Four Kaua’i surfers to battle at worlds

Kaua’i’s Tyler Newton, Alex Smith, Dylan Melamed and Alana Blanchard were chosen to represent Hawai’i at the ISA World Junior Pro Championships.

The foursome have all surfed together since they were seven years old, and they still train on practically a daily basis at Pinetrees in Hanalei. All but Smith graduated from Hanalei Elementary School with the same graduating class that also featured Bethany Hamilton and Bear Bailey. Their common knowledge and deep-rooted friendships just might pay off in key heats in Brazil.

“It took almost 30 years for Hawai’i to gain its first World Team Championship trophy, and hopefully it will take longer than that for the rest of the surfing world to wrestle it away from us,” remarked Rainos Hayes, coach and the driving force behind the selecting and training of its team members.

The ISA World Junior Pro Championships started decades ago. Thanks to George Downing, Hawai’i was chosen as a separate nation, rather than part of the United States.

That’s mainly because it is the birthplace of surfing, but also because of its unique location, its history with the sport itself and the difficulty in travel and training its team members with those on the mainland. And yet, over the years, Hawai’i never brought home a world championship crown.

It wasn’t until the format changed three years ago to include only junior surfers that Hawai’i has really made itself that much more of a force to be reckoned with. This past October in Huntington Beach, Hawai’i finally gained the highly acclaimed title. The teams each year are comprised of three divisions. They are boys under 18, boys under 16, and a highly competitive women’s under 18 division. At present, most nations including Brazil, Tahiti, Australia, the United States, Japan, South Africa, and others worldwide (over 28 in all) receive support in many ways from their respective governments, businesses and organizations with one goal in mind — bringing back the championship trophy and medals.

This event is the closest thing surfing has to the Olympics and it is recognized as such by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Some of these nations actually feature their team on billboards, in magazines, and they make live appearances on television. Some have sendoffs and welcoming parades upon their return.

While here in Hawai’i the team is chosen, they train, and they travel and are coached by just a few key volunteers with very little outside support or recognition. Rainos Hayes, Donald and Lavonne Pahia, and Bert Ishimaru, all based on O’ahu, have been involved in the sport and industry for many years.

Rainos is the Billabong team manager and coaches surfers on an ongoing basis. He travels with team members to a variety of meets, while assisting the Billabong contests here in Hawai’i. Donald Pahia has been the Quiksilver team manager forever, and his wife Lavonne has been the team mom for everybody. Bert manages Tokoro surfboards and also directs the highly respected Macy’s E-Series competition as well as being a vital member of the judges panel for the Hawai’i Amateur Surfing Association.

Their experience has proved vital in the presentation of a Hawai’i world team trials, and then each took part in the difficult selection process to choose who they think would best represent Hawai’i against a field of 28 highly competitive nations.

“All those countries will have only one thing in mind in Brazil this May” remarked Ishimaru from his Kaneohe headquarters, “and that’s to take down the Hawai’i competitors in any and every heat, stealing vital points from the teams overall potential.”

In October at Huntington, the Hawaiians surfed together as a team in various heats, blocking for each other and at times sacrificing position for waves so that other team riders could score important points. Thanks to the coaching of Rainos and Donald as well as chaperoning and support of Lavonne and William Pierce, the sacrifices paid off. Donald remarked, “Though surfing is an individual sport the kids learned early that this team concept is one that must come from the heart.” And so it did. Hawai’i took down all the other nations. Did you know that there are more surfers in Southern California than total residents in the State of Hawai’i?

Now that the selection process for the 2006 team is complete the small committee feels confident of its composition of competitive veterans as well as some rookies that display immense potential.

The 18 and under division is comprised of past years Junior World Champion Tonino Benson, Open Men’s Champion and surf marvel Clay Marzo, runner up and a very strong and tricky Torrey Meister, as well as Big Island power broker Casey Brown. These round out the starting four.

The Women’s division is led by Kaua’i’s Alana Blanchard, who fared well against international competition making it to the finals at Sunset Beach as well as winning the Pipeline contest this past year. Other top team riders include veteran performer from last season’s competition Lani Hunter, and Hana’s own Monyca Byrne Wicke and Lipoa Kahaleuahi..

The under 16 division has the sharp and strong Granger Larsen with many national titles under his belt, followed by Kaua’i’s own Tyler Newton, Alex Smith and Dylan Melamed, each standouts in their own right and eager to gain international competitive experience.

Such experience for all these young athletes is what this competition is all about.

It should be noted that a few key riders chosen for consideration but unable to compete include Kiron Jabour, Coco Ho and Carissa Moore.

A strong field of alternates has been selected as back up in case any of the first team starters are injured or are unable to travel. They include Mason Ho, Nathan Rex, Kyle Ramey, Alex King, Dege O’Connell, and Ashley Hunter.

Hayes hopes to gather the team together for some essential training leading up to their departure, since they reside on the four major islands. The team also plans to have about a weeks worth of training together at the contest site in Brazil before the first horn blows from the official’s tent. The event will be coming up quickly as the dates of the event are May 6-14 in the city of Maresias.

The overall travel costs which account for airfare, ground transportation, per diem, and accommodations for the two weeks will amount to well over $60,000.

HASA (Hawai’i Amateur Surfing Association) is a non-profit organization with non-profit status.

They welcome any businesses and corporations, with an interest in our states youth as well as the surf industry to offer support so our team can represent Hawai’i as the champions that they truly are. These kids are proud to be the best ambassadors of Aloha that they can be for our great state, as well as represent our unique culture and our Sport of Kings.

For more information regarding such support contact Rainos Hayes on O’ahu at (808) 638-8455.

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