Moribe gets job done at Sandy's
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Rex Moribe is apparently too young and too good to retire from professional bodyboarding.
He proved it yesterday by winning the men's division of the Sandy Beach Pro. The contest was held Saturday and yesterday in treacherous waves that ranged from 2 to 5 feet at Sandy Beach.
Moribe, 26, returned to competitive bodyboarding last year after a self-described retirement from the sport.
Yesterday was his first professional victory.
"I had to do the 9-to-5 job thing," he said. "So I took a couple years off and didn't do any contests. But I'm getting back into it. I practiced really hard for this one."
The Sandy Beach Pro was the first of six events on the United States Bodyboarding Association's 2007 National Championship Tour. The tour will also feature contests in New York, New Jersey, California and Maui.
Moribe — who was raised in Kapa'a, Kaua'i, but now resides in Kapahulu — upset six-time former world champion Guilherme Tamega of Brazil in yesterday's final.
"I honestly thought Tamega was going to win," said Moribe, who received $1,000 for the victory. "But I'll take it."
Tamega finished a close second, followed by Waimanalo's Eugene Teixeira in third, and Maui's Jonah Romero in fourth.
"I don't like second place — I like to win," Tamega said. "But it's still a positive result. Any time you can finish in the top three in a pro contest, that's a good result."
Moribe said he practiced at Sandy Beach "every single day for two weeks straight" in preparation for the contest.
"I was trying to get my momentum back," he said. "It's a different mindset when you surf competitively, so I had to make sure I was ready. My roommate was making fun of me, saying I was over-training, but I guess it worked."
Moribe's strategy in the final was to stay away from the other three competitors so that he could catch waves by himself.
"I knew the other guys would try to sit deep and get priority," he said. "So I stayed to the left of them and got lucky because a lot of waves came to me."
Even with a shallow reef below, Moribe was able to complete several barrel rolls and spinners on his best waves.
Despite yesterday's result, Moribe said he will probably not be able to compete in all the events on the 2007 national tour due to work commitments and financial restraints.
"It's too expensive," he said. "So I'll probably just do the Maui event and that's it."
Tour director Jason Bitzer said he hopes other Hawai'i bodyboarders take advantage of the opportunities the USBA offer.
Most notable, the top three bodyboarders at the conclusion of the 2007 national tour will get called up to the world tour in 2008.
"Basically, we want this to be a system where the amateurs can work their way up to become successful pros on the national tour, and then the world tour," Bitzer said.
Kaua'i's Jeff Hubbard, the 2006 world champion, did not enter yesterday's contest because he is in a world tour event in Australia this week.
In the women's division of the Sandy Beach Pro, Roberta Bitzer overcame a scary injury last week to prevail.
While practicing for the event last Thursday, Bitzer got slammed on to the reef and injured her back. She could barely walk on Friday and Saturday.
"I did a lot of yoga, stretching exercises," she said. "I didn't even know if I could do this contest, but when I woke up (yesterday) I felt good."
Like Moribe, Bitzer said her strategy was to stay away from the other three women in the final heat.
"I wanted to catch waves by myself and not hassle with the other girls," said Bitzer, who is originally from Brazil, but now resides in Kailua.
She is the wife of the tour director, Jason Bitzer.
"That had nothing to do with it," she said with a laugh. "The judges are professional. They judge everybody by the jersey color and not the name."
Bud Miyamoto of Kaua'i won the drop-knee division, and Colin Black of O'ahu won the amateur division.
The next event on the tour is the Jenkinson's Pro at New Jersey, Aug. 30 to Sept. 3. For more information, visit usbatour.org.
Men: 1, Rex Moribe. 2, Guilherme Tamega. 3, Eugene Teixeira. 4, Jonah Romero. 5 (tie), Willy Petrovic and Josh Wills. 7 (tie), Wesley Liquorish and Jacob Vandervelde. Women: 1, Roberta Bitzer. 2, Carolina Casemiro. 3, Claudia Ferrari. 4, Lorraine Lima. 5 (tie), Ayako Ancheta and Delori Manus. 7 (tie), Juliana Freitas and Jade Robles. Drop-knee: 1, Bud Miyamoto. 2, Jacob Pembrook. 3, Landon Gaspar. 4, Kegan Yuson. 5, Willy Petrovic. 6, Justin Medeiros. Amateur: 1, Colin Black. 2, Reis Yonehiro. 3, Kegan Yuson. 4, Trever Kam.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.