After a one-year hiatus from the winner's podium, Team Town & Country has once again claimed a win in the Hawaiian leg of the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge at Ala Moana Bowls. Their victory marks the fifth time T&C has won the event. With their finish today, they will be traveling to Bali to compete for the National Title and a chance to win $10,000.
With a completely unique team format that sees local surf shops pitted against one another, a Surf Shop Challenge win is as much about bragging rights as it is anything else. With teams made up of two shop employees and two team riders, the atmosphere at this event is more akin to a session with friends than a typical surf contest.
With near-perfect waves on tap, the eight teams competing were chomping at the bit to hit the water. "Look at it out there—it's pretty much perfect Bowls," said team HIC's Joel Centeio. "I mean, how can you not be fired up looking at that lineup? There's no other contest in Hawaii quite like this. Every year, the Surf Shop Challenge seems to score. I just want our team to make it to the next round so I can surf more."
After the first round, four teams remained, leaving Town & Country, HIC, HI Tech, and Pipe Dreams in contention for the win. From the outset of the final heat, Town & Country's Kekoa Bacalso drew first blood, lighting up a solid set wave from the outside bowl to the inside peak and dropping a 9-point ride in the process. As the only former World Tour surfer in the event, Bacalso was clearly there to win.
"Man, I just really want a free trip to Bali. How unreal would that be? That's my motivation. Send me to Bali," said Bacalso. Unfortunately for him, the remaining teams in the lineup all held similar aspirations—"Send me to Bali" proved to be the rallying cry for the contest.
By the halfway point of the 70-minute final, the lead seemed to be changing hands with every set. Highlighting the heat, Team HIC, last year's champs, dropped a litany of high scores as Kekoa Cazimero, the team's Whammy surfer, put on a blistering performance. But as the heat progressed, the remaining teams would all drop solid scores, and it seemed at that point that anyone could win the event. But in the end, thanks to some last-minute heroics from Town & Country's Geoff Wong, T&C had solidified their win once again and are now Bali-bound.
"Oh man, that was so stressful but exciting," said Town & Country team captain Travis Hashimoto following the final. "I'm so stoked on our team. We're so fired up to win and can't wait for our trip to Bali. I just can't wait. I think we're gonna do well out there in those type of waves. Hopefully we can get some barrels and take home a National Title."