Hubbard will be all business at Pipeline
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Jeff Hubbard is on a winter break from his college courses at Hawai'i Pacific University, so he doesn't want to worry about any homework this week.
He just wants to ride some good waves.
Hubbard is Hawai'i's top entry in the Rockstar Games Pipeline Pro bodyboarding contest. The event will run on the three best days between today and Jan. 15 at the Banzai Pipeline.
It is the final contest on the International Bodyboarding Association's 2005 World Tour, so the world champion will be determined.
No bodyboarder dominated the 2005 tour, so the title race is still wide open.
Hubbard is ranked No. 9 on the world tour, but still has a shot at the world championship. In between his business classes at HPU, Hubbard is Hawai'i's only bodyboarder who competes regularly on the IBA world tour.
"I haven't done the math; haven't figured out anything yet," said Hubbard, 30. "All I know is it's a long shot, so I'm not worried about it. I think that helps me because there's no pressure. I can just go out and have fun at Pipe."
Actually, the entire field of competitors can have fun at Pipeline this week. Last year, the bodyboarding event at Pipeline was canceled because it was not issued a permit to run by the City & County of Honolulu.
"It's such an awesome wave," Hubbard said. "It just means so much more to end the tour here. It's the way it should be."
More than 120 bodyboarders from around the world are expected to compete. At least 10 still have a mathematical shot at winning the 2005 world title.
Australia's Mitch Rawlins enters the Pipeline Pro ranked No. 1 with 2,948 points. Two-time defending world champion Damian King of Australia is No. 6 with 2,343. Hubbard is No. 9 with 2,163.
"I never thought I'd be in this position, so I'm not too stressed," Rawlins said. "There's a lot of others still in the running, so I know it's going to be close."
Rawlins took over the No. 1 ranking two weeks ago by winning the Honolua Bay Pro at Honolua Bay, Maui. He is seeking his first world championship.
"That's an incredible wave, too, so winning it gave me a bit of confidence," said Rawlins, 23. "Now I'm going to have to hope for some of the others to lose and get out of the way to make it easier for me."
Five of the top seven bodyboarders in the world rankings are from Australia. The other two are from Brazil.
Hubbard is the only bodyboarder from the United States in the top 25.
"It's just hard for the guys from Hawai'i to do the tour full time because there's not as much sponsor support," he said. "That's why having a contest at Honolua and Pipe this year is such a big thing. Hopefully it will give more of the local guys a chance to earn points and get on the tour next year."
Bodyboarding legend Mike Stewart of O'ahu's North Shore entered a few events on the 2005 world tour, and is still considered a top contender at Pipeline. Stewart, 42, has won a record nine world championships and 11 Pipeline championships.
"I don't ponder that a lot," he said. "I'm just doing what feels good and trying to stay positive. I still enjoy doing it, so that's why I keep entering."
Stewart has his own line of bodyboards, and said he would like to start sponsoring young competitors from Hawai'i to get on the world tour.
"We definitely have the waves here, and we have the talent," he said. "We just need guys to persevere through the hard times right now."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.