Underground and mainstream talent were both on display in the first two rounds of competition at the Sponsor Me Hawaii Ala Moana Bowls 2-Star World Qualifying Series Event on Tuesday. This pro/am surf contest attracted a diverse group of competitors, vying for a piece of the $25,000 prize purse, valuable WQS ratings points and a chance to qualify for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Up and coming surfers like Ian Bowman, 18, from Hilo, Hawaii are using the Sponsor Me event to get sponsor's attention, gain surf industry exposure and make a run at professional surfing.
"We want to find the up and coming athletes in the world, where American Idol meets X-Games," said Sponsor Me part owner Chris Carmichael. "You get kids from under-served markets. Maybe a kid has the ability, but he doesn't have the money to pay for a surfboard or a plane flight to get anywhere. We want to back those kids and get their ability to another level."
Sponsor Me hooked up Bowman and Taoa Pou, 13, of Molokai with former ASP World Champ Sunny Garcia, Makuakai Rothman, as well as North Shore fixtures Pancho Sullivan and Myles Padaca, for a surf clinic at Bowls last Friday. The underground groms also received free entry into the Ala Moana Bowls event.
Pou went down in the second round yesterday, but Bowman won his heat with strategy and tips from Myles Padaca, co-owner of a surf school called Progressive Surfing.
"The game plan was to snag one out the back, get something under your belt and just sit and catch some good sets," said Bowman who advanced out of the heat with his fellow Hilo boy Kevin Kapsky. The Hilo surfers beat Cheyne Willis and Nelson Sadoy.
"Every heat I make, I get more and more confident, more and more stoked and it makes me more and more dangerous as a wildcard," said Bowman who advanced to the round of 64.
While Bowman is still flying under the radar as an unsponsored underdog, favorites like Maui boy and former ASP World Junior Champ Kai Barger, 20, are garnering a lot of attention.
"It's real small, offshore winds, and as weak as a wave could possibly be," said Barger of the declining southwest swell at Ala Moana Bowls yesterday. "It's all about keeping that momentum. Speed. Speed. Speed."
Despite the deteriorating conditions, Barger won his second round heat, advancing with Lance Gruver in second place. Barger has been training with legendary fitness coach Rob Garcia and it showed in his physique and surfing.
"You have to treat every event the same and persistence is key," said Barger of the 2-star,. "You have to keep plugging away whether it's a six-star prime or a two-star. You have to take a two-star real serious because bombing out in a two-star will look bad."
Barger, Bowman and the remaining field of surfers will most likely resume competition at Ala Moana Bowls next Tuesday. A bigger southwest swell is forecasted to hit Oahu and should make for a great final day.
All of the action from the Sponsor Me Hawaii Ala Moana Bowls 2-Star WQS event is being broadcast live on Hawaiian Cable Channels 250 and 1250.