HONOLULU - (February 14, 2008) - Today's inaugural QuikSilverEdition Ku Ikaika Challenge, presented by C4 Waterman and Red Bull, was a hugely successful celebration of the waterman heritage, epic surf and aloha that have been Hawaii's gifts to the world for centuries. Staged in waves that ranged throughout the day from six to 15 feet (wave face heights of 12-30 feet), the world's first big-wave stand up paddle surfing event was more about gathering together to honor a tradition than it was about winning. The first place winner's check of $4,000, ultimately claimed by revered Hawaiian waterman Aaron Napoleon (Pearl City, Oahu, 41), was presented on his behalf to the West Side Junior Lifeguard Foundation. Every surfer in the main event received an equal prize check of $350.
Napoleon surfed through a total of five rounds to win the all-Hawaiian final, charging hard through every round and posting one of the event's two perfect 10-point rides for a huge barrel. Second place today was 24-year-old Keoni Keaulana (Waianae), who was the top-performing member of the highly represented and respected Keaulana family of Makaha. Third place went to big-wave specialist Ikaika Kalama (Waialua, Oahu), and fourth was Kamu Auwae (Waianae).
Of the field of 32 surfers, 24 were from the Hawaiian Islands, four were from California: Scott Bass, Kyle Mochizuki, Chris Mauro and Chuck Patterson; two were from Tahiti: Raimana Van Bastolaer and Arsene Harehoe; and two were from Australia: Jamie Mitchell and Liam Wilmott. There was also one woman in the event: Maui's Tiare Lawrence.
As the oldest competitor in the final at 41, Napoleon had a well of ocean knowledge to draw from today, both from his own lifetime of experience and as the product of one of Hawaii's best known ocean-going families. A top-performer over the years in every salt-water sport on offer, Napoleon attributed his success to good genes and just wanting to have fun.
"If you could have been out there and seen how the water and the waves looked from where I was, it was so beautiful, man, I was in heaven," said Napoleon. "How you goin' beat one guy (sic) that's having fun?
"It wasn't super big, but it was fun.
"My first heat in the trials I kinda really bonked. I told myself that if I get another chance I'm going for it."
On his perfect 10-scoring, 12-foot wave: "I set it up, pulled in there, had some travel time. I could see the jet-skis in the channel and even though I didn't make it out, when I came up it seemed like the crowd was in awe. To get the respect, I'm on cloud nine."
Chuck Patterson (CA) was a standout charger. Photo: firstname.lastname@example.org Chuck Patterson followed an identical path to Napoleon through the event, unfortunately falling one heat short of the glory, but not an ounce short on respect earned. Like Napoleon, he only made it out of the trials by virtue of being one of the highest placed thirds (technically only first and second in each heat were advancing, but a couple of vacancies in the seeded main round allowed a couple of top thirds a second shot).
Where Napoleon capitalized on the biggest, most critical waves and a high, racing line, Patterson opted for large open-faced waves and a top-to-bottom sequence of power carves that totally utilized the paddle.
Like Napoleon, Patterson is also an exponent of multiple sports - kite-surfing, big-wave tow-in surfing, snowboarding and skiing. Stand up paddle surfing is his latest passion.
"I'm addicted!" said Patterson, who runs a construction company and cross-trains young athletes when not pursing his own sporting goals. "This new sport is so exciting. It's as much fun as anything I've ever done and it's the most humbling. It has its glorified moments that leaving you feeling amazing, but then you can turn straight around and fall on a small little bump on the water. It's a humanizing experience - you've just got to get back on your feet and start over. You're always learning and it's never boring."
The vibe on the beach said it all today: no commercial hyp, just an intimate crowd of mostly surf-stoked aunties, uncles and families. There couldn't have been a better venue on the planet than Makaha Beach - for natural beauty or waves. Located near the end of the road on the West Side of Oahu, Makaha has long been a paradise for surfers, playing host to the first world championships of surfing more than 50 years ago. Not much has changed around here in that time, and those things that did have now come full circle, like the old beachboy style of stand up paddle surfing that proved without a doubt today that it's back to stay this time.
Ku Ikaika: "Stand Strong". The name for this event came from the name of the non-profit foundation established last year by supporting sponsor of this event, C4 Waterman. The Ku Ikaika Foundation was established to shine a light on the youth that it encourages to stand strong and make strong, positive choices in life.
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