Ocean City Today

Talented surfers in Hawaii contest

Surf Report
By Dave Dalkiewicz | Nov 22, 2017

(Nov. 24, 2017) To continue with last week’s theme regarding Hawaii, a lot of interesting things happened on a quick visit two years ago.

Having the incredible fortune of good friends, airport rides, places to stay, food to eat and equipment to utilize were all readily available. Use of a bicycle on the N. Shore was all that was needed to get around in adequate fashion in most situations. Staying in the Sunset Point neighborhood, the locale was fairly centralized in traversing the seven-mile miracle that the area is known as.

The big wave season is generally thought of as starting around the first of November. So too does a major contest season in this part of the Pacific. It seems as though a large percentage of the surfing world descends upon this area to either surf in contests, hone reputations, test one’s self, accompany all of the above, or simply soak up the atmosphere that big league surfing can provide.

It’s sort of like our resort summer tourist season on surfing steroids without the boardwalk and multi-level condos and hotels. It’s true that Turtle Bay has turned into a fancy, high dollar, hotel, bar, restaurant, condominium complex but the area is still “The Country.” Kam Highway is still, after all, a two lane road for the most part, serving all of the fabled N. Shore of Oahu.

Back to the Sunset Point area and the neighborhood. From the “crib” I could cycle to the end of the street, down a couple of blocks and bingo, right at the scene of the HIC Pro contest. HIC is Hawaiian Island Creations, a long-time purveyor of surfing products produced at a wholesale and retail level with multiple locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

This event attracts competitors from around the world. From local teens to seasoned veterans, every entrant is looking to place in the money, gain points credited to a year-end standing, acquire bragging rights or hopefully qualify for the triple crown, which is a series of three events held every winter culminating in the Pipeline Masters which is the last contest held for the year’s World Surf League Championship Tour, the major league of professional surfing.

The event was even being locally televised and available on the internet. Either a ringside seat could be had live and in person, or an easy chair by a connected TV or computer. It was all right there. All in the neighborhood.

These contests usually go on for multiple days to accommodate, in this case, over 100 entrants. With at least four rounds of preliminary heats, quarterfinals, semifinals and a final heat, there’s a lot of action going on.

I was most impressed with the talent and youth of the very local participants. While watching the event one morning, I got a text from long-time friend, Tim Shanley, whose house I was staying at, with the message: “Check out this next heat.  Finn McGill is surfing. He’s a neighborhood kid who lives a few streets over from us.”

Now let’s consider this for a minute. Here’s a teenager, and a fairly young one at that, surfing in a big-time professional contest that is literally in his backyard. The surfing world had come to his town, to a wave that was quite familiar to him.  But this was world class, famous, Sunset Beach, known to all in surfing as one of the most significant high performance big waves there is.

Can you imagine? Young Finn, fresh off the afternoon school bus, “Hi Mom, I’m home! Going to go get a few waves before dinner.” Mom says, “Ok son. Be careful and don’t be late. You’ve got some chores to do and lots of homework tonight.”

The waves were formidable that day at 8 to 12 feet with bigger sets, and this was two years ago. I checked Finn’s recent stats and he’s listed at 5 feet 7 inches and 130 pounds at age 17. He was probably smaller two years ago at age 15. Like a child among men.

But remember, this was his backyard. All in the neighborhood. He did well in the heat, well enough to advance. I met him as he exited the water and explained that I was a friend of his neighbors’ and congratulated him. His response, “Gee, thanks mister!” It was like Beaver Cleaver goes surfing and doing just fine in world-class conditions.

To put it in another perspective, a great mentor of mine who spent a lot of winters on Oahu’s N. Shore once told me that you could paddle out at this break, loose you board on your first wave, make the arduous swim into the beach and be done for the day. This was in an era before leashes were widely used and probably in conditions even heavier than this contest was held in. All in the neighborhood.

The point here is that what to some is a defining measuring stick of a large performance canvas of a wave, to others is a grand expanse of a wonderous backyard wilderness explored by youthful residents. So impressive. All in the neighborhood.

Dave Dalkiewicz is the owner of Ocean Atlantic Surf Shop in Ocean City.

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