Maui win, duo heads ‘Down Under’

Most riding 12-foot Makaha Point righthanders on O‘ahu would have little concern for artistic presentation, timing and being in synchronization with a partner.

Many who have experienced that famous break’s waves are more concerned with keeping their hides off the reef.

Surfing there two weeks ago, Blanche Yoshida and Kalani Vierra — both of Kaua‘i — were most concerned with perfecting their overhead moves.

“It takes a hell of a lot of trust in each other,” said Yoshida, the female partner of the tandem surfing team.

“When the surf is that size, it is hard to maintain that fluid style,” said Vierra.

Monday the pair won the open tandem division at the Tropical Energy Ocean Games at Ho‘okipa Beach on Maui, one of the premier events for the worldwide tandem surfing circuit.

They were in Makaha the weekend before for another competition.

Yoshida won her first tandem competition at Makaha in 1968 when she was 15. Her partner then was the late Waikiki beachboy Leroy AhChoy.

Vierra has been a tandem surfer for three months. He is known most for his role as the Ocean Safety Bureau, district supervisor for the Po‘ipu area.

Vierra says he loves tandem surfing as it is a new experience for him on the water. “It’s a very challenging way to surf and you have to be very strong,” Vierra said. “I’m built for it.”

“For the female, stay small,” said Yoshida, “And stay in shape.”

There are 45 different “lifts” in the sport of tandem surfing and each one has different degrees of difficulty. Both Yoshida and Vierra say the most difficult move for them is the “Little Arrow.”

“I have to start by standing on his shoulders first,” Yoshida said.

“Then I kind of toss her in the air and she does a split, and then I catch her on the way down,” Vierra said.

“Sure, it can hurt if we miss,” Yoshida said, “But it’s all part of the training.”

The pair get together a couple times a week to train. A portion of it includes dry runs of the routines on land, weight training and yoga. Both compare the sport to figure skating for the moves, lifts, timing and synchronization.

“We practice often at Po‘ipu and the visitors, they yell and clap and take pictures,” Vierra said. “The looks we get … they are amazed … blown away.”

“Fun is the number one reason we do this,” Yoshida said. “Number two is, we are competitive, and then there is the artistic part.”

Vierra likes the challenge. The boards are larger, with more rocker near the nose, he said. “They are shaped for the sport, and at least 11 feet long.”

Bill Foot on Maui shaped the teams’ competition board.

Yoshida is 53 and weighed in at 96 pounds on Monday. Vierra is 41, and weighed in at 190 pounds the same day.

To be eligible for competition, the smaller member has to weigh at least half of the larger member’s weight. Age though, does not matter. “I know I am not beautiful, like a lot of those young girls you see doing the sport,” Yoshida said.

Vierra calls her an inspiration. “She’s the reason the sport is regaining popularity in the state,” he said. “We are the only ones doing it on Kaua‘i.”

They have no coaches or corporate sponsors. The duo learned many of their moves from an airline publication that featured tandem surfing in a recent edition. “We did get Quiksilver to buy our airline tickets,” Yoshida said.

For winning Monday’s event on Maui the team won a spot at the next event in the circuit to be held at Noosa Heads in Australia.

The world champs in tandem, Kathy Harada and Bryan Kealana, didn’t make the Maui competition but Yoshida and Vierra did beat them in one heat two weeks ago at Makaha. “We’re the new kids on the block,” Yoshida said.

“We have nothing to lose,” Vierra said.

They look forward to competing against the world champs in Australia.

Both also say they owe a lot to their spouses as well for their support.

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