Barger surfs to junior crown
Thanks to Kai Barger, Maui finally has a no ka oi of surfing.
Barger won the men's division of the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships yesterday at Sydney, Australia.
He is the first Maui surfer to win a world championship sanctioned by the Association of Surfing Professionals.
The week-long contest is considered the 2008 world championship for surfers age 20 and younger.
"I'm as high as Saturn's kite, baby," said Barger, who is 19 and from Ha'iku. "Out of all the incredible surfers in this event ... I probably had the least amount of confidence, but I guess this goes to show that every dog has his day and today's mine."
The final day of the contest was run in 4-foot waves at North Narrabeen.
Barger won four heats yesterday en route to the championship, including a victory over Brazil's Jadson Andre in the one-on-one final.
Andre, 20, was the No. 1 seed for the entire contest. Barger was not even the top seed among the Hawai'i surfers.
Andre jumped to an early lead, but Barger responded with a score of 8.67 (out of 10) for a series of explosive turns on a left-handed wave.
Shortly after Barger took the lead with that wave, there was a 20-minute lull, helping him hold on for the victory. Barger finished with a two-wave total of 15.34 to top Andre's total of 13.67.
"To be honest, I can't remember much of the final with all the cameras and everything," Barger said. "It's a blur ... I never thought this would happen to me."
Barger's victory over Andre avenged losses earlier in the day by two Hawai'i surfers.
Andre beat Granger Larsen of Maui in the fourth round, then Kiron Jabour from O'ahu's North Shore in the quarterfinals.
Barger beat France's Marc Lacomare in the semifinals, Australia's Matt Wilkinson in the quarterfinals, and Australia's Stuart Kennedy in the fourth round.
Barger is now the third surfer from Hawai'i to win the men's division of the World Junior Championships. Kaua'i's Andy Irons won the first one in 1998, then Mililani's Kekoa Bacalso won it in 2005.
"To be part of such a crazy group of surfers feels amazing," Barger said.
Barger received $6,500 for the victory, and will also get a preferred seeding into all World Qualifying Series contests for 2009. The seeding could help him qualify for the elite ASP World Tour in 2010.
The World Junior Championships featured 48 surfers from around the world. Surfers had to qualify for the event through a series of regional contests in 2008.
Barger was one of seven surfers from Hawai'i in the contest. Among the others, Jabour tied for fifth place, Larsen tied for ninth; Tonino Benson, Casey Brown, Dusty Payne and Sebastian Zietz all tied for 17th.
Hawai'i had the best overall showing among the qualifying regions. Australia was second and Brazil was third.
On Monday, Kaua'i's Bethany Hamilton placed second in the women's division to France's Pauline Ado.