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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 29, 2006

Kekoa Uemura makes dad proud with victory

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kekoa Uemura, the son of contest director China Uemura, surfed in near-perfect form to win the Japan-Hawai'i Invitational in Waikiki.

BERNIE BAKER | Special to The Advertiser

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Fitting for a family-oriented event, China Uemura's 22nd Annual Longboard Classic featured some family ties yesterday.

The professional divisions of the four-day contest were completed yesterday in 2- to 3-foot waves at Kuhio Beach, Waikiki.

Kekoa Uemura, the son of the contest's namesake, won one of the professional competitions yesterday. In a separate professional competition, Makamae De Soto beat his older brother Duane for the first time to emerge victorious.

Kekoa Uemura won the Japan-Hawai'i Invitational, topping a field of 32 longboard surfers 16 from Japan and 16 from Hawai'i.

"Whenever you challenge another country, you want to represent your country the best you can," he said. "I can not say anything bad about the Japanese surfers because they were awesome. But this is our home water and so we had the advantage."

Each surfer in the invitational got to surf in two separate heats, and there were no eliminations. Uemura was clearly the best overall performer, receiving scores of 9.8 (out of 10) and 8.0 in his morning heat, and 9.3 and 8.5 in his afternoon heat.

"I liked the format because there was a lot less stress," Uemura said. "You know you weren't going to get eliminated, so you can just relax and concentrate on getting your waves."

Hawai'i surfers dominated the competition, taking nine of the top 10 places.

Scotty Fong Jr. placed second, and Kekoa Auwae was third. Nobuyasu Shiosaka placed sixth and was the top Japan surfer.

"It was neat to come together as a team, but it wasn't like there was any animosity," Fong said. "This was more about having fun and helping each other."

Makamae DeSoto of Hau'ula was the other champion, winning the Russ-K Cup. That event was staged on Thursday, but results were announced yesterday.

The Russ-K Cup was part of the Japan Professional Surfing Association's 2006 tour, but Hawai'i surfers were allowed to enter.

"I was feeling good the whole day; I never fell once, which is unusual for me because I'm usually the flop master," DeSoto said.

The final heat of the Russ-K Cup featured four Hawai'i surfers: Makamae DeSoto, Duane DeSoto, Kai Sallas and Kekoa Uemura.

"When I was younger, I used to get nervous surfing against my brother, but now I'm OK with it," said Makamae, who is 20 and nine years younger than Duane.

As proof, Makamae out-paddled Duane for a key wave.

"We were both going for the same wave, but I stood up first," Makamae said. "And it turned out to be my best wave. (Duane) was salty about it."

Sallas finished second, Uemura third, and Duane DeSoto fourth.

Hawai'i also beat Japan in a special relay event, 246.8-183.5.

Kekoa Uemura was the top money winner, earning $3,300 during the two days of pro competition. Makamae DeSoto was next with $1,800, and Fong received $1,400.

The amateur divisions will run today and tomorrow.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.