SAN CLEMENTE, Calif., Aug. 17, 2012 – New Smyrna Beach was once again the playground for this year's prestigious Oakley Surf Shop Challenge presented by SURFER Magazine. When it was all said and done, Sunrise Surf Shop had claimed the Southeast Regional Title for the fourth consecutive year, earning an expense-paid trip to Bali, courtesy of Oakley, for the Championship event in October.
A lack luster hurricane season for the East Coast so far, topped with a bleak event forecast for the two-day waiting period, had contest organizers and contestants all on edge. But if there was going to be surf anywhere in Florida during the peak of summertime, it would be the Inlet at New Smyrna Beach.
Nine teams from Jacksonville to Deerfield Beach brought two pros and two shop employees each to the table in hopes of gaining bragging rights to this year's best surf shop in the Southeast. Even more so was the opportunity to score a free expense-paid trip to Bali for the final Oakley Surf Shop Challenge championship event.
As the opening horn blew, five lead off surfers charged out into the lineup. First up was Maui Nix’s featherweight Eros Exarhou who busted out an impressive air that was awarded with hoots. Soon after Sunrise Surf Shop veteran Asher Nolan went left and speed snapped an approaching section scoring him a 6.33. It was evident that the groms weren’t going to be out done as Red Dog’s Noah Schweizer screamed down a walling right and pulled off a sick air reverse awarding him the event's highest individual score of 8.67. Maui Nix’s Luke Marx made the surf actually look sizable next to his small frame and was able to milk out a 5.67 on a winding righthander. Four time SE Champions Team Sunrise’s Ryan Briggs double whammied 5.87 which was backed up by his teammate Dane Jeffreys who tallied a legit 5.1 putting the Jax boys to the top of Heat One, Round One. New Smyrna’s own Red Dog Surf Shop followed in second.
Next round in the water had some of the big boys ripping the small stuff as Surf Station’s Gabe Kling whammied a 7.1. IWS’s Scott Posner showed he wasn’t screwing around as he snapped apart a righthander awarding him the heats highest score of a 7.33. His teammate and whammy holder Tanner Strohmenger passed on doubling his 6.0 score and was forced to take his next ride of a 4.87 to the bank. Quiet Flights only decent score was earned by whammy surfer Daniel Glenn who nailed a 6.73.
It was Aqua East’s Shane Murray who knocked Red Dog out of the fourth-place position of Round One when he, only needing a 4.0 to advance into the final round, pulled a 5.83 on his 2nd wave. This backed up his teammate Brent Lamprecht’s whammy score of 6.33. Shane’s score actually propelled his team into third overall in Round One passing Island Water Sports who managed to hang onto the fourth-place overall finish. In Round One, fourth-place overall was as good as first since you still get to advance into the final.
The Final had everyone wondering if the 4X SE Champs and former National Champions Sunrise Surf Shop would repeat their dominance. IWS’s Cheyne Cottrell didn’t want to see history repeat itself as he bucketed a 6.17 followed by his teammate Tanner Strohmengers double whammy 6.83. Sunrise’s opening man G-Rat raised a 4.17 then to much surprise their whammy surfer Asher Nolan passed on a 7.0 but still managed a respectable 6.5 to double. Teammate Briggs threw away his 6.5, feeling he could do better and eventually pulled out a 7.77 as his high score.
It all came down to the battle between IWS final team rider Stevie Andrews and Sunrise’s Dane Jefferys. It was evident that Dane sweeps up more than the shop floor as the clean up surfer secured a 5.8 on a nice righthander with a super stylish cutty. He then obviously knew his strategy as he kept close to a wave starved Andrews. Near the final minutes Andrews, needing a within reach 6.35 was able to nab a righthander and do it justice but still fell short with his 5.03.
Without a doubt the Sunrise Team remains a dominant force in the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge on all levels both locally and nationally. Add in the fact that the final event will be held at what Asher Nolan declares Keramas as his favorite wave in the world, my money is on this team to bring back another National Title.
The next stop on the 2012 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge is in the Northwest Regional Aug. 31 at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, Calif. It's the final stop of seven on the regional tour, which culminates in Bali on October 6.