After a one-year hiatus from the winner's podium, Team Town & Country has once again claimed a win in the Hawaiian leg of the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge held at Ala Moana Bowls. This year's victory marks the fifth time Town & Country has won the event. With their finish today, Town & Country will be traveling to Bali to compete for the national title and a chance to win $10,000.
As has become tradition for the Hawaii Regionals, mouthwatering conditions surrounded the lineup at Ala Moana Bowls as 4-foot-plus walls of water marched in perfect unison to kick off the event. With a completely unique team format that sees local surf shops pitted against one another, a Surf Shop Challenge win is as much about bragging rights over other surf shops as much as anything else. With teams made up of two shop employees and two teamriders, the atmosphere at this event is more akin to a session spent with a few friends than a typical surf contest.
With near-perfect waves on tap, by the time the opening heats started, the eight teams competing were already chomping at the bit to hit the water. "Look at it out there--it's pretty much perfect Bowls. I mean, how can you not be fired up looking at that lineup? There's no other contest in Hawaii quite like this," says team HIC's Joel Centeio. "Every year, the Surf Shop Challenge seems to score. I just want our team to make it to the next round so I can surf more."
As the contest progressed past the first round, four of the original eight teams were whittled down, leaving Town & Country, HIC, HI Tech, and Pipe Dreams in contention for a win. From the outset of the final heat, Town & Country's Kekoa Bacalso drew first blood, lighting up a solid set wave from the outside bowl to the inside peak, dropping a 9-point ride in the process. As the only surfer in the event to compete at the World Tour level, it was clear that Bacalso meant business when he hit the water.
"Man, I just really want a free trip to Bali. How unreal of a trip would that be? That's my motivation. Send me to Bali," said Bacalso through a characteristic chuckle in the moments leading up to the final. Unfortunately for him, the remaining teams in the lineup all held similar aspirations. "Send me to Bali" proved to be the rallying cry for the contest.
Back out to sea the hunt for the win seesawed back and forth. By the halfway point of the 70-minute long final, the lead seemed to be changing hands with every set. Highlighting the heat, Team HIC, last year's champs, dropped a litany of high scores as Kekoa Cazimero, the team's Whammy Surfer, put on a blistering last-minute performance. In the ensuing moments, the remaining teams would drop a slew of scores, giving rise to the idea that a win was in reach for anyone. But in the end, thanks to some last-minute heroics shop surfer Geoff Wong, Team Town & Country solidified their win once again and are now Bali bound.
"Oh man, that was so stressful but exciting. I'm so stoked on our team. We're so fired up to win and can't wait for our trip to Bali," said Town & Country team captain Travis Hashimoto following the final. "I just can't wait. I think we're gonna do well out there in those type of waves. Hopefully we can get some barrels and take home a national win."