Maui’s own Billy Kemper won the Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi, one of three stops on the World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) for the third time in his career.
Competition resumed with Round 1 Heat 2 after being called off yesterday and Kemper continued to set the tone with exhilarating performances on finals day as he battled back and forth with Kai Lenny (HAW) in the Final.
This marks a career-defining win for Kemper, his third Big Wave Tour win at his home break, and continues to show he’s the one to beat at Jaws. Kemper’s ability to hunt down some of the heaviest waves and attack the barrels on offer separated him from the rest of competition — claiming the victory with a brilliant 23.84 (out of a possible 30) heat total.
Kemper now heads back to Oahu to continue his big wave brilliance and compete in Day 2 of the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, which has seen the largest swell of the season hit the coastline over the past two days. Contest organizers called stop No. 2 of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing off yesterday and today due to XXL, unruly conditions along the North Shore, which gave Kemper the opportunity to compete in the Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi and bring home another trophy.
Jaws turned on for an exciting start to kick off the Final proceedings with nearly all six competitors getting a wave. Lenny’s barrel stole the show of the first exchange, garnering an excellent 8.33, a 16.66 (out of a possible 20) when doubled as his best score, with the youngest competitor among them, Maui’s Tyler Larronde, right behind him accruing an 8.03.
But, Kemper took off deep and lined up for a barrel of his own, beating a heavy section and nearly rode out on his feet before the whitewater swept him as he exited — earning a 7.17. Lenny wasn’t done and showed his control on a highline turn that put him back in the lead with a 6.90. However, Kemper’s apt for the barrel locked him in one last opportunity and navigating two sections before flying out once more without his board — though the damage was done and earned an excellent 8.07.
The remaining 25-minutes witnessed only a few more opportunities from Albee Layer (HAW) and Grant Baker (ZAF), but neither found the scores needed to overtake the top spot — finishing third and fourth, respectively. Koa Rothman (HAW) couldn’t get into rhythm after his heavy wipeout to start the heat and ended with a sixth-place finish.
One of the day’s standout performers, Tyler Larronde, missed out on the Jaws Challenge last season and didn’t let his redemption go to waste with a third-place finish after starting the day off with a horrific wipeout. The young Maui-competitor won a stacked Round 1 Heat 4 bout including World Champion Greg Long, one of Big Wave’s fiercest competitors Ian Walsh (HAW), alongside chargers Jamie Mitchell (AUS) and Francisco Porcella (ITA). He carried that momentum into a last-minute Final spot after going from fourth to third-place in his Semifinal heat, eliminating Long, Walsh, and Aaron Gold (HAW)
Men’s Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi, Hawaii Final Results:
1 – Billy Kemper (HAW) 23.84
2 – Kai Lenny (HAW) 23.56
3 – Albee Layer (HAW) 17.40
4 – Tyler Larronde (HAW) 16.06
5 – Grant Baker (ZAF) 8.10
6 – Koa Rothman (HAW) 2.19