The Most Eclectic Surf Event We Have
The Maldives Champions Trophy is like a surf comp flying in First Class. Pros and their partners clamber over each other to score the golden ticket. The 2018 event pumped and the crew from Stab were there to sum it all up.
Words by: stabmag.com; Images by Sean Scott and Navi.
For a number of years surfing competitions have been drifting towards an even playing field: technological board advancements, surf coaches, priority, and identical-wave producing pools. The Champions Trophy is the antithesis of this trend.
A shifting Maldivian right-hander known as Sultans, a diverse range of surfers, a varied heat structure, and of course, three divisions for single fins, twins, and the thruster. But it ain’t just a surf contest; it’s essentially an all-expenses-paid, opulent family holiday, thanks to the Four Seasons Maldives Resort at Kuda Huraa who really know how to turn on the service and hospitality like nobody else. Bring the fam, book a spa, sip some cocktails, and surf an event in perfect barrels with only five other guys (or four when Bruce Irons misses his flight/boat for the third time in a row as he did this year).
The most compelling competitive aspect is driven by the desire to win so that you and your loved ones are invited back to do it all again the following year.
This year featured Josh Kerr, CJ Hobgood, Alejo Muniz, Freddy Patacchia Jnr, and the local Abdullah Fuku Areef. It was a shame Bruce never made it because he would have gone to town in the hollow rights. Kerrzy however, with his dialled but diverse quiver, took out the entire event. But to save you scrolling backwards, here’s a recap of what went down.
In the single fin event, Freddy P adopted a non-performance approach by choosing not to do a single proper turn. Whether it was the giddy heat of the tropics or the fact that he forgot to actually pack his own single-fin, he cheater-fived, high-lined, and spun his way around donning a bamboo weaved hat that he’d made himself. It was entertainment at its best. Meanwhile the rest of the field took to a more classical approach, but none could top Kerrzy’s aerial antics atop his Tyler Warren shaped single-fin.
This white-hot form continued over into the twin-fin division. The waves dialled up a notch, but were still well suited to the dual-finned device.
The CT-striver that is Alejo Muniz jammed his way to the final to meet Kerrzy, but as he continued his previous day’s form there was no stopping Josh Kerr. He had been riding nothing but twins and asymetrics for months beforehand. He was in his zone and tallied up a 17.26 heat total consisting of a 9.63 and 7.63. Alejo may have been hunting him down with air attempts and a busy QS approach, but no amount of determination and will was going to extinguish the Kerr flame.
With two wins now under the belt, Mr Kerr was going to be a hard one to knock, but his winning disposition didn’t quite continue through into the thruster round.
The finals day at Sultans was proper pumping, courtesy of the contest director Ross Phillips who knows Sultans better than Kelly knows his way around a comment board. "We got so lucky with the waves, and the best was definitely on finals day, commented Abdullah Fuku Areef. “It was pumping!”
With a one-week window to run just three half-days of competition, Ross surfed every morning before the breakfast call and successfully predicted exactly when the tides, winds and swell would best align for whatever craft they were riding that day: softer carvy walls for the single fins and proper pipes for the thruster. It pumped and the seasoned pros were impressed!
Freddy P took full advantage of the hollowed-out conditions on finals day to put on what is best described as a backside tube riding clinic. Of course, he also nailed a few backside hammers in between his cover-ups, and he wasn’t letting anyone slip past him for the win.
Even Alejo Muniz (a new dad just-married and now blissfully honeymooning at this event) wasn’t catching up with his faultlessly radical attack.
Freddy P might not have taken competition seriously on the first day (as the highlight reel shows), but by the third and final he was well and truly enthralled. “It’s really funny because when I arrived here I thought I wouldn’t be taking it too seriously but as soon as you put on the contest jersey, the fire is lit,” Freddy said afterwards. "My thruster definitely felt like my best board so I put some more time into focusing today. It’s definitely the most fun I have had in a WSL jersey.”
Despite this win, it didn’t allow Freddy enough points to proceed into the final showdown on whichever boards the competitors chose. Josh had won two divisions and Alejo had come runner-up twice, leaving it down to the ex-CT aerialist and WQS star to surf-off once more to decide the grand champion.
Just quietly, it was a tube-fest of absurd proportions.
They were rail-to-rail for the entirety of the final, trading tubes, jabs, and high-range scores. Kerrzy grabbed a 9.0 while Alejo wasn’t far behind, and when an indistinguishable surfer chipped into what ended up being a 10 pointer on the buzzer even on-site commentator Scotty Gillies wasn’t sure who it was. With that perfect ride ‘that’ surfer had just won the final and therefore the entire event and a further $10,000. ‘That’ surfer being none other than Josh Kerr.
The waves just got better every day up until now where they are totally pumping - I never thought I’d get so barreled here in the Maldives," Josh said after the win, "The concept of this event is really cool, I like surfing different boards these days so I guess this is the perfect event for me – I’m stoked to be coming back next year but probably not as much as my family - they love it here.”
The Kerr family weren’t the only ones stoked though; everyone with the opportunity to surf, sink beers, and stay in the Maldives for what’s inarguably the surf world’s most opulent affair was wrapped.
It’s nothing like a normal WSL event – yeah, there’s jerseys, heats, and winners, but there’s nothing out there as eclectic and, dare I say, ‘fun’ as this event. For those back at home, it’s just a pity they don’t stream it.
There’s bound to be a mutiny at Stab HQ next year when the opportunity to hop aboard arises again.
1st Josh Kerr (AUS) 2800pts.
2nd Alejo Muniz (BRA) 2700pts
3rd Freddy Patacchia Jnr (HAW) 2600pts
4th C.J. Hobgood (USA) 2400pts
5th Abdulla ‘Fuku’ Areef (MDV) 2400pts
The 2019 event runs Aug 5-11. Book your room & surf package for a ton of surfing and rubbing shoulders with legends.