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Kemper claims Sunset Open victory

Maui’s Billy Kemper celebrates after completing a ride during the Sunset Open final Monday afternoon at Sunset Beach on Oahu’s North Shore. WSL / MIKE CHLALA photos

The Maui News

Maui’s Billy Kemper won the Sunset Open for the second time on Monday, claiming victory in pumping conditions at Sunset Beach on Oahu’s North Shore.

In the final of the World Surf League Qualifying Series 1,000 event, Kemper had a near-perfect ride of 9.50 and finished with a two-wave score of 15.75 to defeat Tahiti’s Kauli Vaast (13.90), Kauai’s Koa Smith (11.75) and fellow Mauian Eli Hanneman (8.85).

Kemper also won this event in 2018.

“It’s such a great way to start the year, winning this event,” Kemper, who won the Jaws Big Wave Championships in December for his fourth Peahi title, was quoted as saying in a WSL press release. “It brings so much confidence and flow going into the new year. I feel great, I’m just so excited. It’s been a long winter and I’m over the moon right now, I’m really happy. … Every win, it’s an addiction, it’s a feeling that I’ve worked really hard towards and once I got the feeling, I just kind of became obsessed with chasing that over and over. From Pipe to Sunset to Jaws, equally, they all feel amazing, it’s like a flow state you get into.”

Kemper is carried off the beach after his victory.

Kemper went on to describe the influence that Kobe Bryant has had on his career. The Los Angeles Lakers legend and his daughter were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in California.

“I’ve just been someone who’s been really inspired by people who show a really hard work ethic,” Kemper said. “So much of my success I feel comes from athletes outside of surfing. They’ve motivated me to be great at what I do. In my legacy, I would love to motivate, inspire them to be great at what they do, like Kobe. Whether they’re filmers or surfers, basketball players, anything, I really want to inspire the future and I’m trying everything I can to work hard and just be a positive impact here on the North Shore.”

One person who Kemper has had an influence on is the 17-year-old Hanneman.

“I’ve been honored to work with Eli Hanneman the last few weeks and to see his surfing mature, the goal was to see him in the final,” Kemper said. “To see him there was such an honor and rad to share the final.”

Defending champion Cody Young and Sunset Pro Junior runner-up Jackson Bunch, both of Maui, were eliminated in the semifinals, placing behind Vaast and Hanneman in their heat.

Eli Hanneman of Lahaina placed fourth Monday in the Sunset Open.