The 28th Annual Pine Trees Longboard Classic featured Kaua‘i’s top longboard riders vying for more trophies and prizes than ever before. This year it was Kai Kane’s turn to produce the contest and it took over 15 hours to complete all the heats over two days to determine the winners in every division.
The definitive contest standouts this year were Job Ishiki and Lucas Ross. Job won his junior men’s division championship round, which featured the likes of Bobby Cocke who along with Mark Sausen has won more titles and trophies at this contest than any other competitor. Job also had to ride past a challenging Kekoa Hermosura, the most accomplished Gavin Kennelly, the strong riding Shane Steadman, nose riding specialist of the day Stephen McCarthy, a seasoned contest surfer Sebastian Zietz and the winning tandem rider of the meet, Keola Wong. Job came through with flying colors in his light green jersey.
Job also garnered first place in the vintage division. Most boards weighed 30 pounds or more, and they had to be original boards from the early 60’s.
These old waterlogged monsters were most difficult to paddle and control, and there were some exciting and somewhat humorous wipeouts even in the 1-3 foot waves that were consistent over the two day period. Seven preliminary heats in this division made it most competitive. And when all was said and done, the final again featured Job Ishiki walking away with the first place trophy, nudging out Bobby Cocke, Richard Patey, Sebastian Zietz, Bear Bailey and Stephen McCarthy. Job thus gained two first place trophies in two of the most difficult divisions, which made his dad Bobby Ishiki most proud.
Lucas Ross was the winner of the Kane final, taking home first place over the multi-talented artist and videographer Joel Guy, school teacher and former lifeguard John Cornell, the versatile Rafter, and always aggressive Dennis Williams. It should be noted that Lucas Ross also brought home a first place trophy in the newest division of the contest, the standing paddle division which features huge boards and accompanying paddles.
The riders stroke while standing up on their boards and glide into steep sections while negotiating major drops. Lucas, who returned from Colorado a few years back, is proving his overall talents on all sorts of wave-riding vehicles and he too captured two first place trophies.
The Kaua‘i surfing community is a tight knit group of wave riders from all sides of the island. Most of the competitors know each other quite well and at this time we need to also call attention to Bear Bailey, who broke his leg in two places last August only to return after months of training.
He jumped from his shortboard heroics to a longboard and stroked away with a first place trophy in the boys 13-17 year old division.
Erika Steiner is proving her versatility in a very talented family of surfers. After making a strong debut showing on the shortboard tour this season, Erika also won the girls longboard division by moving away from the pack during her 20 minute final and riding a left further down the beach which provided a platform and springboard for many spinners, backside floaters, nose rides as well as a five second headstand while riding to shore. She arched through sections into first place past Taylor Reid, Kristen Steiner, Dakota Barnett, Camille Brady, Sweden Kealoha, and Coral Gonzales.
The legends final featured some guys 50 and over that proved life is good with a little help from a cabinet full of anti-inflammatories. Mark Angel’s strong nose riding and stylish hard driving drop knee cutbacks through some fat sections placed him in first place over the challenging previous champions Craig Balmores, Mike “the guitar picking” Smith, Mark (papa Sau-shaper and tip rider extraordinaire) Sausen, the ancient mariner Les Tabuchi, and relative newcomer to the contest, Peter Sellas.
In longboarding, style is everything. And Ian Vernon was in total control in the masters final. His first place finish over Richard Patey and a slew of veteran performers made his clan quite proud while on the beach. We all wondered whether Ian was now going to start shaping even more sunburnt longboards to go hand in hand with his accomplished shortboard designs.
In the Na Wahine division, the overall winner proved once again to be Nikki Bockwinkel who was one of the few female riders of the contest who was around over 30 years ago to surf in the very first meet on the beach at the very same Pine Trees beach park.
The wahine final was one of the closest of the day. Mia Melamed was leading the pack up until the very talented Maikalani Martinez caught a shoulder high peeling right that she tip rode from after her initial bottom turn, until she hit the inside reform, where she laid down a perfect cutback and then hopped back on the tip once again and made it to shore.
This wave and resulting points moved her to just a half point ahead of Melamed. Following in that heat were Kristen Foster, Sarah Miles, Heather Cornell, and Paulina Barsotti. Maikalani helped to reinforce the surfers adage, “it ain’t over ‘til the final horn.”
In years past, the menehune division gave keiki a chance to ride shortboards in this contest. The kids of yesteryear never gave longboarding a fair shake. And in years past, the Marseilles brothers, Keoni Lucas, Laird Hamilton, the Irons brothers, and the Kennelly kids used this contest to strut their stuff.
As longboards continued to become more responsive due to materials and design, the menehune gradually changed to become a longboard division.
Today this hotly contested open division pits the boys and girls together and in the final we found some true rivals facing off on Sunday afternoon.
Little Kaoli Kahokuloa and Kaikea Elias have faced off against each other in all sorts of shortboard contests, as has Leila Hurst and Nage Melamed. All four of these surfers in fact are heading to NSSA Nationals in San Clemente, as well as the state championships on O‘ahu riding their favorite shortboards.
On this Sunday, however, they were riding boards three feet longer than their height, and they also had to handle Annabelle Marvin and Kona Kai Wilson in their six person heat. The waves cooperated on both lefts and rights and when all was said and done, Leila literally nosed out Nage and Kaikea by a very slim margin making for a fun heat of competitive paddle battles and fiery moves.
We saved the tandem division for last, but definitely not the least. In this case, it was most dads advancing to the finals with their chosen offspring. The drops on these large tandem boards had one, two or sometimes three riders performing all sorts of tricks. Hats off to the winners Keola and Leilani Wong as well as to all the tandem riders who attempted some difficult and somewhat dangerous feats of strength and determination.
All in all, it was an amazing two days, and the contest was overseen by Bobby and Kristine Cocke, and the perennial Mike Wildog Williams, along with tabulating masters Toy Bailey and Beau Blair. The judges were headed up by Danny Garcia. Peter Pope co-anchored the hosting chores and he is always a pleasure to work with.
This contest seems to have a life and spirit of its own, and the competitors get swept along with it, experiencing the joy that Mother Nature continues to provide regardless of the distractions we find around our island and around the world. It’s always a pleasure to take part in this event simply because of that. We have Hanalei and its beauty to be forever thankful for. Lets never forget it!
Complete results of the contest are in the scoreboard on B3.