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Kalei Kauhane wins 39th Kimo’s Longboard Contest

By Staff | Jun 30, 2016

The finalists in the 39th annual Kimo’s Longboard Contest in Memory of Rob Thibaut were, back row, from left: Kawika Kinimaka, Andrew O'Riordan, Johnny Pitzer, Matt Pasamonte, Kalei Kauhane and Eric Casco. Also pictured in front are Jack Starr and Laura Blears.

LAHAINA – It should come as no surprise that the Maui representatives of TS Restaurants of California and Hawaii continue on the leading edge of building the unparalleled community support that defines the integrity of island life in general and the West Side in particular.

With the running of the 39th annual Kimo’s Longboard Contest in Memory of Rob Thibaut, annual THERAsurf Camp and Willie K concert/silent auction, Kimo’s Restaurant – the flagship venue of the company – continues to lead the effort to malama pono, to nurture in a motherly way that which is good and righteous.

Indeed, the June 10 camp for 36 Maui special needs keiki, June 11 Willie K concert/silent auction and June 12 Kimo’s Longboard Contest – along with countless other educational, athletic and community programs and contributions – represent the concerted effort of the company to support and nurture positive programs in West Maui.

The THERAsurf Surf Camp at Launiupoko featured the opportunity for 36 special needs kids to experience the joy of riding a wave on a surfboard with experienced and dedicated waveriders such as Jimmy Gamboa and Nick Hernandez, with the help of Administrator Jennifer Tracy all THERAsurf leaders from California.

Kimo’s Restaurant also presented THERAsurf a check for $4,500 from proceeds of a benefit concert featuring Willie K and Nicki I Hernandez from the band Common Sense, and a silent auction highlighted by the opportunity to buy a Tom Parrish mini-gun or a 6’7” surfboard from Clay Marzo’s quiver.

The talented field included (clockwise from top left): Rhett Wiseman, Jessie Moffett, Albert Jenks and Zane Astone. PHOTOS BY DOOMAPHOTOS.

The bar proceeds from the recent Kimo’s anniversary celebration and entry charges for the concert were also donated to the event.

“It was simply amazing to see kids get out of their wheelchairs and get out into the water and ride overhead waves with the THERAsurf leaders,” said Jack Starr, assistant general manager of Kimo’s.

“It was so heart-warming and inspirational to see the joy of everybody down there that day – especially the parents of the kids.”

The Kimo’s Longboard Contest in Memory of Rob Thibaut celebrates the traditional soul surfing of the 1950s and ’60s. In paying homage to the surf pioneers, the contest rules include nine-foot minimum, single-fin surfboards with no leashes. And perhaps the true treasure of this contest is that it is held at Lahaina’s Mala Wharf, one of the perfection left slide breaks in Hawaii.

The 39th running of the event featured 54 of Maui’s top longboard surfers competing in near perfection, four- to six-foot waves in 20-minute heats.

The double-elimination format allowed the competitors to surf through the changing tide and wind conditions in the preliminary rounds to the glassy, mid-tide perfection of the south swell surge.

When the salt mist had cleared, judges Roy Yamada, Alan Shubin, Nathan Moody, Mel Ugale, Greg Unabia and Craig Mojonnier compiled their scorecards to declare Kalei Kauhane, who had twice previously won the contest, as the champion of the 39th running of the event.

Kauhane, who received a custom-made Ole longboard as well as several more prizes, was followed by two-time winner Eric Casco in second place, Matt Pasamonte in third, Kawika Kinimaka fourth, Andrew O’Riordan fifth, and Johnny Pitzer sixth. All of the runner-ups also received outstanding prizes donated by local businesses, as well as Ipo Heke Gourd (Hawaiian drum) trophies made by Gayle Mizaguchi and Kent Apo.

“What unbelievable performances we were treated to,” beamed event organizer and announcer Starr. “These surfers were hanging heels, cheater fives, drop-knee turns, hang tens and doing backwards Quasimotos like its nothing. What a treat it was to see them ride the perfect waves we were blessed to have come through for the contest.”

Starr had special praise for the event staff and sponsors, as well as paying respect to the Lord Tally Ho Blears, the legendary professional wrestler and Makaha surfing pioneer along with being the voice of the Kimo’s contest in its inaugural years.

“I try to announce the contest in the same spirit as Tally Ho; he had a tremendous spirit, and I am honored to try to carry on that feeling,” said Starr.

“I have so much respect for the passion that Laura Blears (Lord Tally Ho’s daughter) has for this contest and for surfing in general,” Starr continued to say. “We are so indebted to our event staff of Jennifer Starr, Tule Souza, Keefe Gargan and Janet Waters, who did such a terrific job this year.”

Starr concluded by recognizing the event sponsors, including Pitzer Built Construction, West Maui Cycles, Maui Jims, Hawaiian Island Creations, Quiksilver, Gazebo Restaurant, Hi-Tech, Ole Surfboards, Gott Glassing, Dooma Photos, Geezer Graphics, and TS Restaurants.

“It’s just a wonderful feeling to reflect on all the people, businesses and organizations that contribute to the success of the contest and of the THERAsurf program. It is a blessing for everyone,” Starr said. “And I always appreciate Rob Thibaut’s support of this great event.”