Kaikeha, Inc. hosts second-annual Garden Island Body Boarding Classic

  • Courtesy of the Association of Professional Bodyboarding file

    Professional bodyboarder Jeff Hubbard rides a wave during a recent competition. Hubbard, from Kaua‘i, will be one of several professional bodyboarders participating in the second annual Garden Island Boogie Board Classic Aug. 8 and 9 at Prince Kuhio Beach.

LIHU‘E —For eight-time professional drop knee body boarding champion Dave Hubbard, the second annual Garden Island Boogie Board Classic August 8-9 is more than just another competition.

The classic will take place at Prince Kuhio Beach from 7 a.m,. to 4 p.m. both days, with the awards ceremony to follow at Prince Kuhio Park.

The competition will feature divisions of super grom ages 9 and under, Menehune ages 10 – 13, junior ages 14 – 17, girls ages 17 and under, open women Ages 18 and older, open men ages 18 and older, master’s ages 35 and older, drop -knee pro and open pro.

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As a teenager, Hubbard, the younger brother of three-time International Boarding Association World Champion Jeff Hubbard, recalls watching his older brothers Jeff and Mike achieve worldwide victories on the professional circuit.

After observing the accomplishments of his older siblings, Dave admits he became entrenched in the scene, trying to emulate the success of what the Hubbards turned into a family business.

“It was nice to be able to follow them in whatever they were doing, learn from them and just finding my way to the ocean naturally,” Dave Hubbard said. “I was always hanging around them. They were always bodyboarding and surfing.”

Jeff’s success motivated Dave even more when he saw him grace the cover of a prominent bodyboarding magazine.

“Back when magazines existed and I saw him on the cover,” Dave Hubbard said, “I thought to myself, ‘if he can do it, I can give it a try.’ We became a very tight-knit group and shared the stoke and excitement.”

The drop-knee pro competition will be a point-rated event for this year’s world tour, with top bodyboarders in Hawai‘i on-site to help guide the future generations, according to Jeff Hubbard.

Because of COVID-19, many events worldwide are shut down, and this is the only chance for youngsters this year to see the professionals up-close.

“This event is essential to form a professional perspective because this is all we have from a pro perspective,” Hubbard said. “For the younger bodyboarders, this is their only chance to see the professionals and get an opportunity to show their riding skills.”

Chris Burkart, another long-time bodyboarder, is advocating building a scene for future generations on Kaua‘i, an island that has produced 14 IBA world champions.

“What these generations are getting is the mentoring process,” Burkart said. “They learn how to ride properly and get to see the professional-caliber riders in real life and see their successes and failures. They see them catch an awesome wave, but they also wipe out and realize that these guys do wipe out, too.”

When Jeff Hubbard first began competing in the sport, he recalled having a lot of mentors.

“Coming from a small island like Kaua‘i, we had mentors growing up, and looked up to the older generations,” Jeff Hubbard said. “The waves are good, and it is a good asset for young boarders to see bodyboarding at the top of their craft, see national champions and learn from them.”

Amateur body boarder Falcon Valeria, now 34, has been involved with the sport for over 20 years, and wants to create enthusiasm for a youth scene that he said he felt has dwindled in recent years.

“We are trying to perpetuate the sport from within,” Valeria said. “There are many professionals out there, and our younger generation needs to see what it takes to do all the little things pros do to foster a competitive spirit.”

The ‘Ohana bubble

To put on an event scheduled initially for mid-May during the COVID-19 era, several protocols must be followed.

Some of them include: All persons shall maintain a minimum of six feet of physical separation from all other persons to the fullest extent possible.

Face masks will be worn at all times unless you’re approaching entrance into the water, and hand sanitizer and sanitizing products are readily available at the comfort station and in the bathrooms.

“The COVID problem has made everything harder logistically,” Burkart said. “Social distancing is a problem that we are experiencing because everyone sits together in a normal contest, and the beach lifestyle isn’t used to social distancing between ourselves and friends.”

Burkart said getting used to the protocol is going to be an adjustment.

“Typically, at an event like this, you are in the water shoulder to shoulder, Burkart said. “You are surfing with people most of the time, and now you will have to keep your six feet of separation. It’s going to be hard.”

For Valeria, getting used to the new world is inconsequential to building a scene.

“The main reason for this kind of an event is obvious because we love bodyboarding, and we want to ‘perpetuate the stoke,’ or the happiness of being in the water with your friends,” Valeria said.

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Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.

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