Sam Stinnett Wins The 2012 Cabo Clasico
By Aaron Peluso
2011 UST champ Sam Stinnett started off the 2012 season right by taking the top spot at stop #1 on the 2012 UST Tour. For the first time ever the contest took all three days of the waiting period to run as the wind in Cabo this year was unusually strong. Heats ran in the first few hours each morning before the wind got too strong and it was a huge benefit to have all three days to work with. Conditions during the competition were actually quite good as you can see from the photos. The waves were not huge but head high waves were semi abundant and perfect waist high waves were everywhere.
One thing I like about this event is there is usually time to do some man on man heats towards the end of the event. This year the top six competed in three interesting man-on-man heats.
Starting things off was a young gun regular foot battle between Sam Stinnett and Blair Conklin. These two riders are some of the most fun to watch in any wave oriented event and this one was no exception. Both had been skimming great in the preliminary rounds showing that they each had the skills to take it all the way to the end, but with man on man there could only be one. Blair skimmed another great heat his very first time in Cabo but in the end Sam’s couple years of experience advantage proved to be enough to push him through to the final.
Next up was a goofy foot battle between former world champ Paulo Prietto and Cabo local hero Juan Carlos Nazario (Bullo). As far as I am concerned this heat was wave for wave all the way through. Each rider had great wraps and airs, often one after the other, seemingly answering each other on every successive wave. In the end Paulo made the cut no doubt by the slimmest of margins.
The third semi-final heat didn’t run as Austin Keen strained a muscle in his back in the prior heat and could no longer skim. This was good news for 10+ time world champ Bill Bryan who then advanced to the finals, uncontested in the semi-final.
And then there were three. Paulo Prietto, Bill Bryan and Sam Stinnett. I did not realize it at the time but this was quite a lineup for a three man final as these are the only three skimboarders to be crowned world champion in more than a decade. Sam has one title under his belt (2011), Paulo Prietto has three titles (2005, 2006 and 2007) while Bill Bryan was champ just about every other year anyone can remember! This might not only be the only time in history that these three riders have faced each other in a final, and it might have been the only time it will ever happen!
It is pretty cool when you think about it like that. Anyway, on to the analysis…
Paulo Prietto seemed to jump out to an early lead scoring most of the clean rides on big waves in the first half of the heat. Bill Bryan was getting some good rides but unlike some of his earlier heats they were not of the quality he would need to beat these premiere riders. Still, he was faring pretty well at the half way mark and in my estimation was clearly ahead of Sam who had yet to get a solid ride. Then, seemingly like clockwork, Sam turned it on with a nearly flawless 360 wrap barrel. Upon returning up the slope, Sam was clearly not feeling well and motioned for his girlfriend to bring him some water, which he promptly puked up. This was not however the post-party puke of the past as Sam had stayed in the night before to be ready for his heat. He had eaten or drank something that morning that wasn’t sitting well, and now it looked like it might cost him in the final heat of the event as he remained buckled over in the sand for a solid minute or two. Clearly he was going to need to muster every ounce of energy he could to get another two waves, and he didn’t have long to make something happen. After a couple minutes of wondering whether he was going to be able to run for another wave, Sam and Bill spotted something on the horizon at the same moment. Both took off running toward the right to be in position for the incoming backside wrap. Bill had superior position and chose to go deep while Sam ran for the shoulder. Bill scored a solid wrap barrel which was quickly outshined by Sam’s wrap on the shoulder, drive across the face and lofty 360 shuvit landed solidly as he slid up the beach. The crowd erupted in applause. But there were only a few minutes left and Sam had only 2 of the 3 scoring waves he was going to need to compete with Paulo’s 4 or 5 solid scorable waves. As the clock bled down and the one minute mark was called it wasn’t looking good for Sam. Then a big one appeared on the horizon. Just the kind of risky bet Sam somehow excels at. Sam is one of the best in the world at reaching waves no one else can reach but this one was looking like it wasnt going to work out as it jacked up on the sandbar a solid 3 feet above Sams head and started to pitch out. Sam hit the lip hard anyway in what looked to be a futile attempt to “at least try”. From my vantage point, the wave exploded and Sam disappeared completely. I have watched the best skimboarders in the world skim the best waves in the world for 20 years, and I have to admit that I started to look away… and thats when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sam shoot out beyond the whitewash in a flawless crouched position.
The crowd erupted again and cheered through the end of the heat. It was as close as you can get to a buzzer beater in our sport and it was a great thing to witness.
So ladies and gents, here are your 2012 Cabo Clasico top 6:
- Sam Stinnett
- Paulo Prietto
- Bill Bryan
- Blair Conklin
- Juan Carlos (Bullo)
- Austin Keen