CARLSBAD, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016 - Recently, the world-famous Lower Trestles played host to the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge National Championship with seven regional champions competing from their respective areas: Surf Ride (Southwest), Sweetwater Surf Shop (Mid-Atlantic), Town & Country Surf Factory (Hawaii), Heritage Surf & Sport (Northeast), Quiet Flight Surfboards (Southeast), Pacific Wave (Northwest), and Huntington Surf & Sport (West). Each four man team, consisting of two shop pros and two shop employees, not only battled for the team win, but also two individual competitions, one amongst shop pros and one amongst shop employees. Huntington Surf & Sport took home the prestigious team title, led by Brett Simpson who earned the individual pro title, and Quiet Flight's Jeremy Johnston earned the individual shop employee title.
With a nice, little combo swell, San Clemente's cobblestone skatepark did not disappoint on the first day of competition, delivering clean, waist- to shoulder-high waves for those competitors lucky enough to surf this lineup with only a few others out. From the get go, Surf Ride was on fire, netting 41.25 points during the opening round, one of the highest single heat scores the Surf Shop Challenge has ever seen. The rest of the teams were baffled, even leaving former World Tour surfer C.J. Hobgood of Quiet Flight with his hands above his head in disbelief. As Round 2 came to a close, it was clear that Surf Ride (72.1 combined total) would be the team to beat, followed by Pacific Wave (63.71), Huntington Surf & Sport (61.57), and Quiet Flight (56.93) who would meet them in the final.
The final day saw a dropping swell and foggy conditions in the morning, but still fun Lowers nonetheless. The individual heat draw would wrap up first, starting with the shop employee final, which saw both of Surf Ride's employees, Brent Reilly and Chris Murnane, meeting Willie Eagleton (Pacific Wave) and Jeremy Johnston (Quiet Flight) when the buzzer went off. A hard-fought battle between the shop guys went down, but it was Jeremy Johnston's attack on the left that would take home the win. As the pro final entered the water, it was clear to see the fireworks were about to go off. Two ex-World Tour surfers, Brett Simpson (HSS) and C.J. Hobgood (Quiet Flight), looked poised to do battle, as did two of Santa Cruz's best, Austin Smith-Ford and Randy Bonds of Pacific Wave. The final did not disappoint with carves, airs, and blow tails flaring in every direction. In the end, Simpo would edge out Hobgood and take home the bragging rights.
As the fog bank continued to roll through, the final of the Surf Shop Challenge made its way out into the lineup. The teams surfed it out in the relay format, whammying scores and battling back and forth. With eyes on Surf Ride, all of the teams knew it would take a solid final score for the top. Huntington Surf & Sport, led by Brett Simpson and Brad Ettinger, found their rhythm in the Lowers lineup. Backed up by Jake Saenz and Johnathon Ross, Huntington Surf & Sport closed the final with 35.8 points and hoisted the Surf Shop Challenge Cup proudly above their heads. Surf Ride (33.77) came in second, followed by Pacific Wave (30.84), and Quiet Flight (27.92). At the end of the day, all of the competitors got to surf Lower Trestles with just a few others out. We'll chalk that up as a win-win for everybody.
Special thanks to Oakley, SURFER and event partners, Futures Fins, GoPro, Xcel Wetsuits, JS Industries and Official Forecaster Surfline.com for their support, without which the Surf Shop Challenge series would not be possible.