The second stop of the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge series came to Seaside Heights, New Jersey to host the Northeast regional qualifier. The marine layer haze, typical during the spring when warm air meets the still frigid Jersey waters, kept the wind down and conditions clean to start the day. Moderate South swell had peaked over night leaving consistent head high peaks up and down the beach. With water temps hovering around 44 degrees, eight teams struggled into their 5-mil hooded suits and vied for an all expense paid trip to California with the chance to win $10,000 at the national finals come fall.
The first semi final was dominated by Heritage Surf and Sport #2, lead by Chris Eaves, posting an impressive 23.66 despite only having three surfers. Semi two was taken by defending regional champs Heritage Team #1, which benefited from consistent surfing by all four members without the need for a true star to support the others. Team 7th Street also advanced thanks to Jim Gray, who needed a mere 1.1 score, managed to catch a wave at the last minute to post a 1.7 with just enough time left to run back to his team's tent before the horn, securing the 4th seed into the final.
Air temperatures dropped from a comfortable 60 degrees towards a brisk 40 as a Northeast wind flow paired with a dropping tide to make for more difficult conditions. A sweeping current dragged surfers South to North through a variety of rip currents and dumping sections, and eventually through the infamous Casino Pier, resulting in more than one competitor having to navigate the maze of pilings mid-heat.
Team 7th Street jumped out to an early and commanding lead when their second surfer, Rob Kelly, managed a reeling right hander on which he completed three turns before finishing off a closeout section with a floater. As the Double Whammy surfer, he turned his contest-high 8.0 into 16 points, supported by a quick inside barrel by their first surfer Josh Wilson. Ian Bloch, skipping his college business classes for the day, had a strong showing as Heritage #1's first rider giving them a quick six points, while Tommy Inkhen and Kyle Abel kept Bare Wire and Heritage #2 in close chase.
As the tide bottomed out, Jamie Moran, Clay Pollioni, Chris Howard, Brendan Buckley and Ryan Daly all struggled to find significant scores as promising peaks quickly turned into shallow closeouts. A lull in the action lasting the better of 20 minutes was abruptly broken up when, after two failed frontside air attempts, Andrew Gesler of Heritage #1 stuck a hairy drop into a folding head high wave and narrowly pulled a unmakeable floater, earning a 6.83 which he whammied. Gesler later reflected, "I hesitated dropping in on that last one. I shouldn't have gone on my first wave, and just mistimed the section on my second, so I knew if my third wasn't a solid score we would have been done. Luckily I got into it just in time to get my feet set and pull something to leave the door open for us."
Their lead was short lived when Bare Wire's final surfer PJ Raia found one of the rare air sections and doubled up a 5.93 giving them a slight lead with no more waves to add to their tally for the last third of the heat. With three teams left in the lineup, Zack Humphreys patiently waited, then pulled off four controlled turns on his first wave yielding a 5.63, recapturing the lead for Heritage #1 and allowing him to paddle back out and put his highly trained competitive skill set to use. With Zack patrolling the lineup right by their side for the last ten minutes, both 7th Street's Brian Williams and Jim Gray had difficulty finding a scoreable wave to add to Rob Kelly's early 16 points. Mathematically, Heritage #2 still had a chance at winning as Chris Eaves sat out the back by himself patiently waiting for a wave that would allow him to double a 9.0+ in the closing seconds of the contest. With barely enough time to make it back to his tent, Eaves stood up on one of the rare bowling lefts that raced southward and despite a solid frontside hack, he lost his footing forcing him to return to the lineup searching for a high score through the final horn.
Heritage Surf and Sport will be heading back to California this September as the representatives for the Northeast in the Surf Shop Challenge finals for the fourth year in a row. Jamie Moran described it, "Oakley always makes that an awesome trip, so I'm definitely stoked to go back for the third year now. It's been disappointing to come home empty handed though, and with this year's prizes in addition to the money there is some extra motivation. We've realized there is no reason we should go out there with any other intention but to win." Over the next six months, all four members of Heritage plan on resuming a vigorous team training program that they hope will provide them with superior endurance and agility giving them a leg up on their national competition regardless of the quality of waves greeting them in Huntington.