Kealia Surf Festival challenges the wind, and wins

KEALIA — The wind was blowing the tops of the breaks and surfers were anxious during the two days of the Kealia Surf Festival “Take the Challenge” at the Kealia Beach.

Natalia Smith, almost missing her call during the Long Board Women 18 and Over, slipped in under the eyes of announcer Billy Swain and pushed to the top of the division, masterfully selecting the right waves and outriding her competitors to garner 49 points over Lauren Leialoha who was able to put together 40 points in the division.

Jennelle Timmons finished in the No. 3 position with 36 points and Sarah Bilyeu rounded out the field.

But the push for the top spot on the Long Board Women 18 and Over took its toll on the young woman who had just one 15-minute heat to rest up before taking to the water for her second event Sunday, the Women’s Stand Up (Paddle) Open, where she faced a formidable field of competitors including Mariko Strickland who ended up taking the top spot on 48 points.

Lei Wann, getting her share of rides, followed seven points back at 41 points.

Smith, showing signs of exhaustion from fighting the wind-blown chop in the waning minutes of the event, filled in third place by just a mere two points at 39 points.

Mytra Mckeague (34 points) and Jan Richman (24.5 points), riding the left breaks  throughout the heat, rounded out the field.

The wind-blown surf forced surfers to grab waves they would normally pass over in lieu of better rides, but with the prize of the winner of the Long Board advancing to the Rabbit Kekai event later in the year, surfers were impatient and caught waves to build points.

“I just didn’t get the money waves,” said Eugene Ancheta who was competing in one of the Long Board divisions. “I could have gotten more points, but I was impatient and just couldn’t latch on to the right waves.”

Earlier in the meet, Lilikoi Kessell locked up the Short Board Girls 13-17 on 27 points over Shasta Behling (24.5 points).

Jenelle Timmons edged out KC Chatfield by just two points for the top spot in the Short Board, Women over 18, Timmons collecting 29.5 points to Chatfield’s 27.5 points. Laureen Leialoha (21 points) and Rebecca Hart (19 points) rounded out the leaderboard.

Kai McIntyre topped the Short Board Boys 12 and Under division on 48.5 points followed by Sage Tutteren (30 points), Airon Behling (30.5 points), Michael Dewitt (27 points) and Justice Chatfield (23 points).

Naiah Phillips topped the Short Board Boys 13-17 on 59.5 points followed by Elijah Fox (51 points), Jonah Currence (50.5 points), Kumba Green (36.5 points), Iona Lo‘i (31.5 points) and Daniel Laguna.

Kyle Galtes topped the Short Board Men’s 18-34 at 69.5 points followed by Chatson Barrett (62.5 points), Derek Lyons-Wolfe (50 points) and Jesse Johnson (36 points).

Mike Dasalia topped the Short Board Mens 35 and Over with 58 points followed by Rex Yamada at 50 points, Eddie Acierto trailing by a point at 49, and Titus Kinimaka at 39.5 points.

“This was so amazing how it all came together,” said Lihu‘e Kinimaka, sister of Titus who finished fourth in the Short Board Mens 35 and Over. “The family all came together to help. Titus was surfing and another sister, Kapu Kinimaka-Alquiza put on a Polynesian show during the awards lu‘au where Titus brought out his musicians for a spot on the entertainment lineup.”

Lihu‘e said the event was just a nice way for families to just come out and have fun, the surf meet featuring a host of vendors doing food and other items, and vendors from the Kealia Marketplace, coordinated by Lihu‘e, donating a lot of good prizes for participants in the surf festival.

“It was just good fun,” Lihu‘e said. “And Rabbit Kekai, all 91 years of him, was kolohe as ever, our men’s Long Board winner moving on to his surf classic which will be announced later this year. It’s an all-expenses paid trip.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@


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