A ReCap by Connor Baxter
The 2017 Maui Pro-Am was another great event with double the amount of people! This year the APP tour kicked things off with the sprints at Ho’okipa Beach. The waves were not huge but the perfect size to race and compete in.
As always there is the heat format, which I started things off in the first heat. Most the time I normally would take it easy, but right from round one the heats were all stacked and there wasn’t any room for mistakes. I hit the water and took the inside position on the starting line. When the horn blew I wanted to make sure I had clean water so I stepped on the gas to get to the first buoy clean and safe. Once I turned that inside mark I had the choice of going straight out through the surf or going into the channel. Since it wasn’t too big, I took a chance and went straight through the break to the second buoy turn. This outside turn was in the perfect spot to whip around my board and get straight into a wave. So as soon as I turned the buoy I was looking for a little wave to take me back to the first buoy for the second lap. I got a perfect little right into the next turn with no one else on my wave which gave me a nice little gap allowing me to relax a bit more and save some energy for the rest of the day.
I went straight into round three and it started to get even more stacked heats – making it harder and harder to make it through to the next rounds. So I just kept the same game plan and got that inside position on the starting line to give myself the best fighting chance. The horn blew and I was quickly up on my board sprinting to the first buoy turn. The first stretch to the first buoy turn was definitely tricky considering we were parallel to the beach so we had waves hitting us from the right side, back wash hitting from the left side and current that I was pushing against. This made it difficult to have a perfect start, but when I was able to push through the chop I was able to get to the buoy first which gave me clean water to buoy turn.
The third round was definitely more difficult, but I managed to stay on my board and catch a wave into the quarterfinals. I rested up in the shade and stayed hydrated, because I still had to make two more heats – plus have to preform my best in the finals.
The next heat I had a bit of a shocker right in the beginning of the race falling in before the first turn letting the guys get ahead. I was like a cat on water – jumping straight back on to my board and catching up to the top three pack. I finished this round and was looking back on it to make sure I didn’t have the same mistake in the semifinals.
For this next round I definitely wanted to win and get priority on the starting line for the finals. Both semifinals were stacked and were a final themselves – but I had to perform my best and secure my spot in the final round. As soon as the horn blew I sprinted off the starting line down to the first turn and started punching through the surf heading to the next turn – using a lot of energy to make sure I made the finals I always try to save the next gear for the finals. I played my cards right and was able to out sprint Casper up the beach, which secured my spot in the finals and priority on the starting line.
i had plenty of time to get ready and prepare for the finals so that when it was time I was ready for battle. All the athletes hit the water and lined up for the last and final sprint for the day. As always the butterfly’s were stirring in my stomach and I just needed that horn to blow so I could just focus on what I needed to do. As soon as that horn blew Casper was up and out of there and I was playing catch right from the get go. He had a slight lead which allowed him to have a clean buoy turn and hop over a few waves that just caught me. I knew the short race wasn’t over yet but it will be before I knew it so I hit the gas peddle and tried my hardest to catch up but in two laps I wasn’t able to catch up the the top two guys. Then it was a matter of staying ahead of the hungry mob behind me – and I was lucky enough to catch a wave by myself to the finish line. I ended up third for the day and was ready for a hot flat water race the next day.
The infamous Maliko run was not shaping up to what it normally does and it was looking like a lake – but we all had to race in the same conditions and I kept a positive mindset. It was an inside start in Maliko Bay and standing in waist deep water to make sure we had to fairest start. I took my spot on the starting line and made sure I had an eye on my competition. When that horn blew I sprinted just like if we were in the short course – just to make sure I had clean water and no chance for mistakes. Mo and I turned the buoy outside of Maliko and started heading down the coast and it was like no other run I have done here in Maui. It was flat and hot but luckily some bumps to let us separate and not be in a draft train all the way down the coast.
Normally I am able to pull away and get into my own zone, but this time it was just a slog fest and I had to just keep the hammer down with no rewards of little bumps to catch. I took my normal line but it didn’t really matter considering there weren’t many bumps to catch and the wind was no where to be found. I pushed hard all the way till the finish in my own zone but unfortunately just behind Michael. I turned around and Mo was in third – which made us tie in the event and this time I got the shorter straw and the tie breaker went to Mo and the sprints. So not the best result – but considering it will be a long year – I am excited to start off with some solid results and now even hungrier for the next one.
I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Futures Fins, Dakine, Hammer Nutrition, GoPro, Garmin, Waterman’s Sunscreen, OnIt Pro, UB Super and Hi-Tech Sports.
Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and all the volunteers. Great Event!