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Setting himself a ridiculously low budget of £700 all in, to cover all costs door-to-door, we hear about JC’s mission to fly to Maui to watch the PWA/IWT Wave finals at the Aloha Classic.

Words and photos: John Carter


It has been about four years since I last visited Hawaii, which feels really strange after spending so much time there prior to Covid. With the PWA & IWT Tours joining forces this season, it meant that as a photographer, I was only employed for the PWA run events, so I wasn’t on the crew to go to Maui, even so, I still wanted to go to see how the title race panned out, as well as just to catch-up with old friends. I made the decision to wait until the last minute and if it looked half decent, I would try and make it to Maui on an ultra-low budget. When I say low budget, I was looking to spend the absolute minimum possible to cover flights, travel to the airport, car hire, accommodation, food and of course a few icy colds. I set myself a target of £700, which some of you may think is impossible, but making the trip as cheap as possible was the only way I could justify going. Maybe I could also pick up a bit of work along the way, who knows, but I just had it set in my mind that I would regret it if I missed out. Don’t they call that Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

The event was set to run over a ten-day holding period, with a maximum of five days of action, due to permits. When the event kicked off, the forecast looked pretty dire, and despite one day of Kona winds it looked like all the action would be in the latter half of the event. Although it didn’t look epic, most riders and crew were pretty sure there would be enough wind and waves to run the contest. I was personally in contact with Kai Katchadourian, who is a bit of a guru when it comes to monitoring forecasts, finally, I received the message I had been waiting for, which made me pull the trigger: Wheels up, looks like improvement in the long-term. Maui will deliver!” So, with the green light from Kai on October 27th, I started checking flights and hire cars to see how much this was going to cost me.


Over the years, I have been lucky enough to clock up a ton of air miles with United Airlines, which allows you to purchase mileage tickets and only pay the airport taxes. Bearing in mind I had decided to fly on October 28th, I needed to move fast. I managed to find a mileage flight to Maui for a mere £166, which would be a good chunk of the budget, but obviously a necessity. Next up, a hire car was definitely needed, which would probably be my most expensive single cost. I was trying to get hold of Robby Swift, who rents cars in Maui, but I didn’t receive a reply in time, so I opted for a company that I have used before called – Kimo’s. Their absolute basic banger was going to set me back £250 for eight days, which didn’t seem too bad in the grand scheme of things. Throw-in about £30 for fuel and that was my transport in Maui ticked off the list. As for getting to the airport, I managed to find a cheap deal with National Express coaches, which came to a grand total of £35 for a return, whilst my ferry ticket off of the Isle of Wight was another £30. The coach journey was going to take four hours compared to the normal one hour and twenty minutes in a taxi, but on my shoestring budget, it was simply a no brainer. So, with most of the basics covered I was already up to £511, but I still needed to sort out accommodation, which was potentially going to put a big dent in the budget. Luckily, after a bit of messaging around, Chris Freeman from Black Project, very generously offered me free accommodation for the eight days I was there, as long as I would help look after his cats, as he was out of town. So, with a massive £189 pounds left in the kitty, it looked like I was all set to hit Hawaii and be there for the Aloha Classic showdown. Maybe I would even have enough money left over for a swanky meal at Mama’s Fish House…


I arrived in Maui late on the evening of October 28th and promptly found my car at the airport parking lot. However, after a relatively smooth journey until now, the moment I turned on the ignition, about six warning lights flashed up. It was already late and the engine seemed to be running fine, so I decided to take my chances. I headed up to the house where apparently, I would be sharing with French rider – Arthur Arutkin. It felt really weird being back in Maui after four years away, but at least I know my way around after thirty or forty trips there over the years. I managed to find the house up in Haiku without a problem and was pleasantly surprised that I had my own room, which was the house gym with a blow-up mattress made up for me in the corner. The next morning, I was up at 3am due to the horrific Maui jet lag! Fortunately, I had brought some tea bags with me, to save money, and managed to knock back about four mugs of PG tips by 7am.


The word was that the contest had been called on by Head Judge, Duncan Coombs, so I was straight into action at Ho’okipa. It was cool to rock up and see all the athletes gathering for the opening ceremony before hitting the water. The first day was probably head to logo high paired with light winds, but there was still a ton of amazing action. As it was smaller, I decided to shoot from the water and spent the day swimming alongside Paul from Fish Bowl Diaries, which was great fun. Seeing the riders hitting the lip up close and personal from the water was pretty amazing to experience and by the end of the day I was already happy I had made the decision to come.

I helped all the guys pack down the judges’ tower and load all the event equipment into the trucks, while Sam Bittner rewarded us afterwards with a cooler of icy cold beers for our efforts. Watching the sunset behind the West Maui mountains with a beer in your hand isn’t a bad way to end the day.

As for food, I headed to Kaua Store and bought a salad, and a chicken wrap for my evening meal, plus a bottle of water and a cake as a treat, which knocked me back around $30 – not too bad. Back at the house I opened up the front door and accidentally let out one of Chris Freeman’s precious cats! During the rest of the trip, myself and Arthur spent most of our spare time trying to get this pesky tabby back inside, which proved to be a real mission.


The contest progressed over the next few days with Antoine Martin winning the Men’s single and Sarah-Quita Offringa taking the victory in the Women’s, while the Men’s world title race was still open depending on the outcome of the double elimination. Considering the conditions, there were some real standout performances from the likes of; Bernd Roediger, Marcilio Browne, Camille Juban and Kai Lenny (who was riding some really different surf style shapes – more to come on that in another issue). Sarah-Quita also sailed some amazing heats to win the ladies, after Ho’okipa local – Sarah Hauser – was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the single. This left the door open for Maria Behrens and Coraline Foveau to fight for the remaining podium positions. I continued to help pack down the judges’ tower in exchange for free beer, which seemed like a great deal to me. As for food, I decided not to eat out at all to save cash and just buy take away food from the Kaua Store. The meals were getting repetitive, but if I wanted to stay within my meagre budget – this was the only way.


