Wednesday, November 10, 2010

HIC Pro Surfing Competition

On Saturday, I went to my first surf competition on the North Shore of Oahu.  To avoid any confusion, I did not participate.  We took a trip up to the North Shore to see the beaches, sample Matsumoto's, and try a little homestyle Mexican food at Cholo's.  For those unfamiliar with the North Shore, this is where all the famous surf competitions are held.  Some famous beaches for surfing include Sunset Beach, Waimea, and Pipeline.  The waves in the winter can be massive on the North Shore, which brings the world's best surfers here every year.

Watching From Shore
The waves got as high as 30 feet as this weekend essentially signaled the start of Hawaii’s winter surf season. This is big news for the island as the annual surf season brings in $10 million just from tourism alone.  Thousands of people come to the North Shore for the winter just to check out these competitions.  The HIC Pro is the Hawaiian season opener and its "holding period" was between October 28 and November 10.  These competitions are "held" for a 2 week or longer period to make sure the surf is large enough.  Waves, from what I am told, are incredibly predictable several days in advance.  So the competition committee waits until the 3 best days of surf to occur and the competitions are then conducted during those days.  Some competitions may even go "mobile," which means that the entire location of the competition could change a couple days before it's held.  They'll change beaches if the waves are going to be bigger at another beach nearby.

The HIC Pro was held at Sunset Beach and is a major event for Hawaii’s aspiring pro surfers. First of all, it's the final ASP regional contest of the year and it not only crowns the 2010 Association of Professional Surfing (ASP) Hawaiian regional champion, but also qualifies six locals to compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing - an international event.  In other words, it is a competition to put Hawaiian locals in an international surfing competition.  For example, the winner of this year's HIC Pro, 20-year-old and Maui local Billy Kemper, doesn't even have a sponsor...yet.  Also, one thing I'm learning from living here is that there is A LOT of pride in local boys here who bring recognition to the island. Everyone loves the Philadelphia Phillies, for example, because Shane Victorino (center fielder) is Hawaiian.  You'll see his jersey everywhere and everyone wears Phillies hats.

The Vans Triple Crown brings over 200 of the world’s top ranked surfers to the North Shore where there is more than $900,000 in prize money, world titles, and international media and surfing sponsors. The "holding period" for the Triple Crown is November 12 through December 20.  The HIC Pro and Vans Triple Crown round out the 2010 ASP World Tour.

So what is this "ASP World Tour" you may be wondering...?  Well, I wondered the same thing.  Basically, there are 45 "seeded" surfers under the Association of Surfing Professionals.  These surfers are invited by ASP to compete in a given year and they accrue points as they compete in ASP-sponsored events (there are 10 events and surfers get to use their 8 best scores from those events). They are continually ranked according to their results in these competitions.  The surfer with the most points is crowned the "World Tour Champion."  Along the way there are various regional and privately sponsored competitions and events that allow more surfers to get involved, get recognized, and get sponsored.  However, these participants don't have the opportunity to win the World Tour Championship.  But the more competitions you win, the more likely you are to get sponsored and eventually invited to compete for the World Tour Championship.

Judging Criteria:  Think gymnastics meets figure skating meets x-games.  Also, it should be noted that there are "short board" and "long board" competitions that involve different criteria.  I am only focusing on the short board stuff, because...well, I am already confused enough.  Anyway, Judges analyze the following major elements when scoring waves: 
  • Commitment and Degree of Difficulty
  • Innovative and Progressive Maneuvers
  • Combination of Major Maneuvers
  • Variety of Maneuvers
  • Speed, Power and Flow 
It is important to note that the emphasis on certain elements changes based on the location and the conditions on the day, as well as changes of conditions during the day.  

Now, what does all this mean to me?  Well, not a whole heckuva a lot.  I still don't really get it.  But what I do get is that the waves are big, the sun is shining, and I sure as hell couldn't do what these guys are doing, so it's pretty awesome to watch.  Plus, you get to see guys wipe out, which is pretty fun too.  I mean, where else can you see things like this:

    Surfer from the HIC Pro on November 6

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