Sam Kepa Awai, a Waimea Middle School student, holds the buckle he won in the junior bull riding competition at the High School Hawaii Island district finals. (PHOTO COURTESY OF WMS FOR NHN)
Sam Kepa Awai, a Waimea Middle School student, displays his form in the junior bull riding competition at the Hawaii High School Rodeo Association, Hawaii Island district finals on Saturday, May 4, in Waimea. PHOTO BY JOCK GOODMAN | SPECIAL TO NHN
Sam “Kepa” Awai, a Waimea Middle School eighth grade student, brought home the gold — a flashy large gold buckle, that is — this past weekend by winning his bull riding event at the Hawaii High School Rodeo Association District Championship. Awai will travel with his family to Honolulu this weekend to compete in the Hawaii High School Rodeo State Championships.
Wearing a padded vest, chaps, boots with spurs, gloves and a helmet, Awai admits that the eight-second ride “seems like 30 seconds” when on the back of a full size bull, hanging on with nothing more than a single rope.
To win the district championship, “Kepa” had to compete in high school rodeos for the past six months, usually riding two bulls at each of the monthly competitions. This past weekend, the district finals only required one ride, bringing his total for the year to 13 bull rides.
What was he thinking as he flew out of the shoot each of those 13 times on the back of an agitated bull?
“I challenged myself to do even better each time – and to really hang on,” he said.
Awai, who has been bull riding since fourth grade, was introduced to rodeo by his mother, a former competitor in barrel racing at local rodeos.