Sometimes the best events aren’t necessarily the most widely publicized. A great concert can be held in a small venue. The best TV shows haven’t been on network television for about 20 years. The best basketball game ever played may have been a Dream Team scrimmage that wasn’t even played in front of any spectators.
Within the surf community, one of the year’s best contests is Da Hui Backdoor Shootout. It’s not a World Surf League event, so it has no bearing on rankings or qualifying points. If you were to go on the WSL website, you wouldn’t even know it had taken place this past weekend.
But a quick perusal of social media would have shone the spotlight squarely upon Oahu’s North Shore. The conditions provided some big swell and just the right number of days to put on the annual spectacle at Pipeline.
A star-studded group of local favorites took the team title as Bruce Irons, Mason Ho, Tyler Newton and Nathan Fletcher — known as Team Weedmaps — earned the group honor. Staring at that list of names, it’s hard to come up with a stronger foursome for this particular wave.
But the top individual honor went to Koa Rothman, whose winning wave same him take a huge drop, heading left deep into a Pipeline barrel. He emerged after a ferocious spit take and had a slightly stunned look on his face that crept into his body language. There was no major claim, just a visual of Rothman realizing he was still upright and graciously ducking into the face before it closed out.
That was enough to earn the $40,000 top prize and get the year going with the first major title of 2017.
Rothman’s performance was only slightly marred by Kalani Chapman’s wipeout the previous day, after which Chapman required resuscitation and a hospital stay. Not that it was needed, but it was another reminder of how treacherous the wave can be for even the most seasoned of veterans.
Chapman has since been shown recovering, but it was another near miss in the very best sense. Last winter Evan Geiselman almost drowned and this year Pipeline almost took Chapman. Thanks to water safety and fellow surfers, each made it out alive.
So while the stakes aren’t high in a professional sense, they couldn’t be higher any time the Pipeline lineup is staked out by the world’s best.
Shoe City Pro: Across the pond at Huntington Beach, the QS season was getting underway at the Shoe City Pro. It’s just a QS 1,000 event, but it always attracts a few big names. This year was no different as hometown hero Kanoa Igarashi and Chelsea Tuach of Barbados took the men’s and women’s titles.
Igarashi, headed back for his second season on the CT, outlasted Takumi Nakamura in the final. Brett Simpson and Ian Crane reached the semifinals before their eliminations.
Tuach, who will be looking to re-qualify for the CT after a disappointing rookie year in 2016, topped Samantha Sibley, Tia Blanco and Kaleigh Gilchrist in the final.
Kauai’s Bailey Nagy and Mainei Kinimaka each made it to the semifinals. Nagy took an equal fifth place and Kinimaka finished equal seventh. Kinimaka had her best result last season at this same event, when she reached the final for fourth place.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.