Austin Keen Wins Oktoberfest & 2013 UST Title
By Aaron Peluso
The 2013 Oktoberfest competition will go down in history as one of the most memorable skim competitions ever. This year the stars aligned from so many angles it was simply magical. For those who were there, you know what I am talking about. For those of you who weren’t, you blew it… simple as that.
Balboa really lights up during a very particular set of circumstances that sometimes don’t even happen once in an entire year. First, there has to be a solid south swell. Not too huge, but not too small, about 3-5′ is perfect. Seasonal offshore winds called Santa Ana’s happen once every year or two and help hold up the face of the wave all the way to shore, then make sure that when it does break it does so with a giant gaping barrel intact. Finally, all of this doesn’t matter much if it all happens during the crowded summer season when tourists flock to the beach and the lifeguards enact a laughably small skimboarding zone while the tourists get miles of beach to themselves. So when all of those factors came together for this years contest is no wonder that more pros signed up to compete than ever before in skimboarding history. The record 50 pro turnout was backed up by another 148 amateur and semi-pro entries making this event one of the largest ever.
In addition to the superb conditions and record turnout, there were not one but two UST World Titles on the line. The first ever Women’s UST title was on the line with Keiao Bucasas holding a lead over challenger Casey Keirman. If Casey won the event, she would be the first ever Women’s UST champion. If Keiao could manage to beat Casey, Keiao would take the title.
On the Men’s side two time reigning champ Sam Stinnett was in possession of the narrowest of point leads over Austin Keen going into the contest. If Sam could manage to place better than Austin in the event, Sam would earn his third title. However, if Austin was able to make the top five, and do better than Sam, Austin would propel into the lead at the buzzer and win his first UST title.
There was a lot on the line.
Heats got started on Saturday with epic conditions all morning long. Skimboarders fanned out for 300 yards on either side of the contest area making the most of the epic free-skimming. There were a few slow heats here and there with the tide push, but for the most part competitors scored all time contest conditions. As the pro’s wrapped up we began running two simultaneous competition areas in the early afternoon so as to get as many preliminary heats out of the way as possible and allow more of the finalists to enjoy top notch conditions on Sunday morning. By doing this we were able to shave a couple precious hours off the length of the event making for a much more enjoyable contest experience (for everyone).
Predictably, the UST contenders all made it through their heats on Saturday. Keiao and Casey both made it into the top four final. Keiao dominated her semi final heat but was having a little more trouble in the final heat. In the end Keiao would come up a just short of the win in second place, but beating Casey in third and taking the 1st UST Women’s title. Steff Mags took the win at the event which should give her some confidence going into the 2014 season!
Sam and Austin also made it into the top four but with the new man on man bracketing system they were each on opposite sides of the bracket. If they met in competition, they would only meet head to head, in the final. But first they had to get past their respective semi final challengers. Sam Stinnett would face off first against Balboa contest specialist Brandon Sears. There are only a handful of skimboarders in the world that Sam has to worry about in solid powerful shorebreak, and Brandon is definitely on top of that list. This head to head matchup is an exact repeat of this years Aliso contest, where Brandon scored the wave of the event in the final seconds, leaving Sam in third place. Unfortunately for Sam, this heat would go in a similar direction. Both riders skimmed well but Brandon came out on top by the slimmest of margins.
This left Austin to battle head to head with Bill Bryan in the second semi final. Bill is by far the most successful competitive skimboarder of all time. Austin told me years ago that he wanted the chance to go head to head with Bill in good conditions, to see if he could best him. It almost happened in Cabo in 2012 but a back injury in the prior heat forced Austin to withdraw. It had to be fate because that heat was put off until this much more climactic moment. If Austin beat Bill, he would be 2013 UST World Champion. If not, it would be a long cold contemplative winter waiting for another chance. Bill is one of those guys who you never want to face off against when it counts. For decades, he has been turning it on like a switch beating entire generations of skimboarders like clockwork. But could he still do it? Or would the young gun be able to best the veteran in the most critical of situations? Austin Keen came out swinging. With youthful energy he sprinted back and forth across the beach racking up solid scores left and right. Bill skimmed well and picked up a few solid scores, but could not match Austin’s intensity and consistency. Standing at the scoreboard waiting for results, Bill admitted he knew he lost that one… but he did so with a smile on his face, as he knew his one time prodigy was about to achieve the highest award in the sport. When the number two went up on the scoreboard next to Bill’s name, Austin just stood there for several moments as if he really truly could not believe it. But it was true, and he had just won the 2013 UST title.
But there was not much time for celebration. By this time the tide was dropping fast and the pro final needed to run next to assure the best conditions possible. Brandon and Austin were ready and the only question was whether or not Austin would be able to take this all the way, or would he leave just enough room for Brandon to upset the newly crowned champ. I have to say that throughout most of the heat it looked like the later would be the case. Brandon was skimming more consistently and with more energy than Austin. It appeared as though Austin had given all he had in the semi final against Bill and simply didn’t have anything left in the tank. This seemed to be even more the case when Brandon Sears launched and pulled one of the sickest airs I have seen in competition, launching a full four feet over the lip with a big spin grab and landing so smoothly that it didn’t even seem real. This appeared to be the nail in the coffin for the heat and the contest and as Austin ran for a wave a few moments later the announcer called out ‘this guy is our new world champion, lets see if he has anything to show us’. I am not sure if Austin heard this or not, but he did have something to show us.
Austin launched an inverted 360 superman air grabbing his board not on the rails but on the top and bottom with the palms of his hands, then flipped the board back underneath him and stomped it.
The crowd went absolutely nuts. More nuts than I have ever seen at any skimboard competition… ever. It was the kind of maneuver that you would normally film for a year to try and get on tape so you could end your movie with it, but probably still wouldn’t land… and Austin had just used it to put the icing on the cake for his first ever UST victory and second consecutive Oktoberfest victory. What a beast.
- Austin Keen
- Brandon Sears
- Sam Stinnett
- Bill Bryan
- Steff Mags
- Keiao Bucasas
- Casey Kiernan
- Jen Jacobs
Photos By Joe Bailey
Photos By Jaleesa Koevoet