The hard rain began at 4:45 Saturday morning, but it did little to dampen the spirits of the crew at this year’s Hobuck Hoedown Paddle Surf Festival. By the time the sun was up and coffee brewing, smiles and easy banter were quickly established as both old and new friends made ready for the first day of competition on the stormy Pacific NW fall morning.
This year’s Hoedown was notable not only for the variety of conditions encountered in the two day event, but also for the extremely high level of skill displayed across all classes. In particular, the standout level of paddling skills displayed by competitors in the “Battle of the Wave” and both women’s and men’s HP events impressed judges, spectators and competitors alike and resulted in cheers audible not only up and down the beach but also clearly audible to competitors on the water.
Despite the cold temps, stormy surf, occasional hard rain and even a bit of hail on Saturday, the contest on the water quickly warmed up with spectacular surfing seen in the initial Mens High Performance (HP) heats by Californians Zack Boyd, Mat Hoff, Oregonian David Brigg and local surf paddler Hamp All.
Women’s HP and Men’s International Class (IC) set the same standard with strong surfing by Jameson Riser (who as Head Judge managed to sneak off the judging stand for the occasion), Ayu Othman, Kate Hives and Barb Gronseth and in IC with Hamp All, Zack Boyd, Mat Hoff and Steve Heigle all setting the bar high for the rest of the weekend. Waveski and Master’s HP events also saw strong performances by perennial competitors Ken Debondt, Chris Bensch and Hamp All.
The trend of amazing performances in the lineup continued in Sea Kayak with standout performances by Kate Hives, Chris Bensch and Costain Leonard and in the SUP event where Canadian friends Glen Pearson, Rick Hornbook and Anton Fruehwirth all established a standard of shred that they were to display all weekend long.
The Whitewater (WW) event, this year judged to a new standard that rewarded maneuvers both by the normal surfing standard on the “green” wave face and also, in recognition of their performance potential, rewarded maneuvers in the breaking wave, saw incredibly dynamic and entertaining surfing by David Brigg, Costain Leonard and Jeremy Beninger and every other class competitor. The resurgence of this class generated optimism for the future of the sport and for the potential to have a growing presence in the surf by the community of WW boaters in the region.
In the Skookum class, a class designed to encourage newcomers to the sport with reduced entry fees, a less competitive approach and a focus on fun, the larger number of competitors present this year allowed the event to be split into their own SUP and kayak heats. Both were highly entertaining and provided many smiles to competitors Bradley Schaff, John Almquist, Duncan Mack (Kayak) and John Sindelar, Kevin Long and Jen Bailey (SUP). Local traditional board surfer Jen Bailey, in her first time ever on an SUP, generated cheers from the crowd for her efforts with the big board and paddle.
By far though, the most entertaining event of Saturday was the “King of the Wave” preliminary heat that saw the first ever entry of a double sea kayak in the contest, a boat paddled by Jamie Sharp and Becky Rogers. The skilled Canadian team demonstrated stand out paddling and impressive boat control, surfing the massive craft with a skill that wowed judges and the beach crew alike. As a capstone to the first day’s competition, it could not have been more impressive.
As twilight faded and the last free surfers straggled from the water, the competitors gathered around the fire for a dinner of amazing locally sourced fish and veggies, a series of tribal vignettes related by Makah elder June Williams and the usual fire side stories and laughs you’ll find in any group of surf paddlers anywhere. The last event of the night was the widely anticipated gear raffle, an event that thanks to our many sponsors support, was both enthusiastically received and helped generate many additional donations to the Makah. A late night led to a seemingly early Sunday morning, finals day.
To the relief of organizers and competitors alike, Sunday morning dawned with improving conditions, cleaner swell and no rain. The hard surfing began immediately with the Sea Kayak heat showcasing the incredible skills and even more incredible maneuvers possible by these boats in dynamic conditions. Ultimately dominated by a spectacular performance by Kate Hives, this heat set the tone for the day.
The exceptional surfing continued into the Men’s and Womens HP finals, won by Mat Hoff and Jameson Riser respectively, as well as Men’s IC, WW, SUP and Waveski with awesome performances by Zack Boyd, David Brigg, Glen Pearson and Ken Debondt dominating those respective events. The Battle of the Wave Final saw a spectacular head to head contest that narrowly resulted in Glen Pearson edging out the dynamic double of Jamie Sharp and Becky Rogers for the win.
The final competitive event of the weekend, the Scramble distance event, involving a paddle out through the surf and an approximate two mile race out and around the offshore rocks, saw David Brigg speed past the field with his surfski hybrid, but also saw Kate Hives dominate the rest of the competitors with a swift second to third place finisher Costain Leonard and the rest of the field.
As the awards were handed out and final surf stories were told, the event committee unanimously awarded the Ellen Debondt Memorial Spirit of Surfing Award to David Brigg for his spirit of aloha during the event, pointing out that his ready smile, willingness to volunteer and his welcoming spirit captured the ideal of the event and the special attitude present among paddle surfers in the Pacific Northwest.
As competitors and spectators headed home with smiles, sun (or was it rain ) burns, tired and sore muscles, and with the occasional medal swinging from the review mirror, the event committee packed up the tents and judging stand while preparing to donate proceeds of the contest to Makah tribal youth. Until next year we will have to look forward with excitement to more friendships, spectacular surfing and aloha on the Northwest Coast.