Competition is underway at the 2016 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy. Day 1 has seen a lot of competitors return to the basics and hit the water on single-fin boards. Taj Burrow won the division in pumping, 3-to-4-foot righthanders at Sultans.
Burrow, who had ridden a single-fin for the first time yesterday, put on an amazing show. He pulled into barrels and smashed vertical reentries.
In the Final, Burrow came up against former Pipe Master Rob Machado (USA). The two went blow-for-blow, but it was Burrow who came out on top with a heat total of 14.94 (out of a possible 20).
"Surfing in a Final on a single-fin against Rob Machado is like a dream," Burrow said. "That was just so much fun. The waves are sick and my board felt really good. It's a bit bigger than what I'm used to but you could really push it through turns. I'm just having such a sick time here on Kuda Huraa. We're all being so spoiled."
Machado, who was surfing on a board he shaped himself, was a real standout. Surfing a single-fin at a wave like Sultans on your backhand is no easy task, but Machado made light work of it and posted high heat scores all day.
"That was so fun out there," Machado said. "The conditions are so dreamy today. It's been so sick to catch up with Shane [Dorian] and the rest of the crew especially here in paradise. It doesn't get any better."
Dorian was last year's event champion. A childhood friend of Machado's, the two were matched up in the second Semifinal. Dorian tucked into a number of barrels for a heat total of 15.34. He tied with Machado, who won on a count-back with the highest single-wave score of the heat.
"Rob and I have been competing against each other since we were kids," Dorian said. "We're good friends so it was super chilled out there. Rob is surfing as a good as he ever has so it was sick to share waves with him. It's just such a pleasure to be back at this event."
Semifinal One was an amazing duel between Burrow and WSL Deputy Commissioner and former CT competitor Travis Logie. Logie's backhand was on point. He went vertical on critical sections to earn himself a heat total of 17.06. However, he was unable to overcome Burrow's division-high score of 18.44.
"They were the best waves I've had in a heat in over ten years," Logie said. "Taj was just getting tubes and I was doing a million turns, it was so fun. It's always great when you both get opportunities. The conditions are perfect for a single-fin, just so good."
In one of the slower heats of the morning, Hawaii's Jamie O'Brien was unable to find an early score due to the lack of waves. As the heat progressed he began to develop momentum as the waves built. Left needing a 8.40, O'Brien took off on one of the better-looking waves of the heat, pulling into a long barrel across the inside section. Unfortunately, it was after the siren and O'Brien was out of the day's competition.
"This is such a unique contest," O'Brien said. "When a wave comes through and it's your turn, it's a real treat; this wave is so perfect. It was a real challenge to ride the single-fin. You have to take off a bunch of talent and just go with the feel of it. It's really cool out there. Everyone was super relaxed so it was really cool."
Local Trials Winner Hussain "Iboo" Areef had to ask a friend if he could borrow a single-fin, as the young Maldivian had never ridden one before. His lack of experience did not show, though, as the goofyfooter nailed backhand hit after backhand hit. Still, his heat total of 12.40 was not enough to move into the Semifinals. Areef will now set his sights on the twin-fin division.
"Riding a single-fin is really different," Areef said. "You have to really slow everything down. It was so cool to see Travis, Jamie and Shane surfing up close. They were all ripping. I surf out at Sultans a lot and it can get really busy so having it with only four people out there was awesome."