Rising to the top

With a bodyboarding season that kicked off at Pipeline and finished in Portugal, this year was one to remember for David Hubbard.

A sixth world title will do that.

“The level of competition was really high. There were a lot of guys gunning for the win, so it was really action-packed,” the Kauai man said. “The level of riding wasn’t the only thing on the rise. We saw one of our biggest prize purses ever, so it was awesome to see such strong support.”

For the last decade David Hubbard has been representing Drop Knee bodyboarding worldwide. The season opener at Pipeline started with a bang.

“The Drop Knee division saw some of the best conditions of the event, 3 to 5 foot with steep take-offs and critical barrels,” said Hubbard. “It was a great way to start the tour, because the conditions warranted most of the guys having to do their personal-best out at one of the best waves in the world.”

For Hubbard, it has been a year of highs and lows, especially after losing two people special to him in June. Bob Sato, Hubbard’s coach throughout his amateur career, died of cancer, while Lindsay Hinds, Hubbard’s former girlfriend, died in an automobile accident.

“As individuals, each of them made a massive impact on my life and shaped who I am today,” he said. “Above anything, I know they would like to see me continue pursuing my passion.”

Hubbard’s focus was not only on competition this year, but his new bodyboard brand: Hubboards, which was started last year with his brother Jeff. Having filmed over the winter season and on several trips in the spring, they released a self-titled film, “Hubboards,” in July.

“This film was a wonderful opportunity to test our boards in the best conditions we could find, and display their performance to the public,” he said.

They premiered the film across the state and also throughout California, as well as in Mexico and Portugal. The final movie premiere corresponded with the final event on the APB world tour in Sintra, Portugal.

“This year’s event had really good conditions, some of the best I’ve ever seen at this venue,” said Hubbard.

Even though the Drop Knee title was on the line, Hubbard was also excited for the men’s event.

“It was great for busting airs and clean riding, which is what I love,” he said.

Hubbard advanced in both divisions into the final day of competition.

In his first heat that final day, he was eliminated from the Drop Knee division, so he decided to set his sights on the men’s, rather than getting caught up in the logistics for his pending title.

“A lot of people were more concerned about it than I was. I was fine with how things were going and had more heats to surf, so I chose to focus on that,” Hubbard said.

The eventual winner of this year’s men’s world title, Amaury Lavernhe, had eliminated Hubbard that morning.

“He was on the other side of the draw in the men’s, so I told him I wanted a rematch, hoping for that chance to come in the men’s final — and it did,” said Hubbard. “I had the support of my brother on the beach, and he reassured me that I had been surfing really smart. That encouraged me to stay the course and not adjust my strategy. I also strongly felt Bob and Lindsay’s presence, and that helped me to stay calm and focused.”

The men’s final began with Hubbard getting on the board with 5.75 points for a backflip followed by a small barrel and reverse spin on a medium-sized wave.

Lavernhe answered with an invert to gain 6.75 points. Hubbard found an open face to spin before hitting a smooth backflip which earned him 7.4 points. Lavernhe took several rides in search of higher scoring potential, while Hubbard was also hunting, but neither of them bettered their position.

The final was approaching its last minute when a set came in and both riders “split the peak.” Lavernhe took the left and mirrored Hubbard’s earlier wave with a spin to backflip, receiving the same score he had, a 7.4. Hubbard took the right and found the biggest move of the heat and was awarded 8 points for it.

As the clock wound down, Hubbard earned his first ever men’s world tour victory with a cumulative total of 15.4, beating out Lavernhe’s 14.15.

Upon reaching the shore, Hubbard was greeted by brother Jeff and they shared the moment in a strong embrace before fellow Hawaiian Jacob Romero assisted Jeff in chairing David up the beach on their shoulders.

“It was a moving experience for me, because I’ve been on the world tour for about 10 years and hadn’t won a men’s event until that day. I had been in several finals, and been runner-up twice. It was a milestone to finally get the win.” Hubbard said. “To have it coincide with being crowned the DK world champion was an honor I’ll never forget that day.”

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