The surfing beach of “Makka” in the community of Southaven, Yallahs in St. Thomas, was the epicenter of the Caribbean’s surfing community as it played host to the 2014 Makka Pro. Jamaican junior phenomenon, Elishama “Shama” Beckford, thrilled the thousands of spectators as he surfed his way to victory in both the junior and open divisions and earning for himself $150,000.00 in the process.
As usual the waves were excellent for the two day championships, as a low pressure trough sat out in the central Caribbean and pumped 5’-8’ wavesl straight at the island’s southeast coast and rolling down the left hand point at Makka Beach. The international judging panel was made up of head judge Elvis Carter (BAR), and ISA accredited judges, Jason Kistoo (BAR), Dominic Besson (T&T) Eugene Miller (JAM), and Kenny Augier (JAM).
Day 1 saw the first and second rounds of the open division which unusually, saw one of the lowest international entry turnouts since the first event in 2007. When asked about this, Jamaica Surfing Association (JSA) President Anthony “Billy” Wilmot jokingly responded saying “… I think that now our local surfers are performing at such a high standard, the prize money isn’t so easy to come by for visiting competitors. You have to remember that last year the top spots in all three divisions were taken by local surfers and that sends a clear message to surfers around the region that it won’t be easy to come to Jamaica and strut away with the cash!”
By the end of the first day’s heats, all the top surfers had made their statements on the waves and were ready for the money rounds first thing Sunday morning.
The Sunday kicked off with the open division quarterfinals. The 4 heats were conducted using the man-on-man format or 2 man heats. The first heat of the round saw last year’s runner up Ackeam “Bobs” Phillips face off against the young “in-form” Elishama Beckford. They paddled out for the 20 minute heat in front of the steadily building crowd on the beach. Shama was determined to change last year’s result and scored 12.63 with a 5.83 and a 6.80 which proved too much Bobs 7.9 from a 4.17 and a 3.73.
Quarter number 2 featured Inilek Wilmot against T&T’s Justin Tang. It was a much higher scoring heat but the Jamaican imposed his dominance on the heat with a 6.83 and a 6.00 for a 12.83 total which was out of reach for Justin who scored 9.13 with a 4.80 and a 4.33.
Quarter 3 was another scorcher, seeing two of the island’s top juniors in the persons of Garren “Nick” Pryce and Ivah Wilmot. Nick relied on his power game which had served him well in the earlier rounds and scored an 8.00 and a 6.17 for 14.17 which was untouchable for Ivah’s 11.67 from his 6.10 and 5.57.
The final heat of the open division quarter finals featured defending champion Icah Wilmot up against T&T’s Luc Barcant. Icah had his way with the low scoring heat by scoring a 5.50 and a 4.30 for a 9.8 total. Luc’s 1.83 and 1.47 for his 3.30 total saw him being eliminated in equal 5th place along with Ivah, Justin and Ackeam.
Next up was the junior semifinals. Seven juniors faced off in the 2 heats. The first was a 3 man affair between Nick Pryce, Armani Green and Ronald Hastings. They rode 14 waves with Ronald nabbing 7 of them for his 8.53 total but that was not enough as Garren put on an impressive performance scoring a 12.67 total. Armani put up a valiant showing but his 6.00 was not enough to make the final and had to settle for equal 5th as Ronald and Nick advanced.
Semi 2 had Shama Beckford, Ivah Wilmot, Nathan Miller and Shatwain Wright paddling out for the 20 minutes that would see 2 advance and 2 eliminated. Shama took control of the heat with solid wave selection giving him 12.63 from a 6.67 and a 5.97. Ivah joined Shama in the final by putting daylight between him and the other two with a 7.43 from a 4.27 and a 3.17. Shatwain’s 5.37 and Nathan’s 4.43 totals gave them equal 5th and 7th results respectively.
There was a 20 minute break and then the open semifinals were up. The first was Inilek against Shama for 20 minutes. Inilek’s stylish surfing and heat total of 7.50 was just not enough. He had a 6.17 but only a 1.33 for backup. Shama got himself a 7.50 and a 5.77 for a 13.43 ticket to the final!
The second semifinal was Icah against Nick. Tension was high as the 2 renowned local surfers paddled out. Nick had been on form all day but facing his teacher in the semifinal in a 2 man heat seemed to be more than he was ready for. Icah posted a total heat score of 15.00 with a 6.33 and an 8.67 belittling Nick’s 11.00 from a 5.67 and a 5.33 as he advanced to meet Shama in the final.
The first final of the event was the junior under 21 final. It was a 4-man heat which had Shama, Nick, Ivah, and Ronald against each other for 30 minutes. It was action packed with the boys catching an incredible 34 waves. The lead bounced around between the surfers after each exchange of rides that had the crowd on the beach cheering loudly for their favorites. As the horn for the end of the heat sounded the judge’s scores confirmed what the spectators had already decided for themselves. Elishama Beckford had taken the2014 Makka Pro junior title with 13.00 points. Second was Nick with 12.10, Ivah third with 10.57and Ronald fourth with 6.50
There was then a half hour break before the women took the water. Five ladies paddled out for the cash. US entrants Zoe Bonnick and Eden Lang took on defending Makka Pro women’s champ Elim Beckford and her sister Esther as well as former Makka Pro champ Imani Wilmot. The girls caught 16 waves between them in the 30 minute final. The American girls showed their class and capitalized on the waves on offer and Zoe scored an impressive 14.67 points to win. Eden took second with 8.3 points, just ahead of Elim in third who scored 6.1 points. High drama unfolded in the heat however, as daughter of JSA President fell on a wave and hit her head requiring assistance from surfers who rushed to her aid in the pounding surf along the coast. Despite her ordeal, the 4.43 she scored in the beginning of the heat was enough to get her 4th place ahead of Esther who finished 5th.
Next up was the heat all had been waiting for, the open division final. Jamaica’s most famous surfer Icah Wilmot would face his undergraduate Shama Beckford for the right to be called 2014 Makka Pro Open Champion. The heat started and everyone present had their eyes focused out at the surf, and they were entertained with the most exciting heat of the day. Icah started out strongly with a 6.00. The youngster initially was shaky getting a couple of 1’s before he found a 5.00. When Icah got a 5.50 of his own, Shama was on the back foot. Time was ticking down as both surfers caught waves that didn’t affect the situation. Then with a few minutes to go, Shama latched onto a beautiful set wave and ripped it to the beach for a 7.00 making a 12.00 total. Icah’s 11.50 score was suddenly insufficient for a win and he began desperately hunting a 6.10 to regain the lead and repeat his 2013 victory. But it was not to be. Icah found a great wave and at a crucial point lost his footing and went down. Not much later the final horn sounded and the 2014 Makka Pro was in the history books and there was a new Champion… Elishama Beckford!
Shama was hoisted onto the podium for the prize giving ceremony where he received the Makka Pro Trophy and a check for $100,000.00. He then collected the Junior Trophy as well as the $50,000.00 on offer for that division. Zoe collected her Trophy for the women’s division but donated her winning check to the JSA to support the junior development program.
The JSA would like to acknowledge that the 2014 Makka Pro was made possible by sponsorship support from the Sports Development Foundation, the Jamaica Tourist Board, Sun City FM, News Talk FM, Southaven Citizens Association, Millennium Paving Stones Ltd., Jamnesia Surf Club and Dekal Wireless.