Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, July 15, 2001


Kapono Nahina bottom-turned under a section during
the Pros first semifinal heat of the Aston Hotels Surf
Classic at Ala Moana Bowls. He won the heat and
advanced to the finals to finish second. Rookie
longboarder Kekoa Uemura, 18, won the event, with
a final score of 21.4 out of a possible 30. He also
won the Hawaiian Style Classic at Kuhio Beach in early May.

Rookie, shmookie,
Uemura wins again

In his first year as a professional,
he has already won twice

By Brandon Lee

Longboarder Kekoa Uemura is just a rookie, though he sure doesn't surf like one.

In just his first full year as a professional, the 18-year-old, 2000 graduate of Kalani High School won the Aston Hotels Surf Classic yesterday at Ala Moana Bowls.

It was his second victory in three contests of the Hawaiian Longboard Federation's six-event Steinlager Series.

Uemura also won the series opener, the Hawaiian Style Classic, at Kuhio Beach back in early May. Last month, he placed third in the Hawaiian South Shore Open at Kewalo Basin.

"I'm stoked," Uemura said after being named yesterday's winner. "It doesn't feel real."

In the 1- to 2-foot waves, Kapono Nahina earned his best series finish of the year with second-place honors. Former world longboard champion Russ Keaulana took third, while Mikey Gordon finished fourth.

Though the classic south shore break wasn't offering the consistent tuberides that it is known for, Uemura used familiarity with Bowls to perform solidly all day. The spot is one of Uemura's favorites, and it showed as he won all of his heats yesterday, save for a second-place qualifying finish in the semifinals.

In the final, Uemura was able to tuck in for a nice barrel-ride at the midway point of the heat, but fell as he tried a cutback and rebound off the whitewash after exiting the tube. Unfazed, Uemura instead relied on off-the-top maneuvers and noserides, and even managed another little barrel ride just before the heat ended.

"Actually, I thought that wave would have really helped me out, but I fell," Uemura said. "But I guess the other waves helped me out also; I guess I did good on those. I was just trying to do whatever I can on the wave and do the most with it."

Uemura's total of 21.4 points (out of a 30-point maximum) easily outdistanced Nahina and Keaulana, who were percentage points away from each other and finished in a tie, according to the judges. But Nahina was awarded second place based upon the officials' tiebreaker.

"I'm doing better and better," Nahina said. "But I still got to do a little more improvement and I got to be on top of my game (to defeat Uemura)."

Uemura, Nahina and Keaulana now turn their focus to the World Championship Tour longboard circuit and qualification for the Oxbow World Longboard Championships at Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa, Aug. 9-18.

The next WCT stop is in Brazil next weekend.

"We got the best surfers in the world in Hawaii," Keaulana said. "I use (HLF contests) as a warm-up for Africa."

The Aston Hotels Surf Classic will conclude today with finals in 12 amateur divisions. The HLF Steinlager Series will then shift to Launiupoko, Maui, for the Local Motion No Ka Oi contest, July 28-29.

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