RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Noah Shimabukuro competed in the final heat of the men's noseriding portion of the Duke's Legends Surf Classic at Waikiki Beach yesterday.
Sallas makes like
To culminate a week celebrating the father of modern surfing, the nation's best longboarders "duked" it out yesterday at the Converse Hawaiian Open in Waikiki.
A highlight of the Duke Kahanamoku Hoolaulea, the three-day Hawaiian Open was held at the Queen's break of Kuhio Beach, a spot where Kahanamoku regularly surfed and taught others.
Waves were in the 2- to 5-foot-face range and clean for the final day of competition, with Honolulu's Kai Sallas emerging from a loaded field to take the men's open title and the $2,000 top prize.
"I was just trying to get the best waves of the heat and surf my best," said the 24-year-old, who tallied 16.90 points (out of 20 maximum) for his top two waves during the 30-minute, four-man final. "I grew up surfing here, I live down the street -- this is my home break, so I know the waves really good. I was just trying to do what the judges were looking for, mixing it up with noseriding and turns."
The Hawaiian Open also represented the second of three stops on the 2005 United States Professional Longboard tour.
With Ned Snow placing second behind Sallas with 14.76 total points and Kekoa Uemura third with 14.68, Honolulu competitors wrapped up all three of the top spots. Three-time former world champion Colin McPhillips of California finished fourth, with 12.03.
"I was stoked just to make (the final) because I was stuck in kind of a hard bracket," said the 20-year-old Snow, who posted the highest individual wave score of the heat with an 8.58 on his first ride. "Every single hard person from Hawaii, and then on top of that all the good California people ... so to make second, I was surprised."
Snow and the others just couldn't keep up with Sallas' consistent positioning and execution, however, as he nabbed a heat-high seven total rides and nearly matched Snow's lone high score with each of his two best, an 8.40 and then an 8.50.
Sallas did not compete in the first event in Florida, but will go into the final at San Clemente, Calif., later this year with hopes of another top performance and potentially winning his first national title.
"This is one of my biggest wins," Sallas said. "I won the China (Uemura Longboard Classic) event out here last year, and I think this tops it. ... I was already planning to go (to San Clemente), and this gets me more psyched to do good, it boosts my confidence a little."
On the women's side, veteran Julie Whitegon of Encinitas, Calif., scored a convincing victory with 18.13 total points and also picked up $2,000.
Leah Dawson of Florida finished in second place with 15.08 points, while Hawaii's Geodee Clark (13.33) and Kawehi Whitford (9.83) took third and fourth, respectively.
The U.S. Pro Longboard tour is the only surf series in the world that awards equal prize money for men and women, and with yesterday's result Whitegon has now won the Hawaiian Open twice (also in 2003) in the three years it's been held.
"You work so hard just to get to the final," Whitegon, 40, said. "The waves come in, and you do whatever you need to do. I'm stoked to have been in the final, and I'm stoked to have won it."
As for the event's special connection to Kahanamoku: "Well, my dog's name is Duke -- and it's not after Elvis," she said. "It is special, and I'm excited to represent women's surfing in the awards ceremony here. He was a wonderful waterman, and I'm kind of chilled now talking about him."
Other division finals held yesterday included a men's and a women's noseriding competition, where surfers were scored purely on the amount of time logged on the front 18 inches of their boards while surfing a half-hour heat.
With 14.88 total seconds California's Kassia Meador took top honors in the six-woman noseriding final, while Hawaii's Fritz Belmoro bested five others to take the men's with 17.74. Both received $500.
This Week Magazine won the Legends Challenge division, where organizations within the Honolulu business community teamed up with local surf legends to compete against each other in a benefit for the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation.