For the last 5 years I’ve been traveling to Cabarete in the Dominican Republic to compete in the unique waterman competition, The Master Of The Ocean. This event is unique in the sense that we are competing in wind and surf sports each day of competition; Surfing, Stand Up Paddle Surfing, Windsurfing and Kitesurfing. There aren’t many places in the world where you can rely on daily waves with clean conditions in the mornings, then like clockwork be able to windsurf and kitesurf once noon passes and the trade winds fill in. Playa De Encuentro is one of those places and it has been home to the Master Of The Ocean Waterman competition for over 15 years. These unique conditions are similar to what I experience home on Maui. Like I do, the community and locals thrive in a diversity of conditions on the water. This is big motivation for me to make it out every year and hone in my skills as an overall ocean athlete while being pushed by other like minded watermen and waterwomen. Not only is it a competitive feat competing for 3-5 days in a row within these 4 sports daily, but this event, the people and this community are quite special. The overall energy and personality of this environment is a great part of what keeps me coming back.
I am recently engaged to my fiancé, Kimberly. Of course I wanted her to come along for this adventure and experience this place and community with whom I have come to grow so close. We arrived at about 3am the morning of the opening day and were wrecked from the travels. I had caught some food poisoning during the trip out. This resulted in one of the most uncomfortable flight patterns I’ve ever had because of the sickness. The opening day was blessed with a storm which pushed in a lot of swell and as well a bit of rain, which postponed our plans for kids clinics With local foundations such as the Mariposa Foundation. But those circumstances allowed for plenty time for the athletes to prepare our gear and get some practice in. The locals were confident that things would be looking towards the better the following days and for the official day 1 of competition tomorrow.
Our 1st day of competition had some overhead surf but still a bit of bounce on the water left over from the storm the day before. We started first thing with the Surf and SUP division and were able to get through round 1 of each. I was stoked to have my Starboard 7’2” x 24” Pro model to ride and had a blast in my first heats. In the shortboard surf division I rode my Jud Lau custom Maui shape 5’6” but unfortunately broke the fin box during my heat. This probably was because I have been kitesurfing on this same board recently which applies much more force to the fins. Luckily Nikolas, a local pro, lent me his Pyzell 5’8” shortboard to ride for the following heats. The wind didn’t quite get super strong after we finished the Surf and SUP heats, and with a lot of cleaner waves and stronger wind on forecast in the following days, the MOTO staff decided to wrap up till Day 2. With the event wrapping up early this gave me plenty time to rig up my windsurf and kite gear, test out my equipment and make sure everything was ready for action!
On the morning of Day 2 competition the conditions on the water were much more nice as the storm from our first day had time to pass. We started the day with the SUP division, which for me is the least overwhelming of the 4 disciplines, or at least I could say the division I’m most confident in. It was great to start off the day stress free and with a win. In the Surf division there are some great competitors. The greatest competition for me in the Surf division and I predict for the overall standings is Luciano, the king of Encuentro beach and as well 4X Master Of The Ocean title holder. We both were fighting this year for our 5th title and we both were keeping close eyes on the points after each heat. I knew that the bulk of my points would be coming from the SUP, Surf and Windsurf, with the least of my points coming from Kitesurfing. The reason for this being that kiting is the discipline out of the four in which I am least confident. Kitesurfing would probably contribute the bulk of skill and point earnings for the other competitors. It’s like this each year for me, but this year I am feeling more confident then ever in my kiting as I have had the epic opportunity to train with my good friend Niccolo Porcella a bit this year.
I advanced in both the SUP and SURF with a heat win. Shortly afterward we started the kitesurfing division where I was just able to squeak into the next round! I was so stoked with this result and it was the first true “win” I felt yet. The further I make it in the kiting division the more confident I’ll be to secure this 5th title!! To finish off the day we went into the windsurf bracket and I was back to my natural environment. I was confident but but still very considerate of the talent of the overall athletes in this division. Out of most the overall athletes, I’d say the strong suits were the windsports, and that made me even more stoked to advance on in Day 2, not only in the windsports but in all the disciplines! We were able to get a lot done on day 2 including make up for our windsurf and kitesurf round we weren’t able to finish on Day 1. After a full day of action, completing 2 rounds in each discipline of the overall and 2 rounds of the team event from 8am to 5pm, we went on joking about our 5th division at the Master Of The Ocean which is the evening festivities! This town and this event definitely knows how to have a good time!!
