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Aloha Classic Sends It At Hookipa

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  • Aloha Classic Sends It At Hookipa

    There's something truly extraordinary about the Aloha Classic at Ho'okipa: it delivers, every year, every time, and it delivers big. Today it delivered huge.

    Mast-high waves were forecast and the whole windsurfing world was excited, tuning into the live stream from all corners of planet earth, expecting a terrific opening day—and it was even more extraordinary than forecast. There were 18+ foot faces with 20 to 25 knot cross offshore conditions. It was the absolute best day of the still young winter season, and it was delivered on the opening day of the biggest wave riding contest in the world. Truly extraordinary!

    With such exceptional conditions, head judge Duncan Coombs called the Pro Men up for the first round of heats. A 48-man bracket was full and we kicked off with round one: 16 x 3-man heats. The seeding is always tricky in big wave events, but it must have been just about perfect because all the highest ranked riders comfortably won their heats and progressed through to the top 32 of round three. All riders who came second or third in round one today progress to round two for their second chance to crack into the prestigious top 32 professional wave riders of the Aloha Classic.

    all pics © si crowther/IWT

    Outstanding performances from round one came from seasoned pros! Marcilo Browne (5th overall PWA this year) had a monster wave with three super vertical and critical hits with clean and tweaked aerials to dominate his first round heat.

    Bernd Roediger (two-time Aloha Classic winner and last year's runner-up) was the stand out rider of the day with huge 9.5 wave scores from hitting massive 18-foot face lips and flying 360 aerial maneuvers that landed at speed and flowed directly into his next bottom to top hits. He was on fire, and today he was certainly the man to beat.

    Robby Swift (9th overall PWA this year) went into today with a worrying knee injury but it didn't stop him from taking a series of monster waves in his heat and putting on a world class display of power surfing with full lay down bottom turns and savage gouging top turns throwing huge plumes of snow.

    Levi Siver (past Aloha Classic champion) is a Ho'okipa specialist, spending time as a youth on Maui. He has been a sensation since he was 15. He is still regarded as one of the most dangerous guys at Ho'okipa and he turned on an incredible display of power moves today, making the conditions look far easier than they were as he smashed huge lips on monster set wave after set wave. Another one to watch for the top spot in this year's contest.

    Last year's winner and three-time Aloha Classic Champion, Morgan Noireaux, won his heat but wasn't pushing it too hard. He's a dark horse. The three-time winner is never in a rush in his early heats but rest assured, as the pressure builds progressing toward the finals, this young man knows how to rise to the occasion. Could this be the year he wins a fourth unprecedented Aloha Classic title?

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    At the conclusion of the first round of Pro Men, the contest shifted to the Pro Women. The waves were now even bigger. The swell had shifted very slightly and the tide was now conspiring to create a far more dangerous situation for riders. The big sets were now closing out the whole of Ho'okipa bay, and if riders were caught on the inside they were very likely to be having a most unwelcome conversation with the world-renowned rocks of Ho'okipa point.

    The first heat in round one for the women saw past world champion and previous multiple-time Aloha Classic Champion, Angela Cochran, lay down a serious master class in how to handle a massive day here. She flew out through the technical and dangerous waves ride after ride. She went high and deep and showed no fear as she charged the lips of the monsters rolling into the bay. It was a powerful display, and she completely dominated the heat despite her younger and also very talented rival and IWT 2018 champion, Maria Andres, catching some great waves. Just goes to show that true grit never gets old.

    The second heat of the women saw another past Aloha Classic Champion, Motoko Sato from Japan, ride powerfully to claim the top spot and sail through to round three and the semi-finals, ahead of Sabine Zola from Italy, who also charged some great lines.

    In the third heat, the conditions seemed to get even more critical. Every second set wave was now a full 18+ foot wall of power that closed out the bay. It was now a major challenge just to get out the back into position to catch a wave. Canadian and now long-time local, Shawna Cropus, showed her big wave experience and made it look easy as she caught and rode one monster after another. Annamaria Zollet from Italy managed to get out the back once and ride a nice big wave, but she was then stuck in the inside, unable to break through the relentless walls of mast-high white water. She was eventually separated from her equipment and picked up by big wave surf ski rescue legends the Walsh brothers. Her equipment wasn't so lucky. It was dashed against the rocks and the remnants dragged out by a very busy shore crew.

    The fourth and final heat of the first round of women saw hot favorite and last year's Aloha Classic Champion, Sarah Hauser up against young Japanese rider, Kazuki Ishihara. Kazuki showed impressive skill and terrific tenacity and bravery to charge out into this raging ocean with far less experience than others in this stellar field. As impressive as her efforts were, she was no match for the in-form Hauser, who was carving her way across mountainous faces again and again to rack up a powerful lead that shot her through to round three with the other winners of the day.

    All in all, it was a hugely impressive day of sailing in utterly extraordinary conditions. Tomorrow's forecast is for slightly smaller swell and it seems likely that competition will continue with the Pro Men and Women if conditions hold.

    After the high drama of huge waves and rock rescues, the IWT family gathered on the clean sand under a setting sun sky to farewell one of their own. Mike Colee had been coming to AWT and IWT events for many years as a Master and recently as a Grand Master. He was everything that we all aspire to be: a great sailor, an adventurer, a friend, a supporter of all, and a man with much love and aloha in his life that he shared with us all. Rest in Peace Mike.

