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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Hawai'i's top youths headed to California

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

More than 100 of Hawai'i's best young surfers will be in California for the next three weeks, competing for national championships.

The National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) National Championships will begin today and run through June 28 at San Clemente, Calif. The United States Surfing Federation (USSF) National Championships will begin June 28 and run through July 6 at Oceanside, Calif.

The contests hold virtually equal status as national championship events for amateurs, and many of the Hawai'i surfers will enter both.

"It's pretty well-established that Hawai'i always has a good team," said Bobbi Lee, director of the Hawai'i Region of the NSSA. "And we feel like we have a really strong team again."

While both contests include divisions for adults, the focus is primarily on the youth divisions. In addition to the standard trophies and prizes, students can win scholarships and corporate sponsorships.

"The entire surf industry comes out to watch (the NSSA) contest," Lee said. "It's a good chance for the kids to show their talents to the sponsors."

Some of the Hawai'i competitors are already well-sponsored, and will use these contests as final exams before graduating to the professional level.

For example, Dustin Cuizon of 'Ewa Beach has already won seven national championships (five NSSA, two USSF), and will become a professional by the end of this summer.

Cuizon, who just graduated from Campbell High, was selected the top male surfer at last year's NSSA National Championships and is seeking to become the most-successful competitor in the 25-year history of the event.

Cuizon is entered in three divisions this year, and if he wins all three he will become the first competitor to win eight NSSA championships in a career.

Other top competitors from Hawai'i among the boys are Kekoa Bacalso, Nathan Carroll, Ola Eleogram, Hank Gaskell, Casey Brown, Tyler Newton and Tonino Benson. Top girls from Hawai'i include Leilani Gryde, Lani Hunter and Carissa Moore.

Both contests feature divisions for shortboard surfing, longboard surfing and bodyboarding.

All of the surfers from Hawai'i had to qualify for the national championships through state meets.

Niijima Quiksilver Pro

Irons, Robb advance: Hawai'i surfers Andy Irons and Kalani Robb advanced to the third round of the Niijima Quiksilver Pro yesterday.

The first and second rounds were completed in 2- to 3-foot waves at Niijima Island, Japan.

Irons, who is the defending world champion and currently ranked No. 1, led his first-round heat from start to finish. His top two waves received scores of 7.55 and 6.85. With a first-round victory, he advanced directly to the third round.

Robb lost his first-round heat, but rebounded with a second-round victory over Japan's Naohisa Ogawa.

Irons and Robb are the only surfers from Hawai'i in the contest, which is the fifth stop on this year's World Championship Tour.