You know that it's a sure sign that the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge presented by Muscle Milk has moved into the Hawaiian Islands when the event's lunch consists of two scoops rice, mochiko chicken and a frigid can of guava juice. "Ono kind grinds, eh?" said one competitor. "Brah, if you no like your rice, I'm goin mop 'em." Ah, life in the islands. If the chopstick cuisine wasn't enough to welcome the roaming event to Hawaii, the 2- to 3-foot aqua blue peaks standing on the reef at Kewalos were sure to get every surfer in the event frothed to the core.
From the outset, the eights teams from around the islands converged at Kewalo basin to do battle in the most unusual of formats. If you're not up to snuff on the Surf Shop Challenge commandments and regulations, the rules governing the event state that each team consist of four members, one of which be a whammy surfer--typically the team's best surfer--that can claim his best wave with a two-fisted hand pump straight to the heavens and effectively double his score. With each team consisting of up to two team surfers and two shop employees and hour-long heats, the event feels much more like a backyard barbecue than your run-of-the-mill surf comp. And if you asked the surfers in the event, they would tell you that that's exactly the way it should be.
"I'm just here to have fun. This aint no 'QS contest or anything, it's just a really fun event to be a part of," said CJ Kanuha, team surfer for the Big Island's Pacific Vibrations. Kanuha nailed the vibe at the event right on the head. As opposed to other Surf Shop Challenge events in other parts of the country that consist of a touch of bad mouthing and mild bouts of debauchery, the event in Hawaii has a much more laidback feel to it with a number of contestants even napping between heats. But when the heat started and the jerseys were donned, the surfers in the event were there to win.
Standing out once again was two-time event champ Town and Country, who is becoming a bit of a dynasty within the Hawaiian leg of the Surf Shop Challenge. With Dustin Cuizon (you know the one, the guy that won just about everything at Nationals a few years back and is damn-near untouchable on his backhand...yeah, that one) surfing as the team's whammy surfer, Town & Country was the favorite going into the event. But that didn't mean that the other teams were gonna go down without a fight.
Throughout the day, every team was ripping and at some points it was damn tough to distinguish who was a shop employee and who was the team rider. But as the event moved towards a close, it was clear that it would be another notch in the belt of Town & Country as the team surfed on a higher plane all the way through the finals.
"You know, someone asked me if we had a strategy going into the contest this year, but I told him that we just do what we always do. Just surf. Not too much of a strategy at all, eh," said Team Captain Gareth Sugihara with a laugh. "We're super excited to win again...this event's just so fun. There's really nothing else like it around."
If the event win wasn't enough, team standout Dustin Cuizon would also go onto to win the FCS award for most Functional Creative Surfing for his smooth-as-butter full-rotation frontside air. "The waves were pretty fun. I had a good time and I really like surfing in the event," said Cuizon.
As winners of the event, Town and Country will meet other regional champions in Huntington Beach on September 14 for the finals. When asked about his thoughts on heading to SoCal, T & C frontman Sugihara said that, "The water's gonna be a little colder there and it won't be as blue, but we'll be ready."
1- T &C Surf 50.24
2- Quiksilver Boardriders Club 41.6
3- Blue Hawaii 39.86
4- Pacific Vibrations 34.49
FCS Award for Functional Creative Surfing
Dustin Cuizon, Town & C ountry