JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Koa Smith shot into a barrel during the final heat of the menehune division yesterday at Ala Moana Bowls.
Kauai’s Smith carves Bowls
Over 300 Hawaii amateur surfers got to return to the Bowl game over the weekend. The Ala Moana Bowl.
The left-handed break is considered one of the best waves on Oahu's south shore. And, the best of these surfers got to compete again there yesterday, as the 27 division finals of the Hawaii Amateur Surfing Association State Championships were held in waves with 2- to 6-foot faces.
The three-day event -- among the very biggest and most prestigious for nonprofessionals in the state -- was the first contest held at "Bowls" since the sewage spill into the nearby Ala Wai Canal in the spring.
"I'm so psyched to be here," said Koa Smith, who won an all-Kauai menehune (11-years-old and younger) shortboard final. "I have this cut on my foot, and it was kind of hurting out there, but I just washed it well when I came in."
Despite his cut, the 11-year-old home-schooler managed to lock himself into and then ride out of one of the barreling sections that Bowls is famous for. The ride scored him 9.10 out of 10 possible points, and was one of the highest from any of the division finals.
"I got around (fellow finalist Kaoli Kahokuloa), muscled him, got into it, pumped, pulled in and came out, luckily," said Smith of the wave.
Besides getting the opportunity to win a state championship, the top performers from each division also qualified to represent Hawaii at the USA Championships, set for July 11-19 at Oceanside, Calif.
Nathan Rex, another Garden Isle surfer, won two state crowns and secured two spots at the national competition. Rex won the prestigious junior men's (15-17) shortboard final as well as the open men's shortboard title.
The junior men's is among the most hotly contested divisions at states, as many of its competitors are considered pro prospects.
"It was definitely a goal to take at least one (state title), but to take two -- I'm baffled," said the 17-year-old Rex, who will be a senior at Kapaa High. "So far, the biggest day of my career."
Rex caught the most waves (five) in the 15-minute, six-surfer, junior men's decider. His top two rides scored 5.70 and 6.76 points, respectively, to give him a winning total of 12.46.
On both of his top rides, Rex was able to drive on his backhand from one powerful carving maneuver to another. He strung together six of these turns on his last ride of the heat, which came with less than a minute left, and scored the 6.76 to clinch the win.
Forrest Troxell rode the best single wave of the final -- a 7.20 -- but settled for second place with 11.90 total points. Kekoa Cazimero (9.78) finished third.
"I thought Forrest had (the win)," Rex said. "(But) whatever (waves) came to me, I grabbed them. Backside turns: I've been working on them lately, and it paid off. Now I really want a national title."
Highly decorated amateur Lani Hunter won the girls (17 and under) shortboard title for her second career state championship, and is set to join the women's pro World Qualifying Series as soon as she's done with nationals.
Only about a minute into the final, Hunter nabbed a 7.50 -- which turned out to be the highest single-wave score of the heat. She later combined it with a 5.16, for a winning total of 12.66.
"It was really hard out there because it was windy and small, and I was lucky to get that first good wave," said the 17-year-old Hunter, who is from Punaluu and a recent home-school graduate. "I really want to do well at nationals this year since this is my last year."