Opening day is in the books at The Hawaiian Islands Present the Sunset Pro, a Hawaii/Tahiti Nui Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000 event. The women surged in the four-to-six foot waves on offer with light winds to finish their Round of 24 and Quarterfinal bouts. The men followed with Round of 96, Heats 1-12, battles to start setting up all-important Round of 64 match-ups when competition resumes.
Pictured: Nora Liotta (HAW) debuted in stunning form and moved straight into the Semifinals at Sunset Beach. Credit: © WSL / Heff
The women’s Quarterfinals kicked off with an exciting come-from-behind heat win by Nora Liotta (HAW), finding a last-minute score to jump from last to first, win the heat, and advance ahead of defending event champion and Championship Tour (CT) No. 9 Gabriela Bryan (HAW). Liotta continues to show she's one of the region's top threats and looks to secure a major victory in the 2023/2024 season.
“I didn’t know what scores I had, and I saw a few girls catch some good waves,” said Liotta. “It was definitely a relief walking up the beach and hearing that I made it. Those were a lot of good surfers in my heat.”
Also through to the Semifinals is Hawaii/Tahiti Nui No. 1 Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW), advancing through along with Puamakamae DeSoto (HAW). Tomoda-Bannert continues her outstanding 2023/2024 season, having already won the Local Motion Surf Into Summer Regional QS 1,000 at Ala Moana Bowls, and finishing equal-third at the co-sanctioned Nissan Super Girl Surf Pro QS 3,000.
“I’m just trying to keep the flow going and definitely had a lot more confidence after the Bowls win, and then the third place in Super Girl,” said Tomoda-Bannert. “For me, I feel like at Sunset no matter what you just gotta keep busy. Catch a wave if there’s a wave in front of you and just go for it."
Despite a slow start to her heat, current Hawaii/Tahiti Nui No. 5 Eweleiula Wong (HAW) found two of the better waves on offer to advance on to the Semifinals. Wong looks for her chance to rejoin the Chalenger Series contenders and stay atop the regional rankings for that opportunity.
“I’m really excited for the rest of the event," said Wong. "The conditions are a little bit tricky out there, but happy to make it through. My goal for this event is to win, and hopefully to requalify for Challenger.”
Following women's opening rounds, the men got their competiton underway to determine their first eliminations. One of Hawaii/Tahiti Nui’s mainstays, Eala Stewart (HAW), continues to show his style and power in the jersey and posted the day’s highest single-wave score of a 7.25 (out of a possible 10). The South Shore’s own looks to keep his momentum going in the jersey and eyes on the winter season ahead.
“Some of my goals this winter is to have a beautiful winter and just stay healthy and happy," said Stewart. "Everyone's saying it should be El Niño and a lot of crazy swell. It's been a good start so far and any contest I can get into I'll be stoked to do my best. I'm just grateful to be home."
Also joining Stewart into the Round of 64, Kane Turable (HAW), Branden DeFilippo (USA), Shayden Picarro (HAW), Tigure Abudo (HAW), Chase Burnes (HAW), Rylan Beavers (HAW), Merrick Mochkatei (HAW), Kainanoweo DeSoto (HAW), Logan Bediamol (HAW), and Nalu Deodatu (HAW), all earned impressive debut heat wins.
Event organizers will reconvene for a 7:00 a.m. HST call for a possible 8:00 a.m. HST start.
About the WSL
The World Surf League (WSL) is the global home of competitive surfing, crowning the World Champions since 1976 and showcasing the world’s best surfers on the world’s best waves. WSL is comprised of the Tours and Competition division, which oversees and operates more than 180 global competitions each year; WSL WaveCo, home of the world's largest high-performance, human-made wave; and WSL Studios, an independent producer of unscripted and scripted projects.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.