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This Reef Rides With The Best

Reef McIntosh accepts the Shootout winner’s check. That’s fellow Kauaian John John Florence to the left. Photo courtesy Ocean Promotion

It’s always nice to be recognized for our accomplishments, but Reef McIntosh – has there ever been a better name for a surfer? – got himself a double dose of pats on the back for his surfing prowess this past winter. Within about 24 hours, the Kaua’i rider was lauded by two of Hawaii’s most prestigious bodies, though many might argue which holds more esteem.

On March 13, McIntosh was the unanimous selection for Surfline.com’s “Wave of the Winter” award, given to the best captured winter ride on Oahu’s North Shore. His effort at Off The Wall occurred way back on Dec. 2, 2011, so it took quite a while for him to know for sure, but his hollow wave could not be eclipsed.

The prize for the award, which was chosen by the judging panel of Gerry Lopez, Sunny Garcia, Pancho Sullivan and Ross Williams, was a cool $25,000. McIntosh got the good news as he headed toward baggage claim at Los Angeles International Airport, first thinking that the approaching camera crew was there to film “who knows, Paris Hilton or some celebrity,” before realizing what was happening. He beat out a group of other memorable rides that included Bruce Irons, Kelly Slater and John John Florence.

Earlier the same day, McIntosh was honored on Oahu by the state government’s Kaua’i delegation for having won Da Hui Backdoor Shootout, which took place in January at Banzai Pipeline. He edged out Jamie O’Brien by just 1.2 points in the event’s unique scoring system that tallies each surfer’s best rides and does not have eliminations. Irons took fourth place.

Along with the prestige and prize money that comes with a Shootout victory, McIntosh received a Certificate of Recognition from state Sen. Ron Kouchi, Rep. James Tokioka and Rep. Derek Kawakami.

Aside from the professional accomplishments, Reef proposed to his fiancee Jessica on Christmas Eve.

Reef McIntosh is honored at the Capitol by Rep. James Tokioka, Sen. Ron Kouchi and Rep. Derek Kawakami. Photo courtesy Sen. Ron Kouchi

There was almost another championship check making its way back to Kaua’i as Wailua’s Malia Manuel reached the final of the Telstra Drug Aware Pro on March 24, but she had to settle for second place among the 60-surfer field. Manuel was mostly dominant on her way to the final heat, where she went head-to-head with eventual champion Courtney Conlogue.

Malia led a large group of Garden Isle wahine who made the trip out to Western Australia for the six-star event. Joining her were Bethany Hamilton, Alana Blanchard, Nage Melamed, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Gabi Cope. Hamilton reached the Round of 12, while Weston-Webb had a nice showing at a big international competition, advancing in her first two heats to the Round of 24.

Bethany, Alana, Nage and Tatiana kept things local by all staying together at the same house for the duration of the event.

On the men’s side, John John Florence continued to show that he’s much more than a Pipeline prodigy, adding to his amazing winter with another title. He won the 96-man Prime event, besting Maui’s Olamana Eleogram in the all-Hawaii final heat. It often seems like it takes a pair of perfect 10-point rides to beat John John these days, and Ola has shown his own brilliance recently, scoring the only 10-pointer back during the World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach in January, but this was again John John’s event.

The ASP World Tour runs its second event of 2012 at Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia for the Rip Curl Pro, with a holding period from April 3 to 14.