SUNSET BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui's Ian Walsh, 30, scored his first - and last - professional surfing victory at Sunset Beach eight years ago. Since then, a focus on riding giant waves has consumed much of his attention, making him one of the sport's least decorated but most recognized athletes in the world.
Tuesday, back at Sunset Beach, a near-perfect opening performance at the HIC PRO, presented by Vans, showed he is clearly one of the most talented surfers to ever emerge from Hawaii. But three more days of competition and close to 100 surfers still stand between him and victory.
If you follow Ian's Instagram or online videos, you would know that in the past 12 months he has been on endless adrenaline fueled missions that have seen him tackle oceans, mountains, and air. There was even a hair-raising day at 'Jaws' on an inflatable hotdog. Injuries sustained along the way have forced him to invest heavily in rehabilitation and training that appeared to pay off in his performance today. His total heat score of 18.4 out of a possible 20 was the highest so far (individual wave scores: 9.73, 8.67).
"Competitively, I feel like I haven't done too much, but I think the most important thing for me is just work on my surfing and feel confident in that first," said Walsh.
"The last event I won was this. I definitely want to win, it's definitely in me. My goals and intention when I begin an event is to win it. There's a lot that goes into it. Maybe some of my other focuses have distracted me and there's a lot of good surfers out there, so it doesn't surprize me that I haven't won, but it would be nice if I do.
"Sunset is one of the most elusive lineups in the entire world," Walsh added. "It's hard. Especially at this size. Do you sit wide on the bowl, or run up the point? It's kind of a big gambling match. But you just have to feel it out and really sense where you think the best waves are going to come in."
Walsh is through to the Round of 96 that could well hit the water tomorrow with continuous pulses of swell forecast through the remainder of the week.
Other standouts today included Imaikalani Devault (Maui), Sunset veteran Love Hodel, TJ Barron (Sunset Beach), and Thelen McKinna-Worrell (Malibu, CA).
Early round eliminations saw surprise early exits for Takayuki Wakita (Japan), Eli Olson (Haleiwa),andDanny Fuller (Kauai).
(Surfers are from Hawaii unless noted otherwise)
H1: Gavin Klein; Imaikalani Devault; Dorian Blanchard; Ha'a Aikau
H2: Kawai Lindo; Joao Marco Maffini; Derek Ho; Keoni Jones
Final (Top 2 advance): Gavin Klein; Imaikalani Devault; Kawai Lindo; Joao Marco Maffini
Round 1 (1st & 2nd advance; 3rd=129th; 4th=137th)
H1: Thelen McKinna-Worrell (USA); Edrick Baldwin; David Tereva (PYF); Atsushi Fujimura (JPN)
H2: Jonah Morgan; Johnny Noris (USA); Jason Shibata; Braiden Maither (AUS)
H3: Skip McCullough (USA); Myles Padaca; Danny Fuller; Tane Wallis (NZ)
H4: Dylan Kowalski (USA); Bruce Quinn (AUS); Luke Shepardson; Keala Naihe
H5: Isaiah Moniz; Imaikalani Devault; Kona Oliveira; Griffin Colapinto (USA)
H6: Love Hodel; Flynn Novak; Eli Olson; Ezra Sitt
H7: Robert Patterson; Noa Mizuno; Gavin Klein; Patrick Swift (USA)
H8: TJ Barron; Tom Dosland; Ulualoha Napeahi; Ian Simmons
Round 2: (1st & 2nd advance; 3rd=97th; 4th=113th)
H1: Kalani Chapman; Mikey Bruneau; Thelen McKinna-Worrell (USA); Koa Rothman
H2: Ian Walsh**; Colin Moran (USA); Rob Kelly (USA); Edrick Baldwin
H3: Breyden Taylor (USA); Jonah Morgan; Kaishu Tanaka (JPN); Takayuki Wakita (JPN)
H4: Evan Valiere; Marcus Hickman; Koa Smith; Johnny Noris (USA)
H5: Skip McCullough (USA); Kevin Sullivan; Brent Symes (AUS); Takumi Yashui (JPN)
H6: Myles Padaca; Gai Sato (JPN); Rikiya Kitada (JPN); Kaipo Jaquias
H7: Dylan Kowalski (USA); Jeremy Carter (USA); Dege O'Connell; Yuma Takanuki (JPN)
Heats 8-16 held over to next day.
The HIC PRO will be webcast live at www.vans.com/hicpro.