Stand Up World Tour takes off
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
What better place for wave-riders to stand up and get noticed than O'ahu's North Shore?
The inaugural Stand Up World Tour will begin appropriately enough on O'ahu's North Shore.
The Sunset Beach Pro will serve as the first event for the first championship tour for the sport of stand-up paddle (SUP) surfing.
"We want this tour to be about high-performance riding," tour director Tristan Boxford said. "You've got so many great watermen committed to doing this, the sky's the limit. We're hoping for epic conditions to get this whole thing started on the right note."
The Sunset Beach Pro will run on the two best days between today and Feb. 14.
It will be the first of four events on the 2010 Stand Up World Tour. The other three events are scheduled for France, Tahiti and Ocean Beach, Calif.
"For the first year of a tour, that's amazing," said Honolulu's Kainoa McGee, who will compete on the inaugural tour. "Those are all good places. It shows how fast the sport is growing around the world and how popular it really is."
SUP surfing is a unique sport that involves a combination of paddling and surfing. The surfers stand on longboards and paddle into waves with a canoe-style paddle.
The sport has attracted a cross section of champions from other ocean sports.
Former longboard surfing world champion Bonga Perkins, paddleboard world champion Jamie Mitchell and former windsurfing world champion Robbie Naish are all scheduled to enter the Sunset Beach contest.
McGee is a world-class bodyboarder and shortboard surfer.
"The ability and experience of the watermen on this tour is as loaded as it gets," he said. "Any one of the top 30 guys could win it."
The inaugural tour will feature 24 seeded competitors. Fourteen of those 24 are from Hawai'i: McGee, Perkins, Dave Kalama, Duane DeSoto, Ekolu Kalama, Ikaika Kalama, Kai Sallas, Kala Alexander, Kalani Vierra, Kamu Auwae, Keali'i Mamala, Kekoa Uemura, Noah Shimabukuro and Garrett McNamara.
There are also competitors from Australia, France, Tahiti and California.
Each contest on the tour will also have a trials event so that the local surfers from the area get an opportunity to compete.
Prize money is minimal for now — the total purse at each event will be between $5,000 and $10,000.
"This being the first tour, we're more excited just to have it up and running," Boxford said. "This is our opportunity to paint a really positive picture of stand-up paddling."
It might help if the opening event is run in the famous big waves at Sunset Beach.
"If the waves go off and the riders kill it, it's going to be a springboard to catapult the whole tour forward, the whole sport forward," McGee said. "And hopefully some sponsors see it and get on board because this sport is only going to get bigger and better."
For more information visit www.watermanleague.com.