It was a picturesque Finals day at world-famous Waikiki Beach for the Duke's Waikiki Kane/Wahine Longboard Pro, with Kaneohe's Nelson Ahina and Haleiwa's Honolua Blomfield taking the win at the World Surf League (WSL) Longboard Qualifying Series (LQS) event. This competition is the Hawaii regional qualifier for the prestigious WSL Jeep World Longboard Championship, and while Ahina was pre qualified for the Championship after his 12th place finish from last year's event, Blomfield nabbed the sole regional spot in the Women's division after her victory today.
The Men's final came down to Ahina and defending event winner Kai Sallas, both staying focused during the wave lulls that filled the lineup. Ahina nabbed the first wave and scored an 8.0 and maintained the lead throughout the heat. With seven minutes left on the clock, Ahina used his priority to secure a 6.65 backup score and the win.
"It was really nerve-wracking," said Ahina post-heat. "It's hard to go against Kai first of all, and just to be in the Final and have it on the line is even more pressure. It just feels good to get out of there and successfully win it."
Sallas, along with Ahina, will travel to China in December to compete in the Jeep World Longboard Championship.
"[This win] is a motivator," continued Ahina. "I haven't won one in a long time and this is my second event of the year, so it feels good that I'm on the right page. Next up is Worlds... I know where I am so I'm really motivated to go to China this year."
In the Women's division, Blomfield dominated the Final by taking an early lead and comboing opponent Megan Godinez (a situation in which she needed two new scores to keep up with Blomfield) with a 9.80 and 9.15 -- the highest combined wave total of the event. Blomfield, 17, was extremely controlled and maintained flow on every wave, which was rewarded by the judges with excellent scores.
"I usually like to start off my heats by getting a wave, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad, just getting one on the board because then I feel more confident," said Blomfield after the win. "I stayed on the inside to keep building my scores, and I was just having fun with it. There were good waves for our Final, and 30 minutes was perfect so I feel like it was fair and I just kept getting lucky with good waves."
The North Shore surfer won this event three years ago and has come head-to-head with Godinez in the Finals in the past. Another victory here was on the bucket list for Blomfield, and the athlete now finds herself with a seed into the World Championship.
"This has been my goal to win this contest for the past few years, and I had to win it to make it to China, so that's what I've been working towards for a long time," said Honolua. "I've been really psyching myself up for this contest so that I do well, I'm so happy… I feel like I'm on top of the world."
At last year's World Longboard Championship, Ahina, Sallas and Oahu's Ned Snow placed 12th, 13th and 16th respectively in the competition, which requalified them for this year's event. Next in line to receive placement into the Championships was equal third-place winner, Waikiki's Kaniela Stewart, and former World Longboard Champion Duane DeSoto.
Stewart, 15, was the second-youngest competitor in the Men's division and this year marks his third time competing in the Duke's Waikiki Kane Longboard Pro.
"I'm so excited, just so hyped up and I'm thankful to go to China," said Stewart, who hails from Waikiki. Brother to professional surfer Eala Stewart, the boys are both chasing a competitive career and Kaniela demonstrated his aptitude for the big leagues today at Queens.
The Duke's Waikiki Kane/Wahine Longboard Pro is part of Duke's OceanFest, a commemorative sporting series that honors legendary Hawaiian surfer and Olympian Duke Kahanamoku. Now in its 15th year, Duke's OceanFest combines a variety of water and beach sports during its 9-day extravaganza and celebrates the Duke's birthday each year on August 24.