Sunday, November 10, 2013

The 2013 Aloha Classic: Where Was the Windsurfing?

What does a former windsurfing magazine editor do ? Raise a super hero wannabe, run a large circulation magazine, get better at playing the guitar, learn to surf, enjoy family life and every now and then windsurf with the locals. Last time we sailed together, Eddy had Aloha Classic on his mind. He sent me the words below:

"The 2013 Aloha Classic: Where Was the Windsurfing? Ho’okipa delivered. The world’s best arrived. And what a show it was. The organizers, sponsors and competitors deserve our gratitude.

So it’s not without trepidation I offer what follows. It boils down to this: If the 2013 Aloha Classic was an event by windsurfers for windsurfers, it was an astounding success. If the event’s goal was to showcase our sport to the world, it wasn't given a chance.

My beef is the event’s judging format. It eliminated any hope of broadening windsurfing’s reach. With just two waves scored – and nothing else – competitors rigged small, limped out, and jockeyed for two rides that totaled less than thirty seconds of a 20-minute heat. To the non-windsurfing public, those brief seconds of wave riding look a lot like surfing with a sail. Neat, but not novel.

I realized this coaxing my non-sailing friends to pay attention. Ho’okipa on demand, the world’s best sailors on the water, a corduroy horizon, the sport’s apex moment and … my friends’ eyes are drifting. Worse, I can’t blame them. There onscreen, four sailors bob, and not due to marginal winds. Not in some earlier rounds.

In fact, to my non-sailing friends, the Aloha Classic’s highlight moment might have been a push loop performed by a 50-year-old. Only, the video coverage didn’t catch it, the judges didn’t count it, and that’s where this rant was born.

My friends’ interest peaked during the event’s promo ad. The one between heats with archived footage of the original Aloha Classic. The neon nirvana, nonstop, high-flying circus. Where was that sport?

The wind made it vanish this year, but not in every heat. Not when Robby Naish can throw a 20-foot push loop on the way out. And not when gear makers boast bigger, better light-wind wave gear than ever before.

What eliminated any chance of the circus was the absence of an overall impression category. Something, anything that encourages sailors to focus beyond just 30-seconds of riding, and instead, put on a show for the entirety of a heat. That mindset is in Robby’s hardwiring. Ditto for Josh Stone who threw a non-scoring forward.

Sure, the wind’s appearance was fleeting. But why not leave a door open to its arrival? Why not offer a judging category that encourages sailors to grab bigger gear and pounce on available wind, and yeah, get on with the show? You know, the one that’s unique to windsurfing?

When an event’s most spectacular selling point to the public isn’t part of the event itself, it smacks of a fatal flaw. Leave the two-wave-only judging format to surfing, where you MUST sit and wait because that’s the nature of the sport. But that’s certainly not our sport. Windsurfing is more than surfing with a sail. The original Aloha Classic showcased that to the world, and the world tuned in. Keep the circus in the mix and, who knows, maybe they will again."

Eddy Patricelli in Florida

The Aloha Classic  ran from 1984 to 2006. It returned to its home at Ho'okipa Beach Park this year. Here are a  few videos from past events.