KOHANAIKI — Standing on the beach at Saturday’s Keiki Surf for the Earth and Beach Clean Up, 14-year-old CJ Bruno felt pretty good about his first heat of the day.
“I feel like I might have advanced,” he said.
He’s been surfing for about a year and a half, and said he enjoys the sort of contest like the one in which he was competing at Kohanaiki Beach Park.
“Everyone around here has positive energy,” he said. “It’s really fun.”
And for those who’ve spent half a year organizing Saturday’s event, that’s what they strive for.
“It’s about everybody coming together for the kids and having a competition that’s community-oriented instead of hardcore competition-oriented,” said Shawna Sale, a volunteer with the event. “And there’s just fun. We do a beach cleanup; we’ll give away prizes all day long. It’s a different kind of a competition.”
The event, now in its 24th year, goes back to community efforts to protect and care for Kohanaiki, and Kohanaiki Ohana president Eli Broderson said that’s still a key focus.
“The development has happened, and the community succeeded in saving it. We have access to it; we have camping. So there was a huge success in that,” he said. “And now it’s about preserving what it is, what it has become.”
Kaleo Alves, attending the event with his daughters and wife, said this year was their first time coming out for Keiki Surf for the Earth.
His two older daughters, he said, had previously come down for the Tombomb Wahine Classic, which also took place at Kohanaiki in October.
“They just love it overall,” he said. “It’s a good thing for them, good environment for them to be in, good surroundings.”
His wife, Anna Alves, said the event was “like a big Pinetrees family event.”
“All the kids are friends,” she added, “and they love it.”
Altogether, 142 contestants took part in the day’s contest, said Sale, and 212 people camped out in the area as part of the event.
Sale said all the families who camped have agreed to return on Memorial Day and take part in a beach cleanup led by the Surfrider Foundation, and Broderson said that emphasis on continued stewardship is an important part of the contest’s past and future.
“Because it’s also a beach clean up, we’re trying to instill a sense of ownership for this place,” Broderson said. “If this place is going to continue to be what it is, it’s really on us as the users to make sure that it stays that way.”
During the surf contest, youths are also given the opportunity to paint signs with messages about taking care of the ocean and land.
“That’s a super important part of our day,” said Sale. “It’s just a hands-on way for them to realize why they’re here and why they do this.”
And the youths who took to the waves Saturday savored the day with their friends, family and community, saying they enjoyed contests like Keiki Surf for the Earth.
“Because you get to compete with your friends, you get to surf your favorite break, and it’s just really fun,” said Asher Moore, 9, who’s been surfing for about six or seven years.
At that moment, the announcer over the speaker started announcing the results of Asher’s heat.
“Second place, going to repo heat,” the announcer said, as the boy listened intently, “Asher Moore.”
“Yes!” he shouted to cheers and congratulations from those around him.
“The best moment,” Asher said.
The boy’s mother, Briana Azuela, was thrilled for her son.
“I’m so excited for him; he’s really kind of come a long way this past year,” she said. “So, him seeing his own personal advancements makes me happy as his mom.”
Contests like Keiki Surf for the Earth, she said, are a great opportunity for families.
“It’s definitely a great event, and we love coming to them,” she said. “And we’ll probably be coming for years and years to come.”