Bodyboarding classic lays groundwork for future generations

Some organizations reiterate their company’s mission statement like a subliminal message.

They hope if they redundantly recite something, the repetition will be embedded into the consumer’s mind to entice them to buy into something they don’t even believe in.

It’s good to have a level of skepticism before you become involved.

While covering the second annual bodyboarding competition in Kukui‘ula Saturday afternoon put on by Kaikeha, Inc., the impression they wanted people to leave with was that this tournament was for the island’s keiki. That was transparent by the event itself.

In a conversation with veteran bodyboarder Harry Antipala, he said the bodyboarding scene isn’t what it used to be.

Putting it in a historical context, bodyboarding is just part of living in Hawai‘i.

Bodyboarding on the professional circuit between 1989 and the late 1990s was the gateway to Antipala’s successful life.

After a 10-year career as a professional bodyboarder, Antipala remained in the business for decades.

Working on the ground floor of helping Mike Stewart develop his company called Science Bodyboards, now producing some of the premier bodyboards in the world, was just one of many experiences Antipala had that made him successful after the end of his bodyboarding career.

He also later worked on developing what he referred to as a spin-off project for a GoPro accessory called Knekt, and he helped utilize his expertise with another friend to help launch a streaming broadcast company called Sports 3.

Now Antipala is the market vice president for Apria Healthcare, a company that has a sleep lab that makes diagnosis and treats obstructive-sleep-apnea patients.

He learned about business through his experience as a bodyboarder, and in the industry.

“It was great because I got to transition into the industry, and I learned about the manufacturing process, international distribution and sales,” Antipala said.

Without bodyboarding, all of his success would not be possible.

Although still very popular among the youth in Hawai‘i, bodyboarding isn’t what it used to be.

Social media, video games, other stimuli and outside factors have sadly shrunk the bodyboarding scene on Kaua‘i.

When Antipala was young, bodyboarding was different in Hawai‘i.

“They used to have an entire nationwide program for bodyboarding and surfing really for each of the islands,” Antipala recalled. “There used to be a season where you would go over, compete, get a ranking, have a state championship and get to compete in a national championship on the mainland.”

The system that existed for him to succeed isn’t there for the island’s keiki anymore, and it is too bad because Antipala is a walking testimonial of the long-term benefits and opportunities the sport can open up for young competitors.

“There were many youth surfing and bodyboarding programs when I was a kid, and that transitioned into a robust professional tour,” Antipala said. “It is tough for an amateur kid from Kaua‘i to make a living because the professional system has fallen apart over the years. Now, with COVID-19, hardly anyone can make a living at it.”

They say repetition is the mother of skill. Through competitions like this, the kids get the practice, develop camaraderie and get the validation that motivates them to move forward.

This is the precursor to building a scene and an industry.

Professional bodyboarders Dave Hubbard, Jeff Hubbard and Chris Burkart said they never wavered from their mission statement because they aren’t putting on the Second annual Garden Island Boogie Boarding Classic for any reason other than the futures of the island’s keiki.

It’s easy to buy in when the message is sincere.

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

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