FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Scotty Fong Jr. made a hard cutback yesterday during the China Uemura Longboard Surfing Classic.
Hawaii surfers turn back Japan in Uemura Classic
Kekoa Uemura beats a mixed field of local and Japanese surfers to win the Invitational
The China Uemura Longboard Surfing Classic celebrated its 22nd edition this year with three different professional competitions, instead of only one.
The Hawaii/Japan Invitational and Hawaii/Japan Relay were completed yesterday in solid 2-to 6-foot-face waves at Queen's in Waikiki.
The Hawaii Pro-Am was held on Thursday, but the results from all three were not announced until the conclusion of competition yesterday.
Kekoa Uemura, a Honolulu pro and the son of the Hawaii surfing legend after which the Classic is named, won the Invitational and the $2,800 first prize.
Sixteen of Hawaii's top pro longboarders and 16 of their Japanese counterparts competed in the 32-man Invitational, a non-elimination competition in which their top two waves from two separate 25-minute heats were first averaged (there were three judges) and then added together for their final four-wave totals.
Having the three competitions and the Japanese pros in two of them "was great," said the 23-year-old Kekoa Uemura, whose top four waves in the Invitational totaled 35.6 (out of 40 maximum) points and included a near-perfect 9.8 wave from his first heat.
"Right now I'm doing the Japan tour, so I've been surfing against these guys for four months now," Uemura said. "It's good to see them come to Hawaii, because not a lot of them get to travel outside of Japan and compete with international competitors. ... You can't take these guys for granted, because they'll take you out just as easy."
Hawaii surfers took the top five spots in the invitational, with Scotty Fong Jr. (30.7) in second place, followed by Kekoa Auwae (30.2), Genki Kino (28.9) and Kaimana Beauford (28.9).
Nobuyasu Shiosaka was the highest finisher from Japan, placing sixth overall with 28.7 points.
"I was able to catch a lot of good waves and interact with the local surfers, so it was a very good experience," Japanese pro Tatsuo Fujii said through an interpreter.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Koa Enriques tried to cut back into the wave in the eighth heat of the China Uemura Classic yesterday at Queen's.
Fujii was the third-highest finisher from Japan at 24.8 points and 13th overall. He scored an 8.2 for one of his top four waves, which tied with Shiosaka for best individual wave score among the Japanese in the invitational.
"Hawaii is special," Fujii added. "This is the place where surfing initiated, and there's a lot to learn from the Hawaii surfers."
Fong and his Hawaii teammates also won the relay, where each surfer was matched against one other from the opposing country and could catch a single wave in a 5-minute heat, and an individual and team winner were determined.
Honolulu's Fong received 26.5 (out of 30) points cumulatively for his wave from the three judges to finish first among all the relay surfers, and received $1,000 that he will donate to charity.
Takashi Aizawa was the highest Japanese finisher at 21.0, good for fourth overall.
Fong and his Hawaii teammates finished with 246.8 total points in the relay, to the Japanese surfers' 183.5.
"I enjoyed it," Fong, 25, said. With the different formats, "it was a little confusing at times, but it all worked out in the end. I found some divisions (like the relay) were a little bit easier to surf because the pressure wasn't as big. You could look for that one good wave, and really maximize it."
Makaha's Makamae DeSoto won the Hawaii Pro-Am on Thursday, a traditional elimination-format contest.
DeSoto scored 15.7 (out of 20) points for his top two waves in the four-man final and the $1,500 first prize. He was followed, in order, by Kai Sallas (14.2), Kekoa Uemura (11.0) and older brother, Duane (10.3).
The classic will continue today and tomorrow with amateur competition in 13 different divisions.
More than 300 surfers will participate in the four-day event.