Tandem surfing title on the line
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Brian Keaulana and Kathy Terada have been on top of the world of tandem surfing for the past year.
And it has been a good year. But if they want to stay on their lofty perch, they will have to learn some new tricks.
The champions will try to defend their title as part of Duke's OceanFest at Kuhio Beach this week, but the sport has grown so fast that their old routine is not going to cut it this year.
Surfers from France, Australia, the mainland and Hawaii are looking to take it away from them.
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PHOTO COURTESY ISATANDEM.COM
Brian Keaulana and Kathy Terada were nearly flawless last year in winning the tandem world championship.
Successfully executing a flawless lift between dance or ice-skating partners is hard enough. But imagine trying similar tricks while surfing a wave -- big ones, at times.
This is the beautiful yet treacherous world of tandem surfing. The regal sport will be one of the surfing disciplines displayed at the highest level in separate competitions at Kuhio Beach during this week's sixth annual Duke's OceanFest, which runs tomorrow through Saturday and honors Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Hawaiian waterman considered the father of modern surfing.
Representing Hawaii among the international field of 30 male-female tandem duos at this year's World Title of Tandem Surfing are Brian Keaulana and Kathy Terada from Oahu's west side; the current tandem world champions after winning last year's inaugural event.
Keaulana and Terada have been tandem partners for more than 20 years, but both concede that with the huge growth of the sport within the last year, it won't be easy to hang on to their world championship.
"This is the world championship, and we're gonna try our best to defend our title," Keaulana said, "but I'm sure we're gonna take our licks like everyone else, too.
"(Tandem surfing) is kind of like what ice skaters do, but our eyes have to be moving all the time (because of the surf). You're trying to figure out how the wave is going to break, where you're going to cut back, at the same time as figuring out your body position and what you're doing with your partner and your routine. It's not easy for even the most knowledgeable or expert surfers."
Added Terada, "You have to do your part, and also trust your partner. On my end I have to be able to execute the move and hold it. ... And when the waves are really big, I don't look behind when we paddle for them."
The mainland, France and Australia will also be represented at the World Title of Tandem Surfing. It is a single event that awards a world championship and will feature the best tandem pairs in the world, but, with the sport's increasing popularity, there is also a World Tandem Tour that runs separately during the year and has its own title at stake.
Newer practitioners with backgrounds in gymnastics, acrobatics and even contortion have forced Keaulana and Terada to incorporate fresh moves into their arsenal. And they've been up to the challenge, competing not only in Hawaii but abroad as well.
"Our advantage is that we know the ocean really well, and we can surf," Keaulana said. "We've learned the pyramid, the arm-to-arm handstand -- basically on the fly. Tandem is a sport where you're always learning, every single day; you can pick up things (from others) all around the world."
Said Terada, "I try to make it like we're just gonna go out and have fun like we always do. But deep down inside, we still really would like to win. It would be something to let us know that (last year's win) wasn't just a fluke."
Terada will participate exclusively in the tandem competition at the Duke's OceanFest, but Keaulana will also compete in the C4 Waterman/Honolua Stand-Up Paddle Invitational surf meet and also a 10-mile stand-up paddleboard race.
Like with tandem surfing, the stand-up paddle surfing discipline -- which involves catching waves while standing on a board and paddling with an oar -- hearkens back to the glory days of the Duke, who was a pioneer and teacher for these types of wave riding, in addition to traditional surfing during the first half of last century.
The modern beach boy, Keaulana was privileged enough to meet the original beach boy and iconic Duke as a child. And participating in these contests as part of a celebration honoring him goes way beyond simple competition for Keaulana.
"I think sometimes people lose sight of the man himself, and his true spirit," Keaulana said. "Duke Kahanamoku is really the true spirit of what a Hawaiian is all about. The true aloha spirit, and being a waterman. Having fun with all of the abilities and knowledge that you hold and sharing it with all of your friends. People may see these as competitions, but I look at it as a lifestyle."
The Roxy Jam Honolulu is the third surfing competition that is part of the Duke's OceanFest. The contest is the first-ever women's longboarding competition in Hawaii sanctioned by the Association of Surfing Professionals and the opener to the 2007-08 ASP Women's World Longboard Tour.
The finals for all three surfing competitions will be held Saturday.