QUIKSILVEREDITION KU IKAIKA CHALLENGE
Napoleon proves he’s a stand-up guy
Aaron Napoleon's primary motivation in competing in the inaugural QuiksilverEdition Ku Ikaika Challenge was to earn the respect of his big-wave-riding peers.
The standout all-around waterman from Pearl City not only accomplished that yesterday in the 10- to 24-foot-face waves at Makaha, he took home the victory at the prestigious invite-only, stand-up paddle surfing event as well.
"In life, it's always about how much the next guy is going to respect you," said the 41-year-old Napoleon. "It's not always that you're the best surfer, but I'm on Cloud 9 right now."
Among his many accomplishments, Napoleon is most recognized for his canoe-paddling exploits that include wins in various Molokai Channel races. But he has also twice competed in the Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay.
Unlike with traditional surfing - for which surfers arm paddle into waves prone - stand-up paddle surfing involves always standing upright on the board and using an oar to both get into waves and steer while on them. It is currently the hottest trend in wave riding, though it can trace its roots back to the beach boy days around the middle of last century.
As an unseeded surfer at the Ku Ikaika - which had a requirement that wave faces reach 20 feet to run - Napoleon had to start from the trials portion of the event that included 31 other surfers from Hawaii, California, Australia and Tahiti. But he more than proved his skill and bravado, as he notched a perfect 10 for charging a huge closeout barrel in the first round of the main event and continued on through two more rounds to become the oldest competitor to qualify for the four-man final.
Once in the all-Hawaii decider, Napoleon nabbed the biggest sets and received scores of 8.67 (out of 10) and 8.50 points for his top two waves in the 30-minute heat for a winning 17.17 total.
"Fortunately, I had the right waves," Napoleon said. "Everyone was telling me I had the bigger ones, the ones from the point. I didn't really do much, but what helps on the bigger waves is that you don't necessarily gotta turn. I rolled the dice and I got lucky."
Keoni Keaulana of Makaha placed second with 14.00 total, while Waialua's Ikaika Kalama (13.50) took third and Makaha's Kamu Auwae (8.90) fourth.
"I was so happy I made it all the way to the final, and it was a fun heat," said Keaulana, who is the grandson of Makaha surfing patriarch, Buffalo Keaulana. "Whoever was in the right spot got the (better) waves, and Aaron got what came to him - some perfect waves."
California's Chuck Patterson was the highest non-Hawaii finisher, bowing out after placing third in his semifinal heat for equal-fifth place overall.
Though there were a few dozen disappointed surfers who did not get to participate in the event, it wasn't because there was a big payday waiting for the top performers. This event was more of a showcase for some of the world's best watermen, and a chance to contribute to a good cause.
All surfers in the main event received $350 each for participating. As the winner, Napoleon was also awarded a $4,000 check that was then donated to the West Side Junior Lifeguard Foundation.