Kekoa Bacalso won the Billabong Junior Pro Surfing contest held at Kewalo Basin surf break yesterday.

Bam Bam rules
the break

Like the Flintstones cartoon character from whom he gets his nickname, young professional surfer Kekoa "Bam Bam" Bacalso overwhelmed everyone with his strength at the Billabong Junior Pro.

In complete command of his powerful and aggressive surfing, the 19-year-old from Mililani clubbed the rest of the competition yesterday at Kewalo Basin to win the junior men's title and $2,500 at the prestigious event for Hawaii's best surfers ages 20 and under.

With the result, Bacalso also earned Hawaii's top seed into the World Junior Pro to be held Jan. 1-8 in Australia.

"Guys like Fred (Patacchia) and Joel (Centeio) have won this event the past few years. I've always wanted one of these under my belt, and now I got one," Bacalso said.

Wave faces ranged from 2 to 6 feet for the last day of the competition.

Bacalso made the most of the surf by winning his quarterfinal heat in the morning, and then completely dominating his semifinal heat to qualify for the four-man final.

Once in the 30-minute decider, Bacalso needed only 11 minutes to essentially win the heat.

He tallied an 8.75 only 5 minutes in, riding a left on which he carved at least five consecutive top-to-bottom backside snaps -- the first coming right under the critical section of the breaking lip. Six minutes later, he added a 7.75, this time on a right on which he again followed his first big maneuver -- a speed floater -- with several gouging turns to complete the ride.

Though almost 20 minutes remained and quality waves were not hard to come by, those rides proved to be Bacalso's two best, and none of the other finalists overtook his total of 16.50 points.

"I wasn't sure if I'd win until the heat ended, but I felt like I was on my game, somehow," Bacalso said. "I was in a really big slump, so I'm really glad this happened to me. It's been tough (on the World Qualifying Series tour). Just being home, surfing my home break, it feels good."

Finishing second through fourth in the junior men's final were: Dustin Cuizon (15.85), Hank Gaskell (14.40) and Raymond Reichle (12.30).

Like Bacalso, the three also earned one of the state's six spots into the event at North Narrabeen that will decide this season's world junior champion. Rounding out the list are Gavin Gillette and Nathan Carroll, who placed third in their respective semifinals.

"The waves were so fun, and when you get a chance like this, you just try to go all-out," said Cuizon, 19, from Ewa Beach.

"We have to stick together, push each other to succeed ... we have some good people and I think we can pull off" some good results at the World Juniors, he added.

Other finals yesterday included an Expression Session -- won by Carroll -- and the junior women's.

Like Bacalso, Lani Hunter raced out to the lead in the junior women's with two solid early rides, and was able to hold on for the win with 15.25 points.

The win was the fourth this summer (also three earlier amateur titles) for the 16-year-old from Punaluu. And while there is no junior women's division at the World Juniors yet, this time the victory also came with a $1,000 top prize.

"Nothing can get better than this day," Hunter said. "I don't know what to do (with the money). This is the first time, winning something for a contest. I'm just really, really happy."

Twelve-year-old Carissa Moore notched the highest single-wave score from any of the three finals with a 9.00 with only 4 minutes remaining in the junior women's, but settled for a narrow runner-up finish with 15.00 total.

Hunter's younger sister, Ashley (10.10), also only 12, finished third, while Tory Titcomb (6.25), took fourth.

"I'm pretty proud of myself because I made the final, and with my sister," Ashley Hunter said. "I thought for a while we would get first and second, but Carissa did extremely well (too)."



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