2015 Point Panic Bodysurfing Championship

Written by Event Director Kanekoa Crabbe

Photographs provided by Neal Miyake

On the last weekend of July, a handful of Hawaii’s most talented bodysurfers gathered at Point Panic to show off their skills during the biggest swell of the summer thus far.  Powerful 4 to 6 foot Hawaiian surf (8-12 foot wave faces) warranted a High Surf Warning and with the ideal SSW swell direction, many longtime Point Panic locals were calling the waves on Sunday morning and afternoon “as good as it gets!”.  While many of the participants reside on Oahu, a small handful of bodysurfers from the Big Island of Hawaii, California, Australia and Brazil took full advantage of the opportunity.  Though some endured a few scrapes, bruises and lost fins caused by the large surf, strong current and slippery stairwell, all contestants and spectators were smiling ear to ear buzzing with positivity during these two memorable days.

Fifty eager contestants ranging from teenagers to senior citizens had the opportunity to surf twice on Saturday with only five bodysurfers in the water at a time.  After running two rounds with ten heats in each round, the top 24 bodysurfers advanced to the 4-man priority format heats on Sunday.  These 24 wave riders continued to battle it out in the large surf until the final four emerged; a big, dark Hawaiian proudly representing the “Westside” of Oahu, a professional bodyboarding champion from the island of Kauai, a Point Panic bodysurfing legend with his pink & grey Scott fins, and a young-gun sporting black Birdwell shorts & a long goatee.

As the final heat commenced, all eyes on land were fixated on the waves.  With the blessing from above, the winds shifted to a more favorable easterly direction during the final heat as 6-foot bombs continued to mow through the lineup.  Waiting for the long rides without much success due to the changing winds, Makaha Bodysurfing Classic Event Director Melvin Keawe proudly represented the “Westside” by making his first Point Panic Bodysurfing Championship final earning 4th place.  Getting busy in the middle “green bouy” zone with a few lengthy rides and numerous rolls, bodyboarding world champion Jeff Hubbard made his bodysurfing presence well known with his 3rd place finish.  360 belly-spinning and barrel-riding his way to his third 2nd place runner-up finish with his pink & grey Scott fins, former 2010 champion B.K. Holt placed his name on the perpetual trophy for a record 4th time in seven years.  But it was the belly-
spinning, front-flipping young gun who got busy working the inside peelers that finished the weekend off as the 2015 Point Panic Bodysurfing Champion.

Kaneali’i Wilcox silently hammered the competition from his #15 seed at the end of Saturday by earning 1st place in 3 of his 4 heats on Sunday with the most important placing in the final heat. As an emerging leader amongst the future generation of young bodysurfers, Kane rose to the occasion once again showing everybody that no matter how large the surf at Point Panic, he swims out with one goal in mind; to win at all costs.  Currently in his early 20’s, Kane was the only competitor to successfully complete and ride out of take-off front-flips and easily pulled a handful of 360 belly spins on both days of competition. As the waves cleaned up and the waves fired relentlessly in the background, Kaneali’i graciously accepted his 1st Place Champion trophy during the award ceremony while smiling and throwing his shaka high and proud.  This years’ recipient of the annual Lokahi award was Mr. Larry Russo Sr. for his selfless service in helping keep the Point Panic Kaka’ako Waterfront Park area clean and safe for all to enjoy.  Humbled and speechless, Mr. Russo is responsible for landscaping, re-grassing, fertilizing and irrigating the famous tree located by the shower at Point Panic that dozens of people use on a daily basis for its shade and scenic views.

After the award ceremony as many volunteers and contestants assisted with the breakdown and cleanup of the area, many witnessed some of the best Point Panic surf seen in years.  When asking bodysurfing legend Steve Kapela about Sunday afternoon after the contest (many watching believed he completely dominated the lineup catching the longest and most perfect rides), he said “that was probably the biggest and best Point Panic I’ve ever bodysurfed in my entire life.”  As the weekend concluded, the positivity and joy provided by the surf at Point Panic could be felt by all who witnessed the atmosphere both in and out of the water.

E ola mau na kaha nalu ‘o Hawai’i! (Long live the bodysurfers of Hawai’i!) ALOHA!

The Point Panic Bodysurfing Championship is a community-based, grassroots event created to bring people together in hopes of preserving the best bodysurfing wave in the world.  Formerly called the Pure Point Panic Bodysurfing Event since 2009, this annual gathering perpetuates the legacy provided by former Point Panic bodysurfing event directors Mr. Bob Thomas & family and Mr. Sam & Mrs. Sarah Wahilani of the Point Panic Bodysurfing Club. Various local contributors, supporters and sponsors selflessly donate their time and efforts to make this event possible.  They include DaFin, MS Viper, Viper Surfing Fins, Air Hubb Fins, SOAPTOPIA, Doc Martins of Maui Sunblock, Vertra Sunscreen, NIXON, PATAGONIA, VISSLA, Scott Hawaii, Torpedo People, Kaha Nalu Hawaii, Kua ‘Aina, Menehune Water Company, KINO, Akamai Energy Consulting, Custom Countertops Inc., Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, Surfrider Foundation, Mark Cunningham, Officials Ben Severson & Pat Caldwell, Judges Nick Menas, Wayne Takamine and Larry Russo Jr. and Dr. Michael Kliks of the CTS Foundation.  With the continued support from these noted and future organizations and members of the community, we anxiously look forward to perpetuating bodysurfing at Point Panic to the best of our combined abilities in the many years to come.

