Perennial favorites Pacific Wave clinched the Northwest Oakley Surf Shop Challenge regional title yet again this weekend in knee-to-waist-high wind swell, at Pleasure Point on the east side of Santa Cruz, California. Teams, from Santa Barbara to Half Moon Bay, commenced for the lackluster surf including a handful of local legends such as Pete Mel surfing for Freeline Design Surf Shop and Adam Replogle representing Santa Cruz Billabong Surf Shop. For their win, the four-man Pacific Wave team earned an all-expense-paid trip to Southern California this fall to compete against six other regional finalists from North Carolina, New Jersey, Southern California, Florida and Hawaii for the National Championship.
Two shops, Norcal Surf Shop and O'Neill Surf Shop, emerged from the heat one dogfight to garner a spot in the final. With local knowledge and newly hired team manager Darryl "Flea" Virostko standing in the tide pools coaching rippers such as Noi Kaulukukui and Ben Coffey, O'Neill had the edge from the get go. Norcal answered back with some decent scores, but it was team rider Brogie Panesi's massive floater to blow tail combo, which he whammied, that earned them a spot in the final.
The second heat was another "barn burner," as coined by contest announcer MC Ryan Buell. Pacific Wave utilized the East Side's own Austin Smith-Ford, who threw caution to the wind with his explosive fin free power surfing. Team captain Randy Bonds further helped their cause with his reliable backhand attack, putting Pacific Wave into the finals along with new comers Berdels, which recently opened in downtown Santa Cruz.
The first half of the final saw a flurry of sets as the tide pushed in. Despite putting up some decent scores, O'Neill Surf Shop and NorCal Surf Shop couldn't keep pace with Berdels and Pacific Wave. Pacific Wave's Smith-Ford whammied a 7.10, putting together a series of searing layback gouges punctuated with a hard bank off the end section to put Berdels on the ropes. At the end it came down to Berdels' shop owner and team manager Bubb Radar, who only needed a low 3 in the dying minutes, but the ocean didn't cooperate, handing the title back over to Pacific Wave.
Pacific Wave rider Willie Eagleton was pumped at another chance to represent Santa Cruz and Pacific Wave at the National Championships. "The whole day was so much fun. Surfing can be a really selfish and individual sport, but when you compete in a team format, it makes you have to think like a team. If you miss your chance, you have to make sure to barge back to shore to give your other teammates a shot. So there's a lot of cooperation happening, and it feels great to accomplish this win with good friends. I'm proud of our team and big props to Oakley for putting on such a cool event!"
1 - Pacific Wave (29.1)
2 - Berdels (26.05)
3 - O'Neill Surf Shop (17.2)
4 - Norcal Surf Shop (16.6)
The 2016 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge heads south for the West regional at 54th or 56th Street in Newport Beach, Calif. on June 3.