Reigning world champion Kai Lenny defended his Sunset Beach Pro title yesterday by winning the first event of the 2011 Waterman League Stand Up World Tour.
The 18-year-old from Maui jumped to an early lead in the final, which was all in the plan, he said.
"My strategy from the beginning was to just get waves off the bat, because there’s nothing worse than looking at your watch and seeing the minutes are dying down and you haven’t caught one decent wave," Lenny said. "My main goal was to get some good waves early."
His strategy proved successful. Good-scoring rides were few and far between in the last half of the final. Lenny won with a two-wave total of 13.75 out of a possible 20 points. His highest scoring ride was an 8.25 on which he pushed the level of progression with tail-blowing cutbacks.
"I’m stoked that I’m starting the year off good again," he said of his second consecutive Sunset Beach Pro victory.
Lenny’s victory here last year earned him a wild-card entry onto the SUP World Tour. The win ultimately was the catalyst to his world title-winning campaign.
Judging by his performance yesterday, he looks poised to win another championship.
"My main goal coming into this event was to better my riding," Lenny said. "I was hoping for the final to have a little bit more consistency and a little bigger waves so we can really put it on edge, but I’m still super stoked."
The event was the first of eight on the world tour. It saw the gamut of North Shore conditions.
"We saw everything," runner-up Robin Johnston said. "Side wind. Offshore. Huge. Medium. Small. Everything. It made a man out of us."
Wave-face heights at Sunset Beach were in the 4- to 6-foot range, which was in stark contrast to the giant surf that bombarded the first three days of competition.
Johnston, 41, had a two-wave total of 13.65. He gave Lenny a run for his money in the last minutes of the final. Johnston got a good set wave toward the end, but it wasn’t enough. He admitted that the high-scoring rides were hard to find in the final.
"It was kind of hunting for a good one," Johnston said. "Fortunately, we had good energy and everyone was nice in the final, so it made it pleasant."
France’s Peyo Lizarazu finished third. Maui’s Zane Schweitzer claimed fourth.