LAHAINA - An underground T-shirt circulating around Lahaina Town these days depicts a surfer in the classic toes-on-the-nose soul arch maneuver coupled with a caption that reads, "Got Soul? Mala Wharf."
Indeed, the answer - provided by the 54 soul surfers that entered the 37th annual Kimo's Longboard Contest In Memory of Rob Thibaut - was a resounding, "Yes!"
With the kaimana, or sea spirits, providing perfect tide, wind and wave conditions, event coordinator Jack "Da Rippa" Starr - the assistant general manager at Kimo's Restaurant and event organizer for 16 years - reported that the 2014 rendition will be remembered as one of the best ever.
Johnny Pitzer rides the nose on his way to placing second in the 37th annual Kimo’s Longboard Contest In Memory of Rob Thibaut at Mala Wharf. PHOTO BY CHRIS TURNER/RIMFIRE PHOTOGRAPHY.
"These guys and gals ages ten to 67 showed that they care enough about the legacy of traditional, classic longboard surfing of the 1950s and '60s to pay forward the spirit of that era. Young and old alike, they all did justice to the legacy of surfing and help perpetuate and keep alive the art of longboarding," said Starr, who competed in past contests.
It is not a stretch to compare the quality waves at Mala to the world-renowned point break at Malibu in Southern California, where surf legends such as Miki "Da Cat" Dora, "No Pants" Lance Carson and Johnny Fain perfected and perpetuated longboarding. Malibu is a right breaking wave and Mala is a left slider, but they are both performance curls that enable waveriders to complete the classic maneuvers in the contest. With the comparisons to Malibu, "Mala-bu" is gradually coming into vogue as the new name of the Lahaina break.
Only single fin surfboards nine feet or longer can be ridden in the contest, and no leashes are allowed. The judges - that this year included Nathan Moody, Alen Shubin, Roy Yamada, Steve Dabney, Mel Ugale, Greg Unabia and Andre Oziel - looked for classic, traditional maneuvers like nose riding and drop knee turns and cutbacks.
The contest administrators were Laura Blears, Patty Souza, Tule Souza, Sally Hisey and Jennifer Durnin Starr.
When the sea mist of the three- to five-foot "Mala-bu" waves settled, defending champion Eric Casco was once again declared the winner, followed by Johnny "Moose" Pitzer as the runner-up, former champ Mark Anderson in third place, new generation ripper Rhett Wiseman in fourth, Mau Ah Hee in fifth and Ola Shaw in sixth place. Casco will receive a custom made Ole Bumblebee surfboard, and all of the top winners raked in prizes that included cruiser bikes, soft top surfboards, sunglasses, dinner certificates and much more.
"I'd like to send our sincere thanks to all of the event sponsors, including TS Restaurants Maui, Maui Jims, Hi-Tech, Hawaiian Island Creations, Pitzer Built Construction, Ole Surfboards, Wayne Cody Art, Dooma Photos, Discount Plus, West Maui Cycles, Kona Brewing Co., Augie Constantino, Mala Crew and the Jodo Mission. All in all, we thank the community, the participants and all who helped make this a five-star event, a first-class competition, and one of the best ever," concluded Starr.