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No amount of practice could have prepared us for the intense level of competition and comedy we’d see that Saturday. We had freshened up our boogie skills, test spun the inflatable rafts, and massaged our throwing arm. But as the sun set on that most exhausting day, no blundering stunt could outshine the flailing determination from the combined team of Roxy/ Rip Curl, lead by event MVP Megan Abubo.
Contestants migrated to the O’Neill girl’s house at Pupukea in the late morning, and festivities commenced with the reading of the rules, firm handshakes, and team huddles. With a clean four to six foot swell, an exciting spread of water apparatus and the world’s most competitive water women, the stage was set for a day of fierce chick fights and silly fun. The teams were poised: Team O’Neill, Roxy, Rip Curl, Billabong, and Snap and Scooby (comprised of miscellaneously sponsored surfers). The prize was revealed: A glowing, lustrous, precious Golden Paddle and bragging rights for a year.
Heat one strapped on their flippers, grabbed their boogie boards and staggered to the shoreline. Confident that fellow O’Neill team member Mel Bartels had it in the bag with her seamless sponging skill, we kicked back and watched the show. Spinning her way around her competitors, Mel posted high scores. The rat pack meanwhile sideskipped, supermanned, and faceplanted down the line, earning 3’s and 4’s for comedic value. With two minutes left, Megan Abubo caught a beauty out the back in a definitive moment that set a standard for the event. With a look so focused it almost seemed angry, Bubos flopped down the line into a 180. Face in the whitewash and thrashing legs spread eagle, she miraculously held on and rode the wave backwards as far as the sand would let her. 10’s went flying into the sky and spectators fell to the sand in laughter.
We shook off the loss and got ready for the next division: innertubing – best wave wins. The challenge proved to be not so simple. Every impending wave acted as a blockade to the outside that would drag and nearly drown every girl. Chaos broke loose when Billabong’s innertube sank and they started fighting for everyone else’s crafts. It wasn’t long before the athletes transformed into matted sea monsters with sand caked hair and savage instincts. Persistence began to pay off, as teams started getting out the back and into some waves. Few teams survived the steep drops and the rare completed ride was awarded big points.
With the “snaking allowed rule apparently extending to non-participants, it was a miracle that injuries weren’t more serious, and beach goers more irate. We decided to give the line-up a rest and put our throwing arms to test in an unfriendly dodgeball tournament. “Bam! That was for the time you dropped in on me after I’d waited 45 minutes for a f*%$ing wave at Rocky Point!. “Uuh! That was for paddling around me in the quarters in Brazil! And so on, until every combination of match was played, and every frustration released. Blinded by sand, and biceps screaming “no more! it was time for the division we’d all been waiting for.
Something about watching a raft full of tattered, frothing, cocky girls get continually blasted by large exploding waves is indescribably hysterical. And it only got funnier when they got in position for a good one. After paddling like mad to catch it, they’d either jump ship in fear, get completely annihilated with bodies clanging, limbs flailing and oars flying, or hang on screaming for the ride of their life. Every variation triggered uproars of laughter, and the heat was contestably the funniest half hour ever lived.
The final water challenge was an Anything Goes Expression Session. Everyone expressed herself differently – some wore fairy wings and shoes and gracefully cruised down the line with a magical wand. Others, namely Lisbeth Vindaas-Dias, pulled down her boardshorts, wedgied her bikini bottoms and smashed the lip. Some girls dressed as scary witches, sporting long frumpy dresses and black wigs. It was all genius and all side-splitting. But what took the cake and earned Roxy another big heat win was none other than MVP Megan Abubo. In a Darth Vador mask, swirling a hot pink tasseled baton, Bubos dropped into a bomb set wave and executed a series of sketchy turns to the sand, burning a local surfer the whole way. It was perfection. And it gave her team the points they needed to clinch the title and gain control of the cherished Golden Paddle.
A few rounds of Tug-O-War finished up the day and determined the final ratings. Though our bodies were water-logged and spent, we all still buzzed from the excitement. The local band Lost At Sea serenaded us as we watched the sunset, compared battle wounds and danced into the night. Thanks to O’Neill and Karin Kendrick for making the event happen. It was pretty much the best day of our lives. But damnit team, next year we’re taking home that Golden Paddle.