Bonga Perkins beat Keegan Edwards by 2.4 points yesterday at the Aston Hotels Surf Classic at Queen's break in Waikiki.


Perkins takes Classic title

By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

A former world longboard champion earned a little redemption, and an up-and-comer served notice of his world championship potential yesterday at the Aston Hotels Surf Classic.

At the Queen's break of Kuhio Beach, 1996 world champion Bonga Perkins of Haleiwa won the contest's professional division in inconsistent 1- to 2-foot surf, just edging out first-year professional Keegan Edwards for the $600 first prize.

For Perkins, the victory at the final event of the 2002 Hawaiian Longboard Federation Steinlager Series was a welcome return to the winner's stand after finishing second in both the Oxbow World Championships and the world title race last month.

"Second isn't bad, but I was more upset at myself than anything else," Perkins, 30, said. "In the (Oxbow) finals, I choked. I don't know if I cracked under pressure, or what it was.

"But the weight was off my shoulders, so I came to this event, the last event of our local season. And there was no pressure on me -- no, nothing to win world titles -- except to go out there and have fun. And I guess it kind of showed that I was having fun out there. I won, so I'll take it; I feel really good."

Bonga Perkins, left, took first in the Hawaiian Longboard Federation's Aston Hotels Surf Classic yesterday. Keegan Edwards came in second, Duane DeSoto third and Mikey Gordon fourth.

Though Edwards finished a narrow second with 19.5 total points for his top three waves to Perkins' 21.9, his result still secured him the HLF series and Association of Surfing Professionals Hawaii overall longboard titles.

Wins for the St. Louis Heights resident earlier in the season at the Quiksilver Makahiki and South Shore Open contests, along with yesterday's finish, propelled him to the overall championships.

Edwards was eliminated early at the Oxbow, but feels positive about his year and his future in the sport.

"I wish I won this one, but I'm happy with second," said Edwards, 20. "This is just a real good year for me -- for any professional surfer -- winning two events, winning both divisions against all these great surfers.

"It's an accomplishment. Hopefully, I can do better next year and win a world title soon."

Rounding out the scoring in the final were Duane DeSoto, who took third with 14.6 points, and Mikey Gordon, who took fourth with 12.2. DeSoto posted the second-highest individual wave score of the final, an 8.5.

But Perkins simply could not be beat, showing his dominance by taking first in all four heats he surfed yesterday. He posted a 7.5 and 5.2 for his first two scoring waves of the final.

And with about two minutes left in the 30-minute heat, Perkins secured the win by catching the wave of the final: a solid 2-footer that he first styled with a noseride, then carved with a gouging cutback. He received a 9.2 for the wave highest of the heat.

"Duane was joking, 'Eh, you got pole position (priority),' and I said, 'Yup, and I'm going to defend it too,' " Perkins said. "The wave came in, Duane looked at me, so I went.

"It was pretty tough. All the guys in that final heat surfed really good. Fortunately, it came down to who caught the biggest wave."

The Aston Surf Classic will conclude today with the finals for 11 amateur divisions. More than 175 longboarders are expected to compete over the course of the two-day event.

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