    Until the next swell. Tomorrow.
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  • #2
    Ariel Madness At The Aloha Classic

    The spectacular Aloha Classic 2018 Pro Men's finals will go down in history as the year of the radical aerialists. The top three riders on the final Men's podium all completed extraordinary 360 aerial moves as part of their wave-riding repertoire to edge ahead in a wildly competitive field. The Pro Men's winner, Camille Juban from Guadeloupe (2011 Aloha Classic champion), won with the most radical aerials and the best carving wave-riding to utterly dominate this year's final. The intense Women's field was conquered by last year's Aloha Classic champion, Sarah Hauser from New Caledonia, with her powerful gouging top-turn riding pushing the standard of women's wave riding even higher.

    The day was one of major innovation on the way to the elite final four of the Pro Men's bracket. The highest wave score of the day was a full 10 from all the judges for Antoine Martin's innovative NO-HANDED goiter. Landed perfectly. Planing. Never before performed in a wave riding contest, this move blew away the seasoned head judge Duncan Coombs. This was followed by Martin's giant and perfectly landed one-foot aerial. This was Antoine Martin's day and it had been a long time coming for this man who seems to crash as much as he sails to perfect these crazy moves. How he is still in one piece is beyond us all.

    This level of innovation took many Ho'okipa legends by surprise this year. Three-time Aloha Classic champion and wave-ripping global guru, Morgan Noireaux, made the final four with a stunning display of power and flow and big-wave carve savagery but even he, with his insanely impressive skills, didn't quite have the super radical and innovative air game to match his three fellow finalists. Morgan was tearing up giant set waves with stunningly smooth lay down bottom turns and massive powerful top turns in the pocket and under the lip but it wasn't enough. How could this be? He too pulled off goiters and one-handed aerials but this year, it wasn't enough compared to the three most innovative riders of the day: Juban, Martin, and Ezzy. The playing field shifted.

    Other global wave riding luminaries, Boujmaa Guilloul, Marcillo Browne, Levi Siver, and Robby Swift were all devastatingly good to reach the semifinals, but they weren't innovative this year. They all ripped savage, stunning, intense top turns, all threw mega buckets of snow, all flew giant aerials down the line. Browne, Siver, and Swift all pulled sweet goiters at various times in their runs towards the top, but none could match the extraordinary flare of the final four. This really was a new dawn for the discipline of wave-riding, and it will long be discussed, for better or worse, as a turning point. Many will argue that the classic ripping surf style was not given it's due in the scoring. Others will welcome the challenge and rise to the new level set by the final fab four. Whatever side of this people see, it was spectacular, it was transformative, and it will never be forgotten.

    The Pro Women's field was less innovative on a move-by-move basis, but the standard of power wave-riding was, once again, pushed higher than ever before. Every year the Women's standards at the Aloha Classic, like the men's, push higher in the innovation cauldron that is Ho'okipa. Bottom turns are more laid down, they're smoother, faster. Top turns gouge deeper, tighter, more vertical, more plume snow. Every year the women look more powerful. Every year Ho'okipa offers the canvas for the best women wave riders in the world to strut their stuff, and this year the standard pushed so high that two major names didn't even make the final. Last year's runner-up, Tatiana Howard from Maui, couldn't find the flow or the best set waves and was relegated to =7th overall, along with the rapidly improving ripping skills of Italian style queen, Sabine Zola. Maria Andres from Spain, who has been stunning the IWT all year on tour with her powerful, fast-flowing style, also didn't make the final and ended up in =5th place, along with another up-and-coming ripper, Italian Annamaria Zollet.

    The top four women who had fought so ferociously to reach the pinnacle this year opened their final with such a flurry of fast and furious waves that the judging tower was going nuts with activity to keep up. It was one wave after another of speed, hits, aerials, and all-round shredding. Waves that only last year would have scored an eight, this year were relegated to high sixes to make way for the higher standard. This was a huge leap for power wave-riding, and the judges loved it.

    Past Aloha Classic Champion, Sato Motoko from Japan, was attacking the set waves with fearless charges at big heavy lips for very powerful hits that took her back to the bottom of the wave and ready for more. Sato took second spot with her daughter watching on. Angela Cochran, long-time Maui local, no, it's never polite to ask a lady her age, was again out to show an old aphorism to be apt: "true grit never gets old." Angela took third. Shawna Cropus, originally from Canada, managed to dash down to the beach while her son was at school to make the final. She shredded powerful bottom-turn top-turn combos to pick up fourth place. Both she and Angela couldn't stay long after their heats; had to pick up the kids. Legends. That's right, three of the top four finalists at the Aloha Classic are mums. How cool is that!?

    Amongst all these great performances, the stand-out rider was last year's champion, Sarah Hauser. Sarah has been laser-focused on tightening the arcs of her top turns for years. She tests every kind of board shape, every kind of fin and fun set-up, she pushes her body in training all year, she is a wave-obsessed wild woman and the result are obvious. She can perhaps now lay legitimate claim to being the dominant wave-rider on planet Earth, with two consecutive titles here at the prestigious Aloha Classic.

    After the intense action of the Pro Men and Women's finals, the contest shifted gears and moved to the first round of the youth to close out the big day. The first heat saw Jake Schettewi steal the show. There will be much more reporting on this young gun in coming days. For now, just know that he will be an Aloha Classic champion very soon.

    Until the next swell. Tomorrow.
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