Bonga Perkins earned $4,000 in one of the closest final for any discipline in surfing at Ala Moana Bowls yesterday.

Bonga puts money
in the bank

Small waves still translated into big money and high drama for the top surfers of both genders at the inaugural Converse Hawaiian Open.

The four division finals -- men's open and noseriding, and women's open and noseriding -- of the three-day longboarding event were held yesterday in 1- to 2-foot waves at Ala Moana Bowls.

The second of three stops on the United States Professional Longboard Surfing Championships series presented by Longboard Magazine, the Hawaiian Open offered a historic $26,000 purse split equally between the men and women.

Haleiwa's Bonga Perkins -- a former world champion and current No. 2 on the World Longboard Tour -- was among the winners, earning $4,000 for his victory in the men's open division, which contest officials called perhaps the closest final ever for any discipline of surfing.

"I personally didn't feel like I won, but that's not up for me to decide; that's for the judges," Perkins, 31, said. "The guys were all surfing good, and that was definitely a heat you should've watched. Fourth through first, I'm sure (the difference) was like a point -- but I'll take it."

Perkins' winning two-wave total of 14.5 points (out of 20) was actually only eight-tenths of a point better than the fourth-place finisher (Waikiki's Kai Sallas, 13.7) in the four-man, 30-minute final. Still, the win was his second straight since returning home last month for a break from the world tour, and it positions him as the USPLSC series leader going into the final stop at Malibu, Calif., Sept. 19-21.

"That's 2-for-2 at home, and I'm pretty excited," Perkins said.

The Hawaiian Open was the richest longboarding event ever on Oahu's South Shore -- and its $13,000 women's purse the biggest ever for a women's longboarding competition in Hawaii. In longboarding contests, surfers must ride boards 9 feet in length or longer.

The men's and women's open division winner received $4,000. Both winners in noseriding -- a competition in which participants were judged by the length of time spent riding on the tip, or nose, of the board -- won $1,000.

Defending series champion Julie Whitegon picked up her first USPLSC victory this year, winning the women's open division. Whitegon came to Hawaii from San Diego a week before the event to prepare at the sometimes difficult and tricky, left-breaking Bowls -- and now she leaves dead-even in the series standings with Summer Romero, winner of the first event in Florida back in April.

"This is huge for me; I'm not getting any younger," Whitegon, 38, said. "I won a couple contests last year with $4,000 (purses), and, oh my God, it's so nice to go home with. Equal money for women and men -- it's a huge feat for women's surfing and I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Whitegon averaged 16.9 points for her top two rides, including a 9.0 -- highest of the final -- she received for her fifth wave of the heat. Aina Haina's Joy Magelssen (13.9) finished second, Honolulu's Amy Lawson (11.7) third and California's Daize Shayne (11.0) fourth.

San Diego's Joel Tudor, 27, won the men's noseriding competition, logging an amazing 30.23 seconds on the tip of his board -- almost doubling the total of second-place Rusty Keaulana (16.43), of Makaha. Joey Valentin (15.23) and Keegan Edwards (9.85), both of Honolulu, finished third and fourth, respectively. Not done, Tudor, also a former world champion, finished runner-up to Perkins in the men's open.

"Have your friend drive your car at like 15 miles an hour and go stand on the hood -- that's really about the closest way you can explain" noseriding, said Tudor. "And have him hit the brakes a few times because that's pretty much like what the whitewater does to you."

Born and raised in Waimanalo but currently living in Hollywood, the 26-year-old Shayne placed first in women's noseriding (14.00 seconds) before taking fourth in the women's open. She, along with Tudor and Honolulu's Valentin (who also finished third in the men's open), were the only surfers to qualify for both the open and noseriding finals.

Hawaii surfers finished second through fourth in women's noseriding: Desire DeSoto (12.00), Keliana Woolsey (11.27) and Maka Puaa (10.23).


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