In shifty conditions, Sullivan registered the day's highest score with 15.5, while Australians Tom Whitaker and Nathan Hedge and Maui's Ian Walsh and Ian Gentil also shone.
"'I absolutely love this wave it's got so many looks - from 2 feet to 15 feet it's so much fun," said Sullivan, who is yet to win the Vans World Cup at his home break.
"It's a high performance wave. You can really push your surfing and I try to attack it like you would a small wave even in the bigger eight to 10 foot surf.
"It's home, I grew up, started surfing the little inside wave shores and eventually graduated out to the point and it's a wave that I think you just have to put a lot of time into learning the different line-ups depending on the direction and size."
Walsh said: "You've got to approach Sunset everyday for what it is. You can't really plan too much ahead... even right before your heat you've got to make an adjustment, adapt to every little thing, you can't really premeditate everything."
Hedge, on a comeback and looking for valuable seed points for 2013, also relished the conditions after a couple of lay days had delayed the start of the event.
"I really love Sunset Beach, it's always the last event on the (qualifying tour) so it's a lot of high drama and emotions and ratings points at stake so it always creates for an epic environment," Hedge said.
"I've been coming here for 20 years, so I think that will help. I've put a lot of time in out here and I have had heats where I've needed to get through to qualify but I'm not in that sort of situation (now), so I can just really relax and enjoy the experience... just go for it."
The swell is now expected to diminish and action may not resume for another two days. When it does, the round of 64 will get under way, with the likes of Gabe Kling, Mark Occhilupo and Nat Young hitting the water.
Round of 128 results:
H1 : Ian Gentil (HAW) 14.43pts ; Alex Smith (HAW) 11.17pts ; Stu Kennedy (AUS) 10.50pts ; Hodei Collazo (EUK) 8.36pts
H2 : Tom Whitaker (AUS) 15.00pts ; Kai Barger (HAW) 12.57pts ; Nic Von Rupp (DEU) 6.83pts ; Derek Ho (HAW) 5.84pts
H3 : Mitch Crews (AUS) 9.97pts ; Jano Belo (BRA) 9.27pts ; Nathan Carvalho (HAW) 6.86pts ; Davey Cathels (AUS) 2.67pts
H4 : Chris Ward (USA) 12.50pts ; Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 8.83pts ; Tanner (HAW) 7.43pts ; Chris Foster (HAW) 3.00pts
H5 : Nathan Hedge (AUS) 12.60pts ; Tim Reyes (USA) 9.70pts ; Eala Stewart (HAW) 6.63pts ; Kevin Sullivan (HAW) 0.97pts
H6 : Ian Walsh (HAW) 10.56pts ; Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.10pts ; Kiron Jabour (HAW) 8.43pts ; Chris Friend (AUS) 4.33pts
H7 : Love Hodel (HAW) 12.40pts ; Cory Arrambide (USA) 10.43pts ; Aritz Aranburu (EUS) 9.67pts ; Caio Ibelli (BRA) 7.57pts
H8 : Makai McNamara (HAW) 12.80pts ; Lincoln Taylor (AUS) 11.60pts ; Dylan Goodale (HAW) 9.36pts ; Torrey Meister (HAW) 8.33pts
H9 : Billy Kemper (HAW) 11.03pts ; Evan Valiere (HAW) 9.90pts ; Alain Riou (PYF) 9.00pts ; Billy Stairmand (NZL) 8.50pts
H10 : Dale Staples (ZAF) 12.37pts ; Myles Padaca (HAW) 9.83pts ; Cory Lopez (USA) 6.76pts ; Dege O'Connell (HAW) 6.34pts
H11 : Matt Banting (AUS) 14.84pts ; Hank Gaskell (HAW) 14.00pts ; Koa Rothman (HAW) 6.56pts ; Blake Thornton (AUS) 5.04pts
H12 : Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 13.83pts ; Ricardo Dos Santos (BRA) 11.17pts ; Roy Powers (HAW) 9.80pts ; Michael Dunphy (USA) 6.10pts
H13 : Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) 14.50pts ; Gavin Gillette (HAW) 10.60pts ; Joshua Moniz (HAW) 9.60pts ; Thiago Camarao (BRA) 5.90pts
H14 : Garrett Parkes (AUS) 12.57pts ; Marc Lacomare (FRA) 12.50pts ; Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 10.10pts ; Flynn Novak (HAW) 4.66pts
H15 : Pancho Sullivan (HAW) 15.50pts ; Heath Joske (AUS) 10.87pts ; Dane Reynolds (USA) 9.67pts ; Adrien Toyon (FRA) 8.03pts
H16 : Koa Smith (HAW) 12.84pts ; Mason Ho (HAW) 12.63pts ; Joel Centeio (HAW) 12.33pts ; Nic Muscroft (AUS) 12.07pts