Buffalo And Bombuchas

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - February 25, 2009
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Big guys, big boards, big fun

They are the men who ride mountains - the big boys of Makaha Beach - and their message is simple: Those under 250 pounds need not apply.

“These are big men, but when they jump in the ocean they’re like seals,” laughs veteran waterman Brian Keaulana. “Look at Konishiki (retired sumo wrestler Saleva’a Atisanoe) - he’s as smooth as anyone out there. Sometimes the bigger they are, the smoother they are.”

For 33 years, the world’s best watermen and women have participated in the Buffalo Big Board Surfing Classic at Makaha Beach. This year it kicked off Feb. 14 and about 500 people enjoyed the two-weekend event each day. The classic features eight disciplines, including surfing, paipo boarding, canoe surfing, tandem surfing and paddle surfing, in 15 divisions. Some of those events are reserved for competitors who are 250 pounds and above.

“This classic is for everyone,” says Keaulana. “The whole concept of it is to give families and friends the chance to get together and enjoy a day at Makaha. We have kupuna, young adults and junior lifeguards out there, and there are lots of smiles - that’s what it’s always been about.”

The event’s founder is 74-year-old Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana, the father of Makaha Beach. It was Buffalo who came up with the idea of a big-boy division several years ago after seeing an opportunity in a wave-riding vessel.

“When I first got rescue sleds for our Jet Skis, I didn’t have the rigs or ropes on them yet,” recalls Brian. “My dad said, ‘Eh, that would be one fun board to ride, especially for big guys,’ so he took the board and rode it with Reynolds Wright and a couple of other big guys. That was the beginning of bully boards and the big boy division.”


 

This year, Primo Beer sponsored the 250-pound division in conjunction with the launch of its new 22-ounce Bombucha bottled product. Primo’s sponsorship included both the longboard and bully board competitions.

“We’re really honored to be a part of Buffalo Big Board Surfing Classic, an iconic event in the history of surfing,” says Kyle Wortham, director of marketing at Primo Brewing & Malting Co. “Primo’s return to Hawaii started on the shores of Makaha, so it made sense to launch the Bombucha there.”

While the big boys grabbed some of the attention once again, it was history that stole the spotlight this year.

“I think the highlight of this year’s event was the alaia division,” says Brian of the finless wood surfboard used by ancient Hawaiians more than 200 years ago. “The kids researched the subject and made their own boards, keeping them as traditional as possible. They pushed the envelope and added their own touches, but for the most part it was close to what was used by our ancestors.”


Alaia surfing is sweeping across the world, including world-famous Makaha Beach. The board is thin, flat and light, which allows surfers to quickly race across the face of a wave. It resembles a thin ironing board made of wood, but when properly ridden, it can be a look back in time. Keaulana says surf heights ranged from 2 to 6 feet over the course of the classic - perfect conditions for one of Hawaii’s finest ocean festivals to feature the past.

“This has always been referred to the watermen Olympics,” says Keaulana. “Watching so many people surfing in the alaia division was unbelievable. It was the perfect way to cap off this year’s classic.”

It is a world-class event that features the past and the present, the young and the old, the big and the small - a chance for all to compete at one of the finest breaks on this planet. It’s classic.

 

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