Surf riders in their element

THE waters around Malaysia may not be conducive for surfing, but that hasn’t stopped thrill seekers from getting their adrenaline fix by conquering the waves in another way — skimboarding.

Their skills, stunts and theatrics were on full show at the 4th Penang International Skimboarding Competition 2010 at the Hard Rock Hotel Penang beachfront in Batu Ferringhi on Saturday.

The day-long contest, organised by the Penang Skimboarding Association in collaboration with the state government and Penang Sports Council, attracted some 40 participants from Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Singapore.

From as early as 9am, participants got their feet wet by making practice runs. Charging down the beach with board in hand, they tossed it onto the surf before hopping on to ride the waves, while performing a multitude of tricks.

Event organising chairman Kee Jet Shon said that although wave conditions weren’t optimal, contestants still skimmed their hearts out during the competition.

“Conditions improved slightly in the afternoon, where the quarter finals and semi-finals saw the riders throwing down some of their best runs of the day and provided great entertainment for the crowd,” he said.

Kee was especially pleased that two local talents, Hoon Wei Kent and Mohd Zarif Hakimi, made it all the way to the finals, the first time any Penangite had managed that feat since the competition’s inception.

As the crowd settled into their positions on the beach, the buzzer sounded and an intense final got under way. It was a neighbourly battle, with four Singaporeans proving stern competition for the local upstarts.

Spectators broke into chants of oohhs and aahhs as each took turns to impress the judges with their bag of tricks, performing moves such as superman airs, 360 pop shuvit grabs, ollie grabs and big ollie 180s.

In the end, it was the skimboarders from Singapore who emerged victorious, with Zainuri Mohamad edging out defending champion Alfian Affandi by the slightest of margins. Darimi Mohamad and Hisham Jamal were third and fourth, while Hoon and Zarif were fifth and sixth.

Zarif also grabbed the crown in the junior category.

“I’m very proud of our local competitors, who gave the foreigners a good run for their money. If they keep improving their skills, they will have no problem reaching the finals again next time,” added Kee.

Filipino Arlene Nonato, 25, emerged champion in the women’s category, by virtue of being the only female participant.

“I expected there would be more girls!,” she quipped about her first experience in Malaysia.

“But going up against the boys doesn’t faze me, as I’m used to competing against them in competitions back home, where waves can be as high as eight feet,” Nonato said.

Besides the contest, several skimboarding, paddleboard and windsurfing workshops were also held to allow spectators to learn more about the adrenaline-pumping aquatic sports.

The hotel’s general manager John Primmer said they were thrilled to play host to the exhilarating sports, which were gaining popularity in Malaysia.

“It’s definitely an exciting beach sport and for Hard Rock, a young brand which promotes lifestyle and entertainment, it definitely suits us,” he added.

There was also a live performance by local independent rap-rock band Pop Shuvit at the Hard Rock Cafe. The band later donated a signed guitar, which adds to the hotel chain’s collection of over 72,00 pieces of original artiste memorabilia.

State Youth, Sports, Women, Family and Community Development Committee chairman Lydia Ong Kok Fooi, Penang Sports Council director Akbar Haji Mustapha and Sungai Pinang assemblyman Koid Teng Guan were also present to give out the prizes.

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