Koa Smith, Leila Hurst win 2 national titles

Home school Elite Element wins Hawai‘i’s first team title

by The Garden Island

LOWER TRESTLES, Calif. — Kaua‘i’s Koa Smith won his second national title in the Explorer Menehune division of the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s national championships last week in California. He then won the 12 and Under Open Boys division when he scored a perfect 10 in the competition.

Leila Hurst also scored a perfect 10 of her own and won two titles in divisions featuring her fellow Kaua‘i surfers.

The 13-year-old Smith was the heavy favorite in both events and after consistently scored 9s and 8s, Smith earned himself spots in both finals.

Despite strong opposition in the Explorer Menehune division, Smith surfed a succession of backhand lip blasts to secure his win over Makai McNamara, Ian Gentil, Luke Hitchcock, Kaoli Kohokulua and Seth Moniz.

Smith scored the perfect 10 two hours later when faced up against almost the same bunch as earlier. He defeated fellow Kaua‘i surfer Hitchcock who earned second place and McNamara who came in third.

Smith dropped a screaming lefthander, then launched into a double grab air straight from the takeoff and torqued into a full-blown tailslide before bashing the lip two more times for good measure.

In the Open Womens final, two Kaua‘i surfers, Hurst and Malia Manuel, saw lacking waves that were few and far between. Local favorites from Huntington Beach, Calif., Courtney Conologue and Sage Erickson were able to catch the better waves and paddled in with first- and second-place trophies.

Hurst, however, scored her perfect 10 in the Explorer Girls division when up against Manuel and another Kaua‘i surfer, Nage Melamed.

With six minutes left, Manuel had a slim lead over Hurst and Melamed. Manuel’s waves were not the best but her moves were strong. Manuel then found herself out of position for the largest set of the heat. Melamed was in second place and Hurst needed a 10-point wave to win. They each were paddling towards the horizon and both paddled for the biggest wave.

Hurst had a stronger stroke and dropped into a wave that was 5 feet over her body on the takeoff. Hurst snapped some bottom turns and tossed buckets of water on her cutbacks. Then Melamed dropped in on the wave behind Hurst’s.

But Hurst’s wave and Hurst’s drive awarded her with a perfect 10 and the first-place finish.

Hurst’s powerful paddling ability gave her the upper hand yet again in the Explorer Women’s division. Holding off Melamed and Monyca Byrne-Wickey, Hurst rode the wave to the middle shoulder before it closed off to seal her second victory.

Other Kaua‘i surfers who competed were Dylan Goodale, Tyler Newton, Alex Smith, Dylan Melamed, Kalen Galtes and Kaimana Jacquias.

Surfing coach Ben Aipa of Hawai‘i received his first Coach of the Year award.

While Kaua‘i received a number of national titles, this was the first year that a school from Hawai‘i took the team competition. Elite Element, a home school team which features Jacquias, Galtes and Coco Ho, won the team competition, defeating Carlsbad High School of California giving Hawai‘i its first team title in the NSSA’s 30-year history.

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