Sunny Garcia: a good surfer never loses his skills

With the waves still pumping at four to six feet at Colorado Beach, the best scores were going to the most capable tube riders on Day 2 of the Nicaragua ISA World Masters Surfing Championship.

Much like yesterday, the beach was crowded and the locals were vocal, providing extra confidence and momentum to the competitors out in the challenging – and occasionally punishing – conditions. The best over-35-year-old surfers didn’t disappoint.

In his Masters Round 2 heat, Hawaii’s Kaipo Jaquias put his power surfing and North Shore barrel-riding experience to use to win one of the most entertaining heats of the event, thus far.

Jaquias, Jojo de Olivenca (BRA), Hiroki Watanabe (JPN) and Heriberto Ramirez (MEX) had several exchanges that had the group shifting positions on the leaderboard, before Jaquias and de Olivenca pulled away.


In his post-heat comments, Jaquias credited his teammates for providing some valuable advice, but mostly he went on instinct: “A lot [of having success in these heats] has to do with getting out there and feeling the ocean, seeing what it’s doing, and adjusting as necessary.”

Australia’s Rod Baldwin had a slow start to his heat, but managed to find two gems to win his Grand Kahunas (over-50) heat with the highest two-wave score (16.5) of the event.

“It’s good when you can find the right ones; when you do, the waves are great for fitting some good maneuvers,” said Baldwin, who won a Gold Medal at the 2010 ISA World Masters in Panama. “It was a little bit tricky, a little tough in the first ten minutes or so, but towards the end I got a couple of really good ones, so I’m pretty happy.”

Most competitors are arriving to the beach hours before their heat in order to measure the conditions and assess heat strategies. With such a wide contest area, picking the best spot to sit can make all the difference, especially with seven feet tidal swings.

“The sea was difficult today. The waves were a little heavy, but the rights are very good with good tubes; well-formed and strong,” said Cardoso Junior (BRA), who won his Kahunas heat with a score of 12.0.

Jim Hogan (USA) put together an impressive display in his Kahunas heat, winning with a two-wave score of 12.33.

The event is still in its early developments, so there are no true front-runners for the perpetual Eduardo Arena Trophy, which goes to the Gold Medal-winning team. Early heats are crucial for developing a rhythm with what’s happening in the water and to establish confidence that can carry a surfer through the event.

The women made their initial appearance in the contest lineup, with the first Qualifying Round happening mid-day.

“I was a little stressed because all of my teammates are doing so well; I wanted to win for them and, fortunately, I did,” said Alisa Cairns (USA), a three-time ISA medalist who won her heat with a 12.94. “It’s my first time in Nicaragua, and I’m loving it. Before I came I watched videos of the wave to get a sense for what to expect, so that’s been helpful.”

While the ISA World Masters is meant to determine the best surfers across five divisions, there is a different sense of camaraderie than other elite-level events, and a slightly different sense of competitiveness comes with this Olympic-style world championship. Rochelle Ballard (HAW) has competed and excelled at the highest level of competition in the sport of surfing, so she knows what it takes to win. She also knows that at this stage of her career, creating positive memories can be just as important as heat results.

“It’s nice competing against a well-rounded, diverse group,” said Ballard, who last competed and won an ISA medal as a teenager at the 1988 World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico. “There was a point when the girl from Panama (Sonia ‘Pucha’ Garcia) wanted a wave, and she was looking at me, and I just said ‘Go,’ and gave her the wave. I think it’s a little bit different sometimes from an ASP World Tour event; there’s a different sort of camaraderie between the countries in an ISA event. I knew I was getting through and she just wanted a good wave, so it felt good to do that. It’s good to express that Aloha that we share.”

Ballard won her heat with a two-wave score of 14.5.