2015 Point Panic Bodysurfing Championships results

2015 World Bodysurf Championship

Special thanks to Rod Hepburn for allowing us to share photos from his sharp eye.

Progression: The Flip

Interview with Kaha Nalu Hawaii Rider and 2015 Point Panic Champion

Kaneali’i Wilcox

How old are you and how long have you been bodysurfing at Point Panic?

I’m 23 and I’ve been surfing Panics for almost half my life, going on 11 years.

How long have you been attempting the flip? Have you actually completed it before?

I’ve been doing this maneuver for about 8 years now. It took me a couple of weeks before I started to get the hang of it. Then maybe like a few more years until I could do them on sets and only the last few years I’ve been able to ride it out and do a few more tricks after.

Have you seen other guys complete the flip?

Well my friend Kenji showed me a clip on Youtube of a Brazilian doing a flip and that’s where it all started. Since then, I have a few friends that can also pull this trick off.

Why is Point Panic such a hot bed for bodysurfing innovation? What makes it special?

The wave speed at Point Panics is perfect for bodysurfers; it allows us to do the tricks we want. What makes Panics so special is not just the fact that legally only bodysurfers can ride there, it’s the camaraderie that goes around. I can remember my first sessions out there: uncles giving me tips on how to ride the wave better, almost always the smell of someone BBQ-ing accompanied by all their loud laughter, and nothing but stoke for bodysurfing. Luckily same goes to this day. I love hooting at the little ones giving them the extra courage to charge.

What is the next big bodysurfing trick?

My friend Matt from Big island was telling me that he’s pulled off an ARS a few times and I’ve seen a Brazilian on Youtube do one so that’s the next one to practice.

The Wind Is Our Friend…Sometimes

“The wind is our friend, anyway, he thought. Then he added, sometimes.” These are the Old Man’s thoughts as he sails home after his epic struggle in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.  He is describing his life as a wise old fisherman and the plight of waveriders.

Wind is the most vital variable in all of surfing and waveriders are excessively particular about its existence. Thousands of miles from our coast, we want maximum, sustained winds…over a large area, for a long time. Locally, a few days later, we desire minimal wind or maybe light wind blowing from a very distinct, offshore direction.  That’s a lot to ask for and it’s the reason we cherish the days with swell and good wind.

The atmospheric condition which shall not be named. The moment it is mentioned, the conditions begin to deteriorate. “Bro, its soooo glassy out here!”…then the wind picks up, onshore.  “Good, the wind hasn’t picked up yet!”…the waves are textured one minute and blown out the next.

It’s a constant struggle. Its the reason we get up at 5am and blow off dinner plans in the evening. We want the best possible wind conditions. Wake up before dawn, groggily drive to your spot in the dark, check the palm fronds. Fist pump…it’s light offshore! But for how long? On average, dawn is the best time of day to surf. Diurnal, prevailing wind patterns guarantee an eventual onshore flow probably 360 days a year. Skateboarding was invented because surfers got frustrated by the afternoon onshores and looked for something to do once the surf blew out.

Dawn glass.
Dawn glass.

Each day, good conditions are fleeting. We dread the coming of the onshores. Sometimes the palm fronds and flags are pointed inland even before the sun rises. Sad face. Sometimes the wind is perfectly calm at dawn and stays that way through the morning. Sheet glass. Sometimes the wind is beautiful offshore at dawn before calming into glass through the morning. The ghastly onshores could bring the dreaded texture at 8am or 1pm…the later the better. Sometimes Santa Anas bring strong, grooming offshores all day.

Evening glassoff.
Evening glassoff.

The evening glassoff isn’t guaranteed but it is always anticipated. Sometimes it never comes. Sometimes the atmosphere teases a glassoff before picking up stronger onshore. Sometimes the first sets of a new swell are greeted in the late evening with perfectly calm winds and orange sunset water.

Sometimes we anticipate a swell for days. Good looking size, period and direction. Only to have it onshore at dawn and howling all day, ripping a solid swell to shreds. Other times, without expectations, a windswell will turn on super fun seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s perfectly glassy all day but the surf is double over ankle. Sometimes it’s pumping but the devil wind won’t quit. But then there are those situations we dream about and mythologize. Perfect, pure groundswell…and a light offshore breeze for days at time.


Visions of the Month- August 2015

We love seeing stoked bodysurfing shots from across the globe. Starting this month, we will be including photos that tag us on Instagram (@SwellLinesMag) in our Visions of the Month feature. We continue to accept submissions through email at SwellLinesMag@gmail.com. Get tubed and share it with the bodysurfing world!


Hawaii    @Alys_Jah


Brazil    @RegissonFerreira


French Polynesia    @tahitijean


Hawaii    @Wyhaat


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Hawaii- Sarah Im


Australia- Rider: Sam Simonite Photo: Kalim Marum


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Australia- Rider: Mark Hansson Photo: Ryan Innes


California- Drew Green
California- Jackson Colvey