MIL crowns first surf champs
KUAU – The Maui Interscholastic League made history Saturday with the world’s first high school surfing championship meet.
No one at Hookipa Beach Park, however, capped more of an unprecedented run than King Kekaulike High School sophomore bodyboarder Ginger Prados, who was the only competitor to finish the inaugural three-meet season unbeaten.
“It’s pretty cool, it’s an awesome feeling,” Prados said after finishing 1-2 with her twin sister Amber in all three meets. “I had a great time out there with really nice and awesome people.”
The Prados twins led Na Alii to second place in the girls team standings, behind Lahainaluna.
“We push each other,” Ginger Prados said. “Like, when I’m paddling out and she catches a wave, I tell her to do tricks, but she never does.”
Baldwin won the boys title behind the work of Samuel Medeiros, who was third in the bodyboard competition. Maverick Donahue tied for fifth place in bodyboard, Kaohu Puaa tied for fifth in shortboard and Ryota Seki tied for seventh in shortboard.
“It’s really big, I mean this goes down in the history books of sports,” Baldwin coach Angel Kalehuawehe said. “I’m really happy to be a part of it. The boys came out and did what they needed to do and I’m really happy for them.”
Lahainaluna freshman Aloha Lopez won the girls shortboard title after finishing third and fourth in the first two events – national-class surfers Sierra Lerback of Lahainaluna and Kulia Doherty of Baldwin were second and third, respectively.
“It’s my first time, second time beating her,” Lopez said of Lerback, who won the first two meets and expects to compete on the world longboard tour after graduation in a month. “The waves were small in the beginning and they got better throughout the day – the final heat had some good waves.”
The Baldwin boys finished with 4,064 points, and King Kekau-like was second with 3,608. Lahainaluna won the girls title with 3,772 points, 560 better than King Kekaulike.
“The team is a big part of us because we all are very supportive of each other and we always help each other get better,” Lopez said. “It’s really cool – I’m really glad we won the team title. I’m a freshman, so it’s my first year in this. It was super cool to see everybody out here and having it an actual (high school) sport this year.”
King Kekaulike freshman Cody Young won the boys shortboard division. He won the first MIL meet three weeks ago, but missed the second while helping Team Hawaii claim the International Surfing Association’s World Junior Championship.
“I’m super stoked, especially just to be representing King K,” Young said. “Being the first-ever champion of MIL surfing is pretty cool and definitely something that I will never forget.”
Young won three heats at the junior event in Ecuador.
“I brought back a lot of experience, coming from the world championship to here,” he said. “I just brought everything that I learned there to surfing out in Hookipa in this contest. It helped me a lot with everything.”
Lahainaluna senior Nainoa Steward won the boys bodyboard crown despite a hip injury that cut short his wrestling campaign in February.
“I just have to thank God to even have the chance to surf this because I actually have a torn hip labrum right now,” Steward said. “I did it in wrestling practice and I’m having surgery next month. To have the chance to go out there and do something like this is a blessing. To be able to win the very first MIL championship over here – I’m just so stoked,” he said.
The surfing community has been trying to gain high school sanctioning for more than two decades.
“It’s an exciting thing, it’s a great thing for the community and for the schools especially, so it went extremely well,” said King Kekaulike athletic director P.K. Higa, who is in charge of surfing for the MIL. “Like anything else we are going to have to evaluate it at the end of the year and continue doing the positive things.
“If there’s anything that we need to clean up or fix, we will put our heads together and find a solution for those things.”
MIL executive director Joe Balangitao watched the semifinal and final heats – 60 competitors from seven schools took part in Saturday’s contest.
“We have talked about having surfing, I think, the last 10 years statewide. It kind of was talked about and then was kind of forgotten about and then talked about again,” Balangitao said, noting that youth contest organizer Kim Ball “has been doing it for the last 19, 20 years as a club (sport). He has been very patiently behind the scenes pushing to have surfing as an MIL sport and I’m just glad the ADs and principals decided that, ‘Yeah, it’s about time.’ “
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org