The flags are up, the wind is blowing, and sleek athletes from all over the world have taken over the Point at Ho‘okipa – the Aloha Classic is on, and the competition has been fierce as the conditions have ranged from epic to decent.
Each year, as fall weather takes over the calm summer swells, wind and waves enthusiasts gather at the elite windsurfing spot on Maui’s North Shore for the annual international competition hosted by the International Windsurfing Tour. The competition has a window of opportunity, with the contest running this year from Oct. 29 to Nov. 10. The event is highly weather dependent and is called on and off day by day, and hour by hour, depending on conditions. Each day, contest officials make the call based on conditions, and run several different divisions.
The take-it-as-it-comes approach adds to the drama of the event, which pits world-class athletes against each other in Pro, Amateur, Master, Grandmaster, and Youth divisions. As jet skis manned by the Walsh brothers and others parol the sea and spectators with binoculars crowd the cliffs, skilled athletes streak over the water, pull off epic tricks, and land grand airs in their quest for windsurfing glory.
An opening ceremony unleashed the competition events last Sunday amidst conditions that were about as good as anyone could hope for, with wild and scary 18-foot-face waves and winds gusting 20-25 knots – nautical speak for pretty windy. Pro Men, a crowd starting out 48 strong, took advantage of the conditions to produce world-class sailing. The Pro Women division went on right after the men in slightly sketchier conditions, with closeouts making things a little riskier.
Competitors woke up the next day, Monday, to a much-reduced swell, but still pulled it off. Tuesday and Wednesday, the contest was called off due to weather (or lack thereof).
On Thursday, the swell picked up and so did the competition, with the day producing the finalists for both the men’s and women’s professional divisions. Sarah Hauser defended her title, taking home the win for the second year in the row and solidifying her as one of the top waterwomen in the world. Japan’s Sato Matoko took second, long-time Maui local and windsurfing veteran Angela Cochran took third, and Canadian-turned-Maui-resident Shawna Cropas took fourth.
The Men’s Pro division saw Camille Juban of Guadeloupe, who won the competition in 2011, secure the win. His countryman Antoine Martin took second, Graham Ezzy came in closely behind him, and Morgan Noireaux took fourth.
After the Pro divisions were decided, the Amateur, Master’s, and Grand Master’s divisions took over the waves. After battling it out through varied conditions, the contest wrapped up on Tuesday Nov. 6, the last day of the event.
One standout competitor this year is child prodigy and Hawai‘i’s own Luc Guidroz, a 14-year-old who competed in the amateur division and placed second, right behind Italy’s Ilia Escario.
The champions will be crowned at the official awards ceremony of the 2018 International Windsurfing Tour, at the Maui Country Club in Spreckelsville on Saturday, Nov. 10.
1. Camille Juban (GUA)
2. Antoine Martin (GUA)
3. Graham Ezzy (USA)
4. Morgan Noireaux (USA)
1. Sarah Hauser (NCL)
2. Sato Motoko (JPN)
3. Andrea Cochran (USA)
4. Shawna Cropas (USA)
1. Jeff Henderson (USA)
2. Greg Aguera (USA)
3. Rob Funk (USA)
4. Eric Martin (GLP)
1. Ilya Escario (ESP)
2. Paul Karaolides (CYP)
3. Kai Katchadourian (FIN)
4. Patrick Bergeron (CAN)
1. Ilia Escario (ITA)
2. Luc Guidroz (USA)
3. Simeon Glasson (AUS)
4. Jeff Henderson (USA)
1. Jake Schettewi (USA)
2. Takara Ishi (JPN)
3. Sugi Takuma (JPN)
4. Nicolo Spanu
Photo 1 and 3 courtesy of Sigal Petersen
Photo 2 courtesy of International Windsurfing Tour