Episode 48

Who Moves On? Cigar Smoking World Championships 2021 U.S. Semifinals

How long can you make a cigar last? Watch cigar smokers go head to head in the U.S. Semifinals of the Cigar Smoking World Championship (CSWC). Coined the Slowest Race on Earth, this international competition is all about “slow smoking” cigars. Contenders talk smoking strategies with Box Press Podcast Host Rob Gagner at Club Leaf & Bean, a private cigar club just south of Pittsburgh, PA.

In 2021, 13 qualifying rounds were held at smoke clubs and lounges across the U.S. There were qualifying events in more than 30 countries. The winner from each country attended the grand finale in Split, Croatia, in September 2021.

A well-humidified cigar burns more slowly and evenly. Extend your own smoking experience by storing cigars in your humidor with Boveda, a global partner of CSWC. Boveda is the maker of 2-way humidity control for cigars, easy seasoning for wood humidors, humidor bags and one-step hygrometer calibration kits.

Shop for Boveda here.

Slow and Low—Cigar Smoking World Championships

Watch BOTL Versus SOTL, Rob Gagner Competes Against Ben Wills 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPYyQsJ8yOc


Do YOU Have What It Takes To Be A Cigar Smoking World Champion?! 

Find out how to compete in CSWC from Founder and CEO Marko Bilic and Boveda’s Benny Patock 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB4sB84MUrU&t=2s


Learn more about CSWC here.

Transcript
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- [Rob Gagner, Boveda] It's a competition that takes time,

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(blues music)

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patience,

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(blues music)

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and a steady hand,

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(blues music)

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and intense focus.

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The slower you smoke,

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(blues music)

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the better off you'll do.

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(blues music)

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Welcome to the slowest race on Earth-

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the 2021 Cigar Smoking World Championships.

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For this episode of Box Press,

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we visit Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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And our first stop was at Club Leaf & Bean

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where they're putting on the U.S. Semifinals.

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Now slow smoking a cigar is usually a sign of someone trying

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to appreciate the flavors and complexity of a stick.

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But here, they're competing to see

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how slow they can smoke the cigar

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and also not incur penalties like breaking your ash

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and burning your cigar ring.

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At first mention, it sounds outrageous, but it is real.

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The smoker who takes the longest

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to finish their cigar is the winner.

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- [Fred] I didn't make fun of it, but I'm just like, okay,

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this is just kind of weird. Like we understand longest ash,

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but this was just like, okay, how slow can I go?

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But then the more you get into it you start thinking,

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well, what is that time? Should I puff every minute?

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Every two minutes? Every three minutes?

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- [CHRIS] It's not normal. You're not sitting down with a drink

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and a cigar. You're paying attention to your ash,

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you're paying attention to is the thing lit.

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On paper you look at it and you're like,

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hey, you know, this sounds pretty simple.

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And then you go to do it and you're like,

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it's a lot harder than you thought.

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- [John] I saw somebody do three hours

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and I guess that was the world champion last year

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or something. And I was like, I don't know how

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you get three hours out of one of these cigars.

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- [Chris] How the hell do you get three hours out of this cigar?

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That's I mean, without going out?

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- [Fred] This is crazy small. When you start talking about,

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you know, how slow can you smoke it.

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The guys that are doing two and a half hours,

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they're in a different world. They somehow have just,

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you know, and I think it's skill

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and I think there's going to be some luck.

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- [Joel] I got one to an hour and a half the other day,

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but the first two matches did not light it.

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- I have noticed some of them just go out without warning.

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- [Fred] This just went out because I was talking.

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This just went out. There you go. I'm out.

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- [Boveda Rob] (laughs) You were actually

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keeping it going pretty well.

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- [Fred] I thought I was, but I wasn't paying,

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I wasn't really watching the heat or anything

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like that, but yeah, you can lose it in a second.

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The one I just had was the first one that went out on me

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before the 40-minute mark, you know, before getting the ash,

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that's the first one that went out.

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So now that just scared me

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for tomorrow. Thank you very much.

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- [John] I practiced a couple of times for the event. Not too much.

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I've been smoking cigars so long now.

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I feel like I've been training my whole life.

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So practicing the match and you know,

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trying to keep it up and straight,

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like is what I've been trying to do.

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- [Joel] I think I'm going to focus on my own cigar

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and if I have a chance to make them laugh,

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that makes them shake their cigar,

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maybe ash early, that's what I'm going to do.

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- [Chris] I think every cigar smokes a little differently.

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Sure, I'll look around just to see how everybody's doing,

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but I don't necessarily know that adjusting

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what I'm going to do would work.

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- [Fred] Anybody has a chance at this.

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I think any average person that's smoking a couple of cigars

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a week should absolutely just do it for the fun of it

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and try it and see how it goes.

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And you can be really good at it.

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You might get lucky, but yeah,

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I actually think it'll take off.

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I think when people understand it and they get past this,

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oh, it's a World Cigar Smoking Championship.

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It sounds intimidating and in reality,

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anybody, anybody could win.

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You get one minute to cut and light your cigar

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and you get two matches. After one minute,

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you can no longer cut it, you can no longer touch it up,

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you can't light it, you can't do anything else. Obviously,

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if the cigar goes out, you're out

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of the contest at that point.

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- [CSWC Announcer] We are going to start the clock

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and you will have one minute, two matches.

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Mark, go ahead. Start the clock. Guys, good luck.

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Cigar Smoking World Championship 2021 underway.

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You've got that cigar. Get them lit.

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Five minutes, no talking please.

