Surfing: Contestants carve out new frontiers at Pro-Am, which doubles as swan song for Lawrence

  • DAVID PRAGER photo Malaika Bishaw navigates a wave Sunday at Honolii en route to winning the women's final at the Big Island Pro-Am Surfing Trials.
  • BART WRIGHT/Tribune-Herald Stan Lawrence announces the winners Sunday at his final foray as organizer of the Big Island Pro-Am Surfing Trials at Honolii.
  • Keaau High alum Malaika Bishaw, 17, came in first place in the women’s final Sunday for a second time. “Really, really happy,“ she said. “I’ve been to Oahu (for competition), and it’s pretty intense, lots of really good surfers trying to win.”

Thirty-five years later, Stan Lawrence decided he had done his time as organizer, marketing and publicity agent and all-around Mr. Do Everything of the Quiksilver-Maui Jim Sunglasses Pro-Am Surfing Trials at Honolii.

Sunday’s Trials, the 35th, were the last for Lawrence, and he could hardly have chosen a better day to go out, all things considered.

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A few minutes after giving out awards in the four categories, Lawrence said Sunday’s conditions were, “better than most that we’ve had over the years, but a lot of that is because I have the advantage of picking the dates.”

Most of the big contests on Oahu, for instance, are heavily sponsored and planned long in advance with dates set for media, but Lawrence has designed the Big Island Trials as a springboard for younger surfers to win and take advantage of the free flight and entry fee to major tournaments at the North Shore later in the year.

Lawrence’s last go-round advanced Malaika Bishaw, with a first place finish in the women’s final, and Diesel Storm Butts, in the junior boys’ final to use the boost for a shot at more intense competition and bigger winnings.

“Really, really happy,” said Bishaw, 17, after her victory, the second time the Keaau High School grad, attending Hawaii Community College in the fall, has won the event. “I’ve been to Oahu (for competition), and it’s pretty intense, lots of really good surfers trying to win.

“I want to go try it again and see what I can do.”

First place finishers in the other events were Ulu Napeahi (longboard), and Keoni Avanilla (body board).

Contestants receiving round trip flights and entry fees for Oahu competition included Rumor Butts (second in women’s final), and from junior boys, the second (Kane Turaide), third (Kukui Pahu-Decker), and fourth places (Seth Kwade), all won trips.

Rick Sowers, second in longboard, will receive a free trip along with Napeahi, the professional from Pahoa.

Throughout the competition that lasted about five hours, after starting at 7 a.m., the sets were mostly consistent, conditions good.

Bishaw said she can’t remember how young she was when she started on body and surf boards, but her father, Kiko, standing nearby, said, “Pretty much as soon as she was up and walking around, we had her in the water. Nobody had to push her.”

She reported conditions were, “Great, glassy and nice with good consistency on the sets, just a nice time to have a competition.”

At 13, Diesel Butts is turning this annual contest into his personal invitational after winning again in the junior boys’ division. He and his family just returned Friday from a few weeks in Huntington Beach, Calif., where Diesel placed second nationally, by less than half a point.

“I’m his dad, so you know what I thought,” said father Quinton Butts, “to me, he was clearly the best one at nationals, but there were a lot of local (California) guys there who were better known, and I think when you go into their place like that, you can’t just outperform them, you have to blow then away.

“I’ll admit he didn’t blow away the competition,” Quinton said, “but I had a lot of people coming up to me and saying he was the best.”

Next year, Lawrence will find someone else to organize and run the event on a daily basis, probably someone he has in mind.

“Nothing I’m going to say now, but I think I know who it’s going to be,”Lawrence said, “we just need to talk a little more before I say anything.”

For his part, Kirk Puuohau-Pummil, a 20-year veteran at judging this event, said the conditions have seldom been better.

“I would call it amazing as far as the waves, the sets, the steady way it went all day,” said Puuohau-Pummil, 71, a surfer since 1959. “I surfed here (Saturday) and the sets were good, usually three in a set, but then you would wait 15 minutes or so before the next ones.

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“I thought, ‘This isn’t going to be great if it’s like this,’ but today, it was those same beautiful sets and they kept rolling in, you couldn’t ask for much better than this.”

Which made it a nice springboard for some and a happy closing chapter for the organizer.

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