Lunas sweep inaugural event
LAHAINA – Sierra Lerback plans to compete on the world surfing tour in women’s longboard after she graduates in May.
The Lahainaluna High School senior will be able to take a little history with her.
Lerback won the girls shortboard division Saturday at Lahaina Harbor to lead the Lunas to the girls team title in the inaugural Maui Interscholastic League surf meet – the first sanctioned high school meet in the sport’s history.
“I’m stoked that my senior year I finally get to be official and I could be there to do it,” Lerback said. “I’m just happy to win it.”
Lerback’s 1,000 points for her victory helped the Lunas edge King Kekaulike, 3,645-3,456.
Na Alii were led by a 1-2 finish in girls bodyboard by twins Ginger and Amber Prados.
The Lunas rolled to the boys team crown behind a win by Nainoa Steward in bodyboard and Kala Willard’s second-place finish to King Kekaulike freshman Cody Young in shortboard.
The Lahainaluna boys scored 4,545 points to easily outdistance Baldwin (3,276) and King Kekaulike (2,843).
“You can see this break right from our school, we see it every day, we surf it every day,” Lerback said. “It is just good to win at a home break and let everyone know that this is our home break and you know it.”
The Lunas are serious about winning the first MIL title when the championship contest rolls around at Hookipa Beach Park on April 19.
The season also includes a meet next Saturday at D.T. Fleming Beach Park.
“We are doing a lot of training,” Lerback said. “We have morning practices on the track – we run miles and do stretches and we have been having heats out here. We all want it really bad, all of us are really dedicated to it. And it is good to have a whole team of people who want the same thing.”
Steward won his division in the Maui Scholastic Surf Championships last year when the sport was run on a club basis.
“It’s an honor to be the first one to win something like this,” Steward said. “Competing for the high school, along with everybody else here, I just have so much pride for my school – representing Lahainaluna is just awesome. We are the oldest school west of the Rockies, so to be able to take something like this is an honor for me. Bodyboarding is a big part of my life and I’m just happy to be here today.”
While Lerback and Steward are seniors, Young splashed onto the scene as a 15-year-old to take the top spot in the biggest division, boys shortboard.
Seven schools and 52 competitors took part Saturday – Hana’s Clyde Neer showed he could be in the battle with Young and Willard in the next couple of weeks after an impressive array of tricks helped him finish third in boys shortboard.
“It’s pretty cool,” Young said. “It is just cool to get the opportunity to have a school-involved thing like this for surfing. Hopefully it will open some doors for the future.”
Young, who caught the first wave of the day, in a preliminary heat, said the team aspect adds to the fun.
“Surfing is an individual sport and you don’t get to cheer on your friends because you are usually trying to beat them, but it’s different in this scenario,” he said.
Surfing organizers in Hawaii have been trying to have high school competition for more than two decades. Young could emerge as one of the pioneers.
“My geometry teacher (Matt Brown) is also the surf coach and he just told me when I came into math class and I was stoked because I might get four more years of this,” Young said.
For many years, one of the roadblocks was liability. The MIL trainer assigned to Saturday’s event, Lahainaluna’s John Conrad, said the sport offers less danger than many of the others contested in the state.
“It’s as safe as the skill level of the athletes, as well as the supervision,” Conrad said. “Today was a perfect starter meet for us because the waves aren’t really big and it’s not really critical. All of these kids have been surfing for years. To me it’s not an unsafe situation – there’s inherent risk in anything.”
The first division final was in girls bodyboard, and the Prados twins dominated.
“It wasn’t even like competition, everybody was really nice,” Ginger Prados said. “It was super fun to be out there with my sister.”
Amber Prados added, “We compete with each other even when we’re not in contests to see who’s better. She is obviously better – she can do way more tricks than me. It is pretty cool to compete for your school. I like that it’s an MIL sport now.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org