As the competition came to a close, the overall title race in the Men’s all boiled down to the last day of action where Marcilio Browne and Ricardo Campello were locked in an intense battle. You can read the full lowdown of this encounter a little later in this issue… The waves were a bit smaller for the double elimination, which made it difficult for sailors to really standout in the smaller head high sets. Campello was eventually knocked out in a tough four-man heat, which saw Maui locals Morgan Noireaux and Kai Lenny both advance, whilst Ricardo was knocked out alongside Marc Paré, who had been making an amazing come back in the double and also had an outside shot at the world title. However, with both sailors eliminated that brought their challenge to an end for another year. The scenes on the beach were pretty sad to witness with Ricardo reduced to tears in front of Robby Naish, and all of his friends and family, who were on hand to cheer him on and then try and console him.

Ricardo was leading the title race all season long, and at the age of thirty-eight he will be aware that there may not be too many more opportunities to come. Meanwhile, Braw continues to write his name into the windsurfing record books with a third wave world title – and fourth overall – after pipping his best friend to this one. The Brazilian also successfully defended his place on the podium at the Aloha Classic to cap another brilliant year for him after a shaky start. More from Braw and Ricardo later…

Back at the house, we somehow managed to get the cat back inside, which was a major relief as Chris was threatening to fly back to Maui as he was concerned about his precious tabby. It was awesome to return to Maui after so many years away and despite the fact the conditions were not amazing – by Ho’okipa standards – there was still some outstanding sailing and action to be captured. During the lay days, I managed to catch up with a few old friends, head on a sunset mission up the volcano, Haleakalā, and also bash out several really cool interviews for Windsurf Magazine. I have to say during my eight days on Maui, there was never a dull moment!


After the competition finished, I had one free day before flying home, and luckily, I picked up a job shooting some new equipment for Severne. After the shoot was done and dusted, I was in a major rush to head back to the house and pack my bags before heading to the closing party and then onto the airport. Free beer at the awards night meant I did not have to spend a single dollar, which meant I completed my mission almost bang on budget! With the added bonus of the photo shoot being the icing on top of the cake. I could definitely call this mission a major success, even there was no time left for that lavish meal at the expensive fish restaurant, Mama’s Fish House. In this day and age, to travel to Hawaii for eight days for £700 ‘all in’, I would say, is pretty much a miracle. Admittedly, I had to use all my connections and tricks of the trade, by using my air miles and scrounging around for free accommodation, but even so, I think I can safely say… I nailed it!


We had a few lay days before the event kicked off, which was not so bad. You can still go hiking and surfing and there is so much you can do in Hawaii. I just kept busy and also went to the gym. Finally, the event was called on. I knew it was going to happen. The waves on the first day were not so big, which made it very tricky in the heats and I felt there was an element of luck involved, but there were still enough waves for everyone.

The waves were way better for the finals, which was a highlight. The sets were bigger, so I had a canvas to play with. It was amazing to finish the single on a decent day. I was sailing on my 5m most of the time and right at the end I rigged a 5.3m to give myself that extra manoeuvrability. For me, this was definitely necessary. For once, I was smart and patient in the heat and I managed to wait for the better waves.


Performance wise I felt a little bit in between. I don’t think I showed the absolute best I could do, maybe because I was feeling a bit nervous. I tried to sail smart and clock up the scores I needed. I got nailed once or twice going for the lip, which cost me previous time. The guys were going crazy and I wanted a big hit like them, but it was not the time to try it in a heat. I just did the turns that I was comfortable with and filled up my scoresheet, which paid off as I am world champion in the waves again, which I am super stoked about. I would not think that I could win multiple waves titles – ever! Where I come from in Aruba there are no waves! For me to be sailing at locations like Fiji and Ho’okipa, coming from Aruba is simply ridiculous to be honest.


We had quite a good swell for the finals. It was not what we were aiming for as we wanted big waves. Even so, it was over head high at times, but still difficult. When the wind is light and it is not so big, it usually comes down to whoever finds the biggest sets.


It was really about having the patience to catch the best sets and then make those scoring opportunities count. I found it quite stressful because I was looking to make the overall this podium year, and winning the Aloha Classic was what I needed to do. I could not be happier. It has been a long season. We started in March by going to Japan. We had the event in Fiji, but I had problems with my result there. In Pozo, I lost in the double elimination and did not do as well as I was hoping.


Coming to Maui I was still fourth in the world, even without a podium. I needed a podium to prove to myself I am one of the best. It is frustrating to be at the top without any podiums. Now I have another victory in Maui. To win the Aloha Classic has always been my dream. I could win this event twenty times and I would still be super happy.

The level this year is the highest we have seen ever. From the first round it was already a tough heat. Every heat was a final for me. There was no choice about playing it safe. I said to myself: “Don’t hold back because you will regret it, if you lose.” I went all out. I sailed every heat like a final. I tried to diversify all my moves and think outside the box. I did airs, manoeuvres, turns and one-handed moves. I did everything I could. so I would be happy with how I sailed. I did not want to lose with the regrets of not sailing the way I like to sail. I like to sail performing all the crazy moves and different stuff to the others. That is where you want to show up and I felt I sailed the way I wanted and was really happy with the outcome.


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