S.I. Crowther photo
As of Tuesday, November 24, 2015
The 2015 Nove Nove Maui Aloha Classic was one for the record books. The contest, organized by Sam Bittner of the AWT, marked the culmination of the American Windsurfing Tour and the PWA World Tour, bringing together the best windsurfers in the world for one unique competition. The event’s holding period ran from Oct. 28 through Nov. 10, with 10 days of competition.
This year’s event kicked off with not just the biggest swell of the season, but what many say was the biggest swell the Aloha Classic has ever seen. “It was defiantly tough and challenging, pretty much as big as Ho’okipa can handle, but the waves were clean and lining up … I don’t think I can recall another event like it at Ho’okipa,” said Keith Teboul, local board shaper and competitor for Quatro and Goya. Energy was high from competitors and onlookers alike throughout the event. Spectators filled the lawn above the infamous Ho’okipa rocks and thousands followed along the live feed allowing fans from across the globe to feel like they were right there.
There was a worthy crew of regular Gorge sailors on hand including Fiona Wylde, Sean Aiken, Bryan Metcalf-Perez, Ingrid Larouche, Sarah Hauser, and a few more that we could lay claim to, like former residents Russ Faurot and Jake Miller, not to mention Gorge companies like Dakine, NoLimitz, and Vela supporting the event. With the waves pumping and the trade winds filled in, head judge, Duncan Coombs, called for the Pro-Trials to kick off the event. This was a short bracket intended for all pro level riders who were not prequalified to get into the main event. Former Maui resident, Aiken, threw his name in the hat here as the rest of our Gorge rippers were already seeded in the pro bracket.
With double mast high plus waves, this was not for the faint of heart. Every heat had several sailors not making it out and getting thrashed against the rocks tearing sails, snapping masts like tooth picks and destroying boards in a cheese grater fashion. Aiken, experienced at Ho’okipa, played it cool, timed it right and cruised to the outside with relative ease and won his heat placing him in the Pro bracket.
“Those were big conditions for a contest at Ho’okipa,” said Aiken. “You had to have a lot of experience sailing there to even be able to get outside the break on that first day. The whole north shore was closing out at times. Even guys that live and sail there every day were getting hammered on the rocks in just about every heat.” Aiken continued his excellence by cruising through the Master’s division as well, finishing on top of the podium after the single elimination round. He held onto his top spot through the double elimination taking first place for the third year in a row.
Competing in the Pro Men was Metcalf-Perez, who prequalified as a former PWA rider. Metcalf-Perez had a spectacular heat in the double elimination taking out current PWA World Champion, Philip Koster, to advance along with Maui superstar Kai Lenny. Also preforming well were Miller and Faurot, advancing through the first round of the double elimination against the best of the best.
On the women’s side, the Gorge ladies were dominant. Ingrid Larouche and recent Gorge windsurfer Sarah Hauser both finished on the podium for the single elimination just behind current world champion, Iballa Moreno. Fiona Wylde had a tough first round which left her with some work to do in the double elimination bracket, but the Hood River local was up for the task. She tore through the bracket making her way to the final round. Wylde surpassed Hauser’s third place spot in some tough, light-wind conditions leaving Hauser to finish in fourth. Next Wylde took on an injured Larouche. Larouche put up quite a fight, but with broken bones in her foot and Wylde’s momentum, she finished in third place. A huge congratulation goes to Larouche for finishing on the podium of the Aloha Classic for the fifth year in a row.
The last hurdle for Wylde was a tough one; she needed to beat the world champion, Moreno, twice in a row to be crowned the champion of Ho’okipa. If anyone was up for it on this day, it was Wylde. The heat started with Wylde picking off an absolute bomb of a wave, completing full bottom to top turns, and at one point vertically connecting with the lip of the wave with the skill and timing on par with the most experienced locals. Moreno responded by slashing turns with harder cutbacks in them, but clearly on lesser waves. Towards the end of the heat, Wylde picked off another massive wave making another impressive lip contacting turn on it. As the heat came to a close, Moreno got one last wave, albeit a small one, but made good use out of it slashing her way down the line. In what can accurately be described as a controversial score card, Moreno’s last wave pushed her to victory, leaving Wylde to finish her electrifying comeback in second place.
All in all, it was an extremely impressive performance by all of our Gorge sailors. Not only does this crew excel in the Gorge, they truly stand up to the test when put up against the world’s best in some of the most harrowing conditions. Be sure to check out all the action on from the event on AmericanWindsurfingTour.com where there are daily recaps, videos, and loads of photos to find.