It all came down to the third and final day of competition and points were tight. All the overall athletes met for the final start time of 7:45 am and went straight to the points board to start tallying up where we all stood. At this point it seemed to be tight between Luciano, Brian Talma and myself for the 2020 Master Of The Ocean Title. We had the finals for all divisions around the corner, with Brian Talma being the only athlete to make all 4 finals, Luciano and I being in 3 of the 4 finals, and Sammy being in 2 out of the 4 finals. We started off the day with the SUP Surf final, and the conditions were clean with sets near head high. In the final with me were Toni and Diego Anta from Spain, Brian Talma from Barbados and Luciano from Dominican Republic. There were plenty of waves to go around for us all and we all hit the beach with smiles and feeling relieved to knock out 1 of the 4 divisions.
Results would be withheld until the closing ceremony in the evening. In the Surf discipline final we had Luciano and Francis of Cabarete, Diego Anta of Spain and Brain Talma of Barbados. I knew Luciano and I would be doing all we could to have an edge on one another. I had to stay confident in my position and strategy, which was to sit on the top of the reef at the rights that seemed to be running with more distance and open face then the lefts, and really be patient to catch the sets that offered a long ride with critical maneuvers. Right off the bat I was able to get a long right that I felt confident in. Getting into rhythm early in a heat like this is always a sign. I had a maybe 4 or 5 waves total in the 20 minute heat and felt confident to place top 2. In the back of my mind I was curious if the judges had rewarded Luciano for his lefts that he surfed on his front side. But I couldn’t get too far ahead of myself, because it was time to prep the windsurf gear and be ready for the windsport disciplines.
The Kiting was next up, and unfortunately I had just missed the cut to make the final event; I had placed 3rd in the semi final which put me in 6th overall in the kitesurf division. I took this time to watch the action and study the wind and waves for my last and final heat of the overall competition. Luciano completely killed it in the kitesurf final. There was no question that he won that heat and this was expected. But Luciano didn’t make the final of the windsurf, so this was my chance to put the stamp on it. In the Windsurfing final I was competing with Sammy Perez, Brian Talma, Chris and Toni. When we started the heat the wind was light, but it was enough for all of us to make it out and perform wave riding, although, the criteria of the Master Of The Ocean is; Fly High and Surf.
About 8 minutes into the heat the committee and judges decided to cancel our heat and wait for wind to pick back up. I was doing well in this heat, with 2 nice wave rides and a clean forward loop, so I wasn’t too happy when I saw the postponement flag go up! In the end it was honest and fair. All the athletes agreed to rerun and about an hour later the wind filled in nicely. By the time we restarted we were powered up and able to “Fly High and Surf”! I wanted to get a nice wave or two under my belt before throwing some flips, to minimize the risk of breaking my gear. On one of my runs out I was full power and there was a nice wave setting up a beautiful ramp for me. I veered downwind to accelerate into it and throw a high push loop that I was ecstatic to land clean and dry. I hadn’t seen my competitors land any back flips yet so I felt I had a bit of an edge for the jumps. By the end of the heat I hit the beach feeling like I did what I needed to do, but at the same time I wasn’t able to watch the other athletes very closely to see how their jumps and wave rides differed. Either way, the overall event was over and all the athletes were stoked on the exciting 3 days of action and eager to hear results.
After the contest wrapped up we had a few hours before the award ceremony and I had a chance to get some kids together from the beach and put together a fun surf clinic. I had already met few of the kids in previous years and it was so rad to see them progressing, lending a hand to the other kids and sharing tips. There is tons of talent in this town, and I believe there are some future Masters of the Ocean in this Super Grom crew!
Just before the award ceremony, and after all was said and done, 4 overall divisions along with the team event points were tallied up and I was reflecting on my journal entry from the evening before. I had written, “No matter what happens, I’m grateful for my competitors and the MOTO family. It’s between Luciano and I for the win and whatever the result, I’m proud to be a master of the ocean and learn from these amazing masters themselves. If Luciano were to win, I’d be so proud for him. He is an inspiration for this community, for his community, and even myself. He is pursuing some great work for his environment and his people.”
At this event there is such a unique energy between the athletes. We are not all experts in each category, so this motivates us to grow and get outside our comfort zone. You don’t see many events where the athletes and competitors are sharing tips with one another before the heats, or sharing equipment and helping with gear. In the end, we all help each other with our weak suits, and share our strong suits. I personally always leave this event feeling that I’ve grown as a waterman. Similarly, I am motivated and humbled by the competitors to sharpen my skills. We give each other a clear idea of our strengths and weaknesses.
This year was the most tight in overall points yet for me, and I had no idea whether Luciano or myself would be earning our 5th MOTO Title. This made it the most exciting year yet, and the most rewarding when I heard them announce the Champion from Hawai’i….! Winning my 5th Master Of The Ocean title means to me the commitment and reinforcement of confidence in my preparation and my lifestyle around the ocean- our playground, even church and place of refuge!