Bunch takes two Surfbash titles
Special to The Maui News
Jackson Bunch won the open men and 16-17 age group to claim two divisions at the 31st annual Vissla / Hi-Tech / Lopez Surfbash at Hookipa on Saturday.
Panama’s Isauro “Izzy” Elizondo prevented Bunch from a triple sweep by winning the Boys Junior Challenge.
Bunch, the 2019 International Surfing Association under-16 world champion, surfed nine heats in perfect contest conditions.
“It was long, it was tiring, I haven’t surfed that many heats in I don’t even know when,” Bunch said. “But that was fun, fun waves. Stoked that there was overhead waves. We’ve actually had some swell lately, but before that there was a long flat spell.”
For Bunch, it was only the second time he’s put on a contest jersey since winning the Papara Pro Junior in Tahiti in March, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down World Surf League competition.
“It felt super good,” he said. “Anytime you get to surf a contest or just go out with your friends and do a fun heat, it’s always super fun. It’s always practice, practice makes perfect.”
On Friday, the 16-year-old from Paia received an invite to next month’s Billabong Pipe Masters Trials at the famed Pipeline surfbreak on Oahu’s North Shore. Should he advance through the trials, he will surf in the WSL event which is the kickoff for the 2021 World Tour.
“I’m super stoked, I made it,” Bunch said. “I’m pretty excited for that.”
Elizondo was trailing Bunch in their Junior Challenge heat until two minutes remained in their 20-minute final.
“It was really kind of stressful, I fell on a couple waves that I shouldn’t, and I lost priority,” Elizondo said. “But then an insider came in and I did a turn and luckily I landed an air reverse, and then I rode it all the way to the inside and that was the wave I needed.”
The 16-year-old from Panama City has been coming to Maui to train since local surfer Henry Pascher invited him to stay with his family four years ago. Elizondo is on Panama’s ISA team, finishing 11th behind Bunch at the 2019 ISA Worlds.
Elizondo, who has been here for three months and will return to Panama in December, said, “Maui is such a good place to surf. It’s a great opportunity for me to compete and grow up my level with all these kids around here, which is a bigger level than where I live.”
Chase Burnes, a Kihei Charter seventh grader, won the boys 12-13 division. Last month, Burnes finished second at the National Scholastic Surfing Association National Championships in Nags Head, N.C. It was the first time the NSSA nationals were staged outside of California in its 42-year history.
“It was super fun because it was my first time doing nationals, and it was a new spot to everybody,” Burnes said. “The water was a bit warmer than California but you still had to wear your full-suit.”
Hurricane Epsilon generated some timely waves for North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
“They were kind of fun,” Burnes said. “Like on the finals day, it broke on the outside and you’d get like a couple turns, then you hopped to the inside and maybe get one or two more.”
Nora Liotta won the women’s open title on Sunday, in dominating fashion. She had the three highest scoring waves in the final. She also had the best two-wave score (16.8) and single-wave score (9.33) of the two-day contest in her Girls Junior Challenge quarterfinal heat.
“The waves were really fun, and I was just happy to find some white gems,” the 16-year-old from Haiku said.
Of her 9.33 score, she said: “It was this nice double-up wave that came to me in the finals seconds. It just stood up so nicely, I was really excited to get that wave.”
Other champions included Chrislyn Simpson-Kane (girls U14), Stella Valdez (Girls Junior Challenge), Ryder Prouty (boys U10), Kaden Awad (boys U12), Rafi Neri (boys 14-15), Keoni Perkins (open longboard), and Aaron Paulk (open para).