Make no mistake: Jason Shibata isn’t ready to pass the competitive torch just yet. Just when the 29-year-old starts talking about a life after pro surfing life, he turns in the biggest result of his career, in front of a home crowd, to take first place in the $25,000 Sponsor Me Hawaii. Shibata’s win of this 2-star rated Association of Surfing Professionals event earned him $5,000 and a long-awaited turn on the victory dais.
Shibata couldn’t have written the script any better for himself: Perfect five-foot surf at his childhood stomping ground of Ala Moana Bowls with all of his peers there to enjoy it with him. He rarely surfs the place these days, opting for something a little less crowded and intense. But the opportunity to dominate the coveted South Shore lineup with just three others out was one he couldn’t help but put to good use. His backhand attack was vertical, critical and lightning fast. His tube-riding, which earned him an 8.6 and ultimately clinched the final, was deep and committed.
“I was tripping because I wasn’t really in the spot (for the tube),” said Shibata. “I was really deep and it swung wide. I just paddled… got in, it started off really tight and almondy and I’m going for it. But it let me out and from then on I had a huge smile on my face and thought, maybe today is the day, and I just went with it.”
Along with his fellow finalists Kai Barger (Haiku, Maui, 2nd), Pancho Sullivan (Haleiwa, 3rd), and Casey Brown (Kona, Hawaii), Shibata surfed through five rounds over 11 hours today. It was a grueling day that was well worth the effort.
Barger gave Shibata the best run for his money, putting it all on the line to the final horn where he popped a reverse air 360, but couldn’t steal the win.
“The final was sick!” said Barger. “We had a pretty good pulse of waves for half an hour so everybody was relaxed and knew that we could all get at least two good chances to bang ‘um and Shibats just got us.”
Equal fifth overall, losing out in the semi-finals, were Dustin Cuizon and Kalani Robb. Equal seventh, also bowing out in the semi’s, were Solomon Ortiz and Makuakai Rothman.
Worthy of a special mention today was downtown Honolulu civil engineer Gregg Nakamura, who took a day off work and took down former world champion Sunny Garcia in his opening heat of the morning. Before his run ended in the quarters, Nakamura had also posted heat wins over both Shibata and Barger. He’s now considering a trip to Las Vegas to test his lucky streak; while he was in the water taking out heats, his wife won a Sponsor Me lucky draw surfboard, closely followed by his cousin from out of town who was also drawn at random to win a board.
On his heat with Garcia, Granger Larsen and Kai Barger in the round of 64: “That was the gnarliest heat I’ve ever been in in my life!” said Nakamura. “It was the most anticipated heat of the round. Just seeing Sunny, Kai and Granger out there, usually I’m behind the computer watching these guys on the live webcast. I can’t even believe it.”
Sponsor Me Entertainment, ASP Hawaii, TransWorldSurf.com, Da Hui, Sony, and Vita Coco partnered to present the Sponsor Me Hawaii – a critically important event of the local surfers on three levels: International ratings points, the opportunity to win prize money and the chance to claim a spot in the coveted year-end $1,000,000 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series, based on year-end ASP Hawaii rankings.
All surfers from Hawaii unless noted otherwise.
Surfers listed in order of placing, 1st through 4th.
Each score out of a total of 20.
1st. Jason Shibata (Waipahu, Oahu 29) – 17.5 out of 20 – $5,000
2nd. Kai Barger (Haiku, Maui, 20) – 15.6 – $2,500
3rd. Pancho Sullivan (Haleiwa, Oahu 36) – 11.25 – $2,000
4th. Casey Brown (Kona, Hawaii, 22) – 9.2 – $1,500
H1: Casey Brown; Pancho Sullivan; Kalani Robb; Solomon Ortiz
H2: Kai Barger; Jason Shibata; Dustin Cuizon; Makuakai Rothman
H1: Kalani Robb; Casey Brown; Alex Smith; Myles Padaca
H2: Pancho Sullivan; Solomon Ortiz; Tyler Newton; Liam McNamara
H3: Makuakai Rothman; Dustin Cuizon; Jonah Morgan; Gregg Nakamura
H4: Kai Barger; Jason Shibata; Joel Centeio; Flynn Novak