Kai Barger, 2009 Nike 6.0 Pro Junior champ. Photo: chrisstraley.com
By Ryan Brower
The world’s largest surf contest raised the bar this year and put on the best show in Huntington to date. You’ve heard it regurgitated on transworldsurf.com over the last four days the macking surf, Slater’s 10-point barrel, the 100-grand up for grabs, the pier getting doused with whitewater, and HB locals Brett Simpson and Courtney Conlogue finally taking their hometown’s perennial event.
Sunday’s US Open Champions clip by Tom Aiello/Aaron Lieber/hurley.com
Reigning ASP World Junior champ Kai Barger somehow snuck in from Hawaii under the shadow of the circus tents and onto the podium as the winner of the Nike 6.0 Pro Junior today. It’s no surprise that he was the favorite coming into the event, but we blinked and he was in the finals. Tonino Benson blinked after getting a solid lead in said final and Kai had muscled the lead away with his Hawaiian power attack.
Nike 6.0 Pro Junior Champion Kai Barger. Photo: Steindler
Along with Kai and Tonino, the Nike 6.0 Pro Junior final also featured Nat Young and Dillon Perillo two of America’s best pro junior competitors. As I mentioned, the 2007 U.S. Open Pro Junior champ Tonino Benson struck first working a left all the way to the beach that gave him an open face for a nice ending slash. Kai went unphased, pulling in a right with multiple backside slashes and one big power hook for his second wave, earning him a 7. But determined Tonino assaulted right back with his knack for finding those inside connectors, this time on his backhand with a couple of smooth cutties for a 7.83 and a stranglehold on the lead.
Being the current World Junior champ though gives you a certain amount of poise when sitting behind in a big heat. “I kind of like it when someone else starts off early in the heat because it gives you that secret little window to jump through,” Kai stated. “The pressure is all off, no one is really watching, you can do your own thing off to the side.”
Hurley US Open Of Surfing Final Day Photo Gallery
And Kai’s own thing is his Hawaiian big boy power attack. Kai answered right back to Tonino with a 6.10, but the capper for Kai was his 8.5. It was a left that he ran with all the way to the inside, and when it finally opened up for him in the shorebreak he unloaded all his might into a gouging layback smash onto the unsuspecting closeout section, giving Kai a substantial lead.
After today’s win, it’s obvious that Kai is on a huge roll (World Junior title and the recent Lowers 6.0 pro junior victory). The Hawaiian is on top of his game right now and it appears as if there’s no stopping him this year. “I’ve just gotta keep the ball rolling,” he casually stated.
With a slot in the Round of 144 at every 6*PRIME WQS event this year, Kai is looking to construct a WQS career that mirrors his success in the Pro Junior ranks. “I wanna take all my success in the juniors and just push it up into the ‘QS. That’s my next goal, to win one of those, and then win the WQS Tour,” Kai said.
Though his World Junior championship win this past January is undoubtedly the biggest victory of his promising career, Huntington Beach provided quite the stage for the world’s best junior pro. “The World Junior championships is a gnarlier contest, as far as the talent and prestige around it. But the weirdest thing is there’s only 20 people on the beach and when you look here there’s like 5 million. This one almost felt better because I was feeding off the energy of the crowd.”
Nike 6.0 Pro Junior Results: ASP Grade-2 Pro Junior
1 Kai Barger (HAW) 15.50
2 Tonino Benson (HAW)
3 Dillon Perillo (USA) 12.53
4 Nat Young (USA) 9.53