Coming back to Gran Canaria after almost ten years is amazing. I am super grateful that the APP World Tour finished up the year here. My previous experiences on the island had been for windsurfing competitions at Pozo. What a big change of environment seeing this side of the island near Las Palmas during the prime season for great surf conditions. Crazily enough I still had the opportunity to get on the water and compete with a lot of the same people that I made friends with and whom hosted me back in 2007, including Daida and Iballa Moreno and Bjorn Dunkerbeck. Follow the whole story here. 2018 was a journey to remember. I finished 2nd overall for the 2019 season surf and race combined; and earned 3rd overall just for surf. #BelieveandCreate #DigDeep
Grateful to have finished on the podium in top 3 for the 2018 World Rankings for Surf!
FIRST DAYS AT LAS PALMAS
When we flew into Las Palmas the first thing I noticed was clean, glassy water and that the wind wasn’t blowing 35 knots as I remembered it! I guess this time of the year there is a lot less wind and that makes for a much different energy on the water. In addition, there’s a different personality of reef and coastline around this area. Stepping off the plane and out of the airport the air felt warm and dry. The terrain and a dessert climate felt similar to some places in Baja, Mexico, or even where I just was before this trip last week in Lima, Peru. Driving along the coast towards the competition site the water surprised me with its vibrant colors and clarity. I could see beneath the surface to the reefs and scattered boulders that the waves broke over. The further we drove along the more I started to realize how epic the conditions were for surfing. There was such potential for so many great reef and slab breaks all up, down and around this coastline!
Flying in straight from the PASA Games in Peru and arriving here in Gran Canaria just 2 days before the competition started was exciting, especially because the swell was up with so many waves breaking in the area. I arrived at the competition zone in the late afternoon with just enough time to get a session in – although my board bag did not arrive with the airplane. Luckily I am staying with Lara Claydon and my girlfriend, Kimberly Yap from Maui, and they brought a new Starboard 7’2” for me from Maui! Check out the 7’2” Pro InZane Signature Model here
Staying walking distance from the event site I got to spend a good amount of time getting familiar with the lineup and wave which was a great confidence booster approaching the start of this final event for the APP World Title. During our first days of competition we competed at the main spot. It was kind of a mix between a reef and sand bar making it very challenging. There was a mix of hollow takeoff, mushy reforms and punchy beach break sections on the inside. After two days and two heats advancing on in the lead through the heat- bracket we had a riders’ meeting to discuss conditions and a change of location for the final day of competition. The goal was to be where there was a more high-quality, consistent right point break.
QUARTER FINALS – THEN THE FINALS
Most of us athletes were stoked to move from a shifty and tricky wave like we competed at over the first few days to this long and near perfect right. Waking up and seeing the waves at sunrise during that last and final day of competition we saw why the APP crew shifted the event location to this spot- it was beautiful 2-4 foot Hawaiian with offshore wind. My first heat of the morning was a stacking in round 4 with Mo Freitas and Sebastian Gomez, both regular footers that were looking on point. I surfed well and stuck to my plan being aware of my land marks and timing my wave selection with the sets, while still playing it smart. I Advanced on through in 2nd place behind Sebastian Gomez which left my teammate of Team Hawai’i out of the running. Moving on to the quarter finals and the last 6 people of the competition, 4 of us were fighting for the The World Title- Poenaiki Raioha, Sean Poynter, Luiz Diniz and myself.
In my man on man quarter final heat I was faced against Poenaiki from Tahiti who has been one of my favorite surfers to get on the water with and watch in recent years. I knew we had a good battle coming up. With good timing and catching a rhythm early on in the heat I was able to put scores on the board that had me in the lead. Then Poe took 1st position with a solid wave ride on my paddle back out. I jumped back into the lead after a long ride on the set wave doing my best to display my committed control of the board and utilization of the entire wave face with a few top-to-bottom slams, and a backside air-reverse to finish it off. I scored a high 8 and was back in the lead with less than 7 minutes remaining. Poenaiki was in position out the back waiting for the call for the score he needed. With the man on man format he chose a great wave in the dying minutes that he surfed with classic speed, power and flow getting him the score he needed to be in the advancing position. With time counting down I did my best to wait for a quality wave that would improve my overall score total yet wasn’t able to get that score with my forced inside ride in the last minutes.
HUMILITY AND MINDFULNESS
I was back to experiencing the feeling of great humility and being shattered, a feeling most passionate competitors dread. I face defeat as a challenge; a challenge to carry on these shattered pieces of dreams, or find a way to start over and restructure these pieces in plans, preparation and perseverance that will bring the dream back to life.
It didn’t happen just like that, of course not. I was bummed, no doubt, yet admired the battle my competitor friend and I shared while reminding myself to make the most out of the situation even if the present situation didn’t go in favor of my manifestations. This sometimes can be the greatest challenge. Staying to support my friends still in the running during these final heats ignited a burning motivation in me along with a racing mind planning to get back to the drawing board and make improvements.
My mind was racing too much and the scene was overwhelming. Thankfully I had the cool embrace of the ocean to help me break free of that spiral and reset. I escaped for a surf, paddling around the corner of the point and getting a soul session in to reflect and bottle up the present moment while preparing for the next. After my short session I made it back to the beach just in time to congratulate my Starboard Teammate and friend, Sean Poynter for his APP World Title win after his semifinal heat gave him the points for the title regardless of his position in the final. In the end it was Poenaiki that finished undefeated and winning the Gran Canaria Pro.
Huge congrats to all the competitors, losers and winners, especially those who finished the year on top; Iballa Moreno for the Women World Title 2018 and Sean Poynter for the Men World Title 2018. Big mahalo to the APP World Tour for giving us athletes a professional learning environment and platform for us to perform from. Grateful to have finished on the podium in top 3 for the 2018 World Rankings!
Aloha and Mahalo, See you on the water!