[ SURFING ]
wins first pro event
The Macy's E-Series is about giving opportunities to Hawaii surfers like Mikey Mitchell.
And at the series' championship event yesterday, the 19-year-old Ewa Beach resident was able to deliver his biggest accomplishment so far by breaking through for the first professional win of his young career.
In 2- to 5-foot-face waves at the famed Ala Moana Bowls, the first-year pro won the men's shortboard division of the last event in a series of five that began last September.
"I'm so happy," said Mitchell, who took home $1,000 for the win. "There's so many good guys in this contest -- I can't believe I won. I'm like the underground guy."
To prepare Mitchell and other local pros for the big stage and the spotlight that goes along with it, E-Series contests are run just like events on the Association of Surfing Professionals' World Qualifying Series tour. For example, judges' scores are announced via loudspeaker as soon as they are posted "live" on a computerized system, so competitors know exactly where they stand at any moment during heats.
And with the state always boasting some of the best surfers anywhere, the competitors say the E-Series offers just what they need to continue to hone their skills and remain mentally sharp to tackle the WQS, and perhaps later, the elite World Championship Tour.
"I've been doing a couple of (WQS events) here and there," said Mitchell, adding that his next WQS stop will likely come next month in Japan. "This is good practice. I just want to do as many pro events as I can and hopefully make the top 100 in the (WQS)."
Mitchell's winning two-wave total in the 25-minute, four-man final was 12.67 points (out of 20 maximum). He picked up his highest single wave score (8.00) on his second overall ride of the final, which came on the first wave of a heat-best three-wave set 12 minutes in.
Mitchell executed two big carving maneuvers on the 5-foot wave before working it to the inside. Kekoa Bacalso of Mililani took the second wave of the set, performed two even stronger turns and received a heat-high 9.33, but could not combine it with another solid score and finished in fourth place (9.70 total).
Finishing less than a half-point behind Mitchell in second was 23-year-old Jason Shibata (12.33), a fifth-year pro from Pearl City, while Ewa Beach's Dustin Cuizon (11.16) placed third. The three other finalists also participate on the WQS, with Bacalso currently ranked the highest at No. 41.
"My results have kind of been a mixed bag this year," Shibata said, "but nevertheless my surfing's good and I feel real confident about where I'm at right now. I've been training really hard. ... And this contest pushes us hard to where we can succeed in the bigger surfing world."
The fifth and final E-Series men's longboard event also ran yesterday, with 21-year-old Honolulu pro Kekoa Uemura taking first place and the $600 prize.
Uemura sealed the victory by patiently waiting for two solid rides in the 25-minute, four-man final and accumulating a 13.66 total that could not be bettered by the other finalists down the stretch.
It was the second series win out of the five events for Uemura -- he took the opener as well -- and it also helped him finish as the series' overall longboard champion.
"I'm stoked. Can't say it any better than that," the fourth-year pro explained. "This keeps me mentally motivated, in a competitive state of mind."
Kai Sallas, who finished third yesterday, finished second in the overall longboard standings, while former world champion Bonga Perkins -- who did not participate yesterday -- finished third.
Winning the overall shortboard title was Raymond Reichle.