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- [Fred] The next one is really the dealing with the ash.

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So you can't drop the ash for 41 minutes.

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At the 41-minute mark, you can now ash

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the cigar without any penalty.

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When you get all the way down to the band,

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you cannot burn the band. If you burn the band,

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it's a penalty and it's a significant penalty

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and it could make the difference

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with some guys I've seen on some

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of the qualifiers where it took a guy from second down

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to sixth because he tried to push it through it.

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I have a good construction, and everything's going good,

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and the environment is good, then it's not too bad.

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You just hold steady and a lot of people

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will just hold it up like this and they hold it by the band.

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And they'll just keep theirs like this

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and they'll take a puff like this.

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- [Boveda Rob] Anthony, you were the first one out. What was your time?

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- [Anthony] Um, 19 minutes.

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- [Boveda Rob] 19 minutes. How does it feel?

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- [Anthony] It feels great.

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- [Boveda Rob] Is it? (laughs) It feels great.

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So did you have any plan at all or were you just

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like, hey, as long as I make it.

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- [Anthony] I was going slow, but a little too slow.

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- [Boveda Rob] Yeah, a little too slow. I'd have to say so.

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Nice job. I hope you do it again.

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Do you think you're going to do it again?

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- [Anthony] I will.

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- [Boveda Rob] Alright. Nice.

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Second, third, fourth time, maybe smoking

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a cigar and he competed. You could do it.

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You've made it past the 40 minute mark.

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You're what? Maybe halfway to the band?

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- [Fish] Roughly speaking.

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- [Boveda Rob] Roughly. When do you think you will ash?

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- [Fish] The ash protects the burn, but at a certain point in time

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there's so much ash it restricts the airflow

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that it chokes it out.

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We're going to have that bright red in there.

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I think I'll leave it on to a degree.

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So as long as I have that red in there.

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- [Boveda Rob] Other than being by the rowdy table,

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you guys have been pretty quiet, pretty steady.

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- That's right. (background drowns out response)

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- [Boveda Rob] Exactly. Do you know

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when you think you want to ash it?

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Do you have a strategy?

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- Instincts.

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- [Boveda Rob] Instincts? Got it.

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A lot of smoke going on still.

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There's a lot of guys still left.

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A third of them are still left.

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It's anybody's game at this point.

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Are you measuring how many minutes you puff in between?

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- Yes. So actually that fell.

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- [Boveda Rob] Good. Okay.

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- So yeah, I can run the clock on how long I draw.

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- [Boveda Rob] Okay. So that's part of it?

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- Yes. It's all about math, baby.

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- [Boveda Rob] How much time do you think

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you got until you reach the band?

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- Maybe 15 minutes.

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- [Boveda Rob] Okay. We'll see.

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We'll check back in 15 minutes. See what you do.

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You went out what?

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- 110. It went out.

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- Did you band out?

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No, no. It went out.

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- [Boveda Rob] Did you nail the light?

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- Yes, I nailed the light.

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- [Boveda Rob] You got the light?

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- Yeah. I got right down to the band

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and it went out. Like, just stopped.

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That was a good cigar.

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- [Boveda Rob] Yeah?

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- Yeah. Absolutely.

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- [Boveda Rob] Did you practice before this competition?

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- I had two. I had one, I was at 53 minutes.

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Legit, it was like that far down and then went out.

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Last night, I was at 14 minutes and it went out.

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- [Boveda Rob] 14 Minutes.

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- Like a light switch it just went out.

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- [Boveda Rob] So it went out?

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- No, it's still burning. I was at the label.

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- [Boveda Rob] You were? Did you let it touch

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the label? Did it burn?

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- No, it was right at the label.

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The label started turning brown.

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He was right there. I said, I'm out.

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- [Boveda Rob] So you recorded your time at what?

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- I think it was at 105.

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- [Boveda Rob] 105? Not a bad time.

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- Not a bad time. I will practice

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and hopefully get back into next year.

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- It's out.

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- [CSWC Announcers] We have three contestants left.

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- And then there were three.

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- [Boveda Rob] Did the band get burned on the left?

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(background conversations)

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- It's over with a 15-minute penalty.

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127.51, you burned the band. 127.51. Sorry.

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- [Boveda Rob] It's down to two.

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(background conversations)

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- [Fish] (Aww)

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- [Boveda Rob] Out? 128.29

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(clapping)

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- [Boveda Rob] Thanks, Max! That was awesome.

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You came in third, but you burned the band.

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How did that happen?

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- [Kevin] I was so focused on keeping it lit,

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I lost track of the rest of the cigar.

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- [Boveda Rob] Do you think you would have called it earlier

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if you had known? Or would be you still gone for first?

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- [Boveda Rob] Yes. I think I would have went for third.

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If I knew that the guy behind me

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was way ahead, I would have called it.

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- [Boveda Rob] It happens. You can't control it always.

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So you gotta know when to do it.

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You gotta know when to fold them.

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So how does it feel to win out of 28 guys?

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- [Aaron] Exciting, very exciting.

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- We were golfing on Tuesday

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and I said, Hey, you should do this competition.

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And he said, what is it? No practice,

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he came in and won the whole thing.

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- [Boveda Rob] Wow. For tomorrow's U.S. Finals,

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what are you going to take away from this

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to get you through the finals?

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- [Aaron] Focus and slow and steady.

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- [Boveda Rob] You are very focused over here. Very focused.

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Congratulations.

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- [Aaron] Thank you very much

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- [Boveda Rob] Nice work!

(excited chanting:

AARON! AARON! AARON!)

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