7 point ride that put me in pretty good rhythm for the rest of the heat. After backing it up with a couple decent scores, I went looking for barrels and was almost able to sneak out a perfect deep inside one before getting clipped right at the end of what could have been a really good score. Luckily I had already done enough and was still able to take out the heat and move into the final day of competition beating out Pomai Hoapili, Lucas Medeiros and Justin Holland.
After another period of bad winds, we were finally able to get back underway after multiple lay days back in some pretty fun surf. Getting down to the business end now that we were in the quarters I had another really tough draw up against Poenaki, Mo Freitas and Pomai Hoapili. I started the heat off with a decent first ride, then tried to get a little more aggressive attacking the lip on my second wave. Unfortunately I hit it a little late and wasn’t able to ride out which put my in a bit of a bad rhythm for the middle out the heat. After both Mo and Poenaki got some good waves, I was able to battle back a little in the dying minutes but wasn’t able to find another good wave to continue my run into the semis.
In the end, I’m still stoked and quarters is a result I can be happy with for my first event back in the jersey. It just feels great to be back in the water now that I’m all healed and I’m already looking forward to the next one. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store.