SAN CLEMENTE, Calif., April 19, 2013 —The Northeast regional qualifier for the 2013 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge went down at Manasquan Inlet, New Jersey on April 16th. The competitors were greeted with warm sun and bluebird skies, however the conditions were bittersweet as the ocean struggled to hold up its end of the deal offering soft knee-to-waist-high waves. After seeing a number of scoreable waves roll through, surfers donned their 5mils and gloves and the contest quickly got underway to take advantage of a rising tide and windswell push.

7th Street Asbury (R-L): Sean Santiago, Chris Kelly, Brian Leiss, Rob Kelly. Photo: Trevor Moran

7th Street Asbury (R-L): Sean Santiago, Chris Kelly, Brian Leiss, Rob Kelly. Photo: Trevor Moran

The first heat saw teams from Elemental Surf and Skate, Surf Unlimited, and 7th Street Surf Shop compete against two teams from Heritage Surf & Sport (Margate and Sea Isle City). Heritage Margate jumped out to a quick lead compliments of a 9.0 dropped by Michael Ciaramella, which was then quickly backed up by a 7.27 from teammate Ian Bloch. Seeing a need to drop a big score, Heritage Sea Isle City whammy surfer Jamie Moran patiently waited out the back on his own peak, and was eventually rewarded when he posted an 8.33, which was doubled to secure a total just behind Heritage Margate. Despite inspired surfing from 7th Street mini grom Mikey Vanaman, Elemental’s Liam O’Regan, and Surf Unlimited’s Ryan Kelly, the conditions got the better of the surfers not giving them many opportunities to post scores in the excellent range.

Heat two was quickly dominated by 7th Street Asbury’s Rob Kelly who dropped a 9.47 for a multitude of lightning fast turns, which was doubled to yield nearly 19 points, the highest wave score of the event. Not one accustomed to losing in this event, Heritage Ocean City’s Andrew Gesler whammied a 7.97 to keep his team in contention and placing the third and final Heritage team into the final round. Inlet Outlet Surf Shop used local knowledge to take advantage of a phantom peak far away from the other competitors’ lineup, but a rising tide got the better of their plans, while Farias Surf Sport suffered a similar fate of not being able to secure one of the bowlier sections.

Having won this qualifier for four years in a row, on paper the Heritage “Dream Team” would be the quick pick to win once again. However, having split the team of Gesler, Moran, Bloch and Humphreys into their respective individual shops, the foursome knew that at best only two of them were to make it to Bali this year. That may have been the case, had it not been for underdog 7th Street Asbury’s bitter defeat last year at the same event. “For the past four years we’ve watched Heritage post photos on Facebook of their trips to California and Bali to compete at the National Championships,” said 7th Street’s Team Leader Rob Kelly. “We changed up our strategy a little bit this year,” he continued. “In the past we came in a bit over confident with a team of nearly all pros, but this year we brought on Brian Leiss as our second shop rider who we knew would fly a bit under the other teams’ radar.”

As the Final kicked off, Leiss did exactly that by locking in a 6.17 on his first wave, which was the highest score for a non-whammy surfer. This opened the door for his teammate Chris Kelly to use his team rider aggressive competitive skills, and out maneuver the three Heritage teams in the water. Chris sneaked away from the intimidating Andrew Gesler to pick up 7.77 and leave his brother Rob plenty of time in the line up to seal the victory. However, due to a possible mental misstep, Rob whammied his first wave which turned out to only be a 5.87, leaving the door wide open for the three Heritage teams’ whammy surfers. Despite a 6.7 from Ciaramella, 7.77 by Gesler, and some last minute drama provided by Moran’s 8.27, all three teams were needing scores above 5 from their final surfers. 7th Streets Sean Santiago played a fierce game of defense, patrolling the lineup like a shark and alternating sitting on Heritage team members as time clicked away. After locking in a mid range score, Santiago headed back to the beach leaving the Heritage teams searching for their scores well after the final horn.

“It’s great to be on the other side of the fence this year,” said Kelly citing the team’s success on taking the event more seriously, hosting a week of practice sessions in full contest format at their local break in Ocean City, NJ. Being the only member of his team to have ever visited Indo, Rob was excited to get back and surf some of the breaks he only had a quick taste of in the past. However, in the true spirit of the event, Rob admitted he was most stoked to just get to do what most people won’t have the chance to do and watch a WCT event from just a few feet away. “Just to be able to watch the CT guys compete at one of the world’s best waves, that’s going to be pretty awesome.”

7th Street will meet six other teams in Bali in June. The Northwest regional is being decided today at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, Calif. For all of the latest information including photos, video footage, results and more, check out surfshopchallenge.com and surfteamchallenge.com.

Special thanks to Oakley, SURFER Magazine and other event partners, Bubble Gum Surf Wax, Futures Fins, New Era, SOL REPUBLIC, and Waterman’s Sunscreen for their support, without which the Surf Shop Challenge series would not be possible.

Final Results:
1. 7th Street Surf Shop – Asbury (31.25 pts)
2. Heritage Surf & Sport – Margate (24.93 pts)
3. Heritage Surf & Sport – Ocean City (22.84 pts)
4. Heritage Surf & Sport – Sea Isle City (21.21 pts)

2013 OSSC and OHSSTC Schedule:

• April 5-6 – Southwest – Seaside Reef, Cardiff, Calif. *
• April 9-10 – Southeast – Ponce Inlet, Fla.
• April 12-13 – Mid-Atlantic – Nags Head, Outer Banks, NC
• April 15-16 – Northeast – Manasquan Inlet, Manasquan, NJ
• April 19 – Northwest – Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, Calif.
• May 10 – Hawaii – Ala Moana Bowl, South Shore, Haw.
• May 31-June 1 – West – 54th/56th Street – Newport Beach, Calif. *
• June 17-22 – National Championship – Keramas/Canggu, Bali, Indo.