By RICHARD COUCH
Under overcast skies with intermittent rain, occasional sun and a rising tide, Diesel Storm Butts thundered to victory Saturday in the junior men’s division of the Big Island Pro Am Surfing Trials at Honolii Beach Park.
The 12-year-old surfer from Hilo won his division for the first time in three tries at the Pro Am and was one of 10 Hawaii Island surfers who earned round-trip airfare to Oahu and entry fees into upcoming contests.
Sponsored by Quiksilver, Big Island Toyota, Orchid Land Surfboards and others, the Pro Am was blessed with an east, northeast swell that produced waves with 6- to 8-foot faces and a few barrels that contestants took full advantage of.
“On my best wave I had one big hit out the back, a floater, then hits all on the inside, then finished it with a blow tail,” Diesel said. “Conditions today was really fun and glassy, nice size. It wasn’t the biggest but super shredable.”
The Pro Am has served as a springboard to Oahu contests for young Big Island surfers for 34 years, and the diminutive Diesel took another big step to his ultimate goal.
“This contest means a lot to me because I like to get experience watching the older guys,” he said. “I’m super happy right now. Someday I want to win the Pipe Masters.”
A bold prediction but there’s no doubt — “the Storm” is coming.
In June, Diesel placed third in the USA Surfing Championships boys division at Trestles, Calif., and took second at the 2017 NSSA Regional Championships in the explorer supergrom division at Huntington Beach, Calif., after winning the 2017 Hawaii NSSA Regional in the open minigrom division at Kewalos on Oahu.
Sponsored by Volcom, Diesel also was one of several young surfers who recently traveled to Nicaragua with Hawaii Island surfing great Shane Dorian.
Other Pro Am winners Saturday were Malaika Bishaw, women’s division; Eddie Pieper, longboard; and Jiemone Oliva-Munoe, bodyboard.
“The whole reason that we do this contest is to give the winners a chance to pursue their surfing competitive dreams and compete in a top-notch surf contest on Oahu,” said Stan Lawrence, owner of Orchid Land Land Surfboards. “And it would not be possible without the help of all the volunteer judges and officials and our generous sponsors. At the end of the day, we all feel good about supporting this effort and always look forward to a chance that a few of the winners will become a pro surfer or bodyboarder. And we all look forward to continuing this effort next year.”
Bishaw, 15, of Puna had the most dynamic ride in the women’s final — a straight-up snap after a steep takeoff, followed up by another big snap that nearly sprayed the houses on the cliff overlooking the point.
“This contest means a lot to me. It brings together family and friends and we have a great time down here,” Bishaw said.
It was also good times for Oliva-Munoe of Hilo and the other Big Island bodyboarders, who don’t have as many contests to enter or exposure as the stand-up surfers.
During the final, Oliva-Munoe “got a nice left, a little barrel, then a little backside snap into a 360, got another barrel on the same wave.”
“It’s good to have something like this down at my home break, and to surf with all my brothers,” he said. “A great feeling.”