It’s been a week since Supertyphoon Hagibis passed through the Mariana Islands, and the Guam surf community couldn’t have been happier.
On Saturday, 27 surfers and bodyboarders competed in Monster Surf the Basin, a professional surfing competition in Hagåtña.
As overhead sets rolled in, Guam’s best surfers harnessed the waves’ power and shredded their way onto the podium.
In the Men’s Open Shortboard Division, on the way to winning the competition, Guam national team surfer Shane Pier impressed the judges and placed first. Cheyne Purcell, who also surfs for Team Guam, finished second. Joeito Santiago, rounding out the podium, placed third.
“Surf the Basin is awesome,” Pier said. “It’s one of the first times we actually had really decent waves for the contest.”
“I was looking forward to it all week, and it turned out great,” added Pier, who placed first in each of his heats.
Pier, leading up to the competition, thought that there was no way the Hagibis swell would still be a factor.
“No swell, on Guam, lasts five days,” he said. “That it actually held in and made it all the way to Saturday ... is a blessing. We’re stoked.”
Boat Basin is one of Pier’s favorite local spots, said Guahan Napu Inc. President John Taimanglo.
“He knows this wave very well,” he added. “He’s in tune with it.”
Taimanglo said that Pier has been surfing these waves his entire life and “that whole local knowledge came into winning today.”
For the belly-busters, competing in the Men’s Open Bodyboarding Division, John “Barbs” Barber blasted through the competition and finished atop the podium. Joel Benavente finished in second place. Jonathan Leon Guerrero placed third.
“He’s (Barber’s) just in a different level of bodyboarding, right now,” Taimanglo said. … “He’s just an all-around waterman.”
“I’m super happy,” said Barber, adding, “the conditions were probably the best I’ve seen for a surf contest at boat basin, in 10 years.”
With wave priority going to the first in line, Barber quickly entered the water from the northernmost jetty. Drawing from years of experience, he knew he had to get to the waves first.
“As soon as the red flag was down, I went first and made sure I had the first wave,” Barber said. “Holding your priority and taking the right wave is one of the most important things. I’ve been in a lot of contests where I probably took the wrong wave. Today, I took a good wave.”
As Barber glided down a six-footer, he cut back up its face and rolled off the lip.
“The first set that came in was a solid, a good size barrel,” he said. “I took off on it and got barreled. I punched through the lip and made a rollo.
“The more dangerous the maneuver - the more critical it is - the higher the score,” Barber said. “That set the bar for me. After that, I got another one that I kind of felt confident in, but it was actually a smaller one that I thought was my best wave. It might not have been one that went into my two highest scores, but, ... I got super pitted, so deep in there and made it out last second.”
In the days leading up to the competition, Barber, like so many of the athletes, took advantage of Hagibis’ fury.
“The past week, since Tuesday, we’ve had 4- to 6-foot swell - perfect waves,” Barber said. “Every morning, I’ve been pretty much hitting the waves - and afternoon.”
For Barber, preparing for the contest wasn’t just about logging the repetitions, it was about bonding with the waves.
“I kind of say, you develop a relationship with each swell, from each system,” he said. “If you have to jump out without ever surfing the preceding days, you might be thrown off. But, if you get in the flow, you get a rhythm, and, the next thing you know, you get good waves.”