Pro Class Trials


Professional surfing contest held from 1975 to 1983, usually at Sunset Beach, in early November; the opening event of the North Shore pro season.  The Pro Class Trails was created by Randy Rarick, directed by Bernie Baker, with Jack Shipley serving as head judge. It was designed as a feeder event to place a small number of top-finishing surfers (between six and 12) into the Smirnoff Pro, the World Cup and the Duke Classic. Surfers already seeded into those big-ticket events were not allowed in the Trials. "This contest has become something of a North Shore institution over the years," surf journalist Paul Holmes wrote in 1982. "A down home, low key event that provides 12 aspiring giant killers or sacrificial lambs for the gladiatorial clash to follow."

Throughout its nine-year history, the Trials never had a corporate sponsor; the event's prizemoney, smaller than the rest of the Hawaiian pro contests, was made up solely from contestants' entry fees. The 1980 Pro Trials total purse was $5,000, for example, while the 1980 Pipeline Masters was worth $16,000.

Power surfing kingpin and Sunset specialist Barry Kanaiaupuni won the debut Trials, in 1975, earning $1,000. Judges that year included pro surfers Shaun Tomson, Jeff Hakman, Peter Townend, and Sam Hawk. Kanaiaupuni also took the 1976 Trials, at the age of 31—ancient for a pro surfer at the time. The Trials events would be the only two wins of his pro career. 

Forty-five surfers competed in the first Trials; the 1982 event had 142 entrants. Because it was the only way for Hawaiians to crack the pro surfing big leagues, the Trials was hotly contested and brought out local talent from up and down the Island chain. "Richard Allen of Hilo is a perfect example," SURFER magazine wrote in 1979. "He's a truck driver when he's not surfing. He flew in from the Big Island the day before the contest, and hitchhiked from the Honolulu airport to the North Shore." Pro Class Trials winners:

1975: Barry Kanaiaupuni
1976: Barry Kanaiaupuni
1977: Col Smith
1978: Ian Cairns
1979: Jim Banks
1980: Bobby Owens
1981: Richard Cram
1982: Bird Mahelona
1983: Fielding Benson