The kick off event to a five part regional series of the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge took place on the north side of the New Jersey surf shrine known as Casino Pier in Seaside Heights. A total of eight teams huddled underneath the Oakley tents tuning into the 9 a.m. start time announced by event coordinator Darin Brilhart. As in previous years, Mother Ocean stirred up enough swell to make the competition a go, although a steady drizzle in a dense fog made conditions less then ideal. But what's a little fog and rain on top of a 3 to 5 foot chunky wind swell? It sure beats the heck out of being sunny and flat.
The first of two one-hour heats to paddle out in the mid and incoming tide consisted of Baroo, Heritage, Ocean Hut and Coastal Edge (the only non Jersey shop). The 2nd group of four shops included Primal Surf, Eastern Lines, 7th Street and Inlet Outlet. Each shop not only surfed against the other three in their prospective heat but also against the other four teams in the other heat since the top four totals out of both heats would advance into the final.
A noticeable change to the format this year was the addition of a fourth wave that each contestant was allowed to ride. Of those four waves only the top two scores would be counted. As customary, one rider from each team would be allocated a double whammy surfer. This signified rider would have the opportunity to claim a wave that he felt had a good score and as the "double whammy" it would be scored double. Needless to say, it's a crucial element in racking up points and can be detrimental to the team if the rider doesn't whammy the proper wave.
This occurred twice in the event. The first time was in the 2nd heat of Round One when 14 year old ripper Pat Schmidt of Inlet Outlet chose not to whammy any of his first two opening rides that had solid 7.0 scores. The local grom counted on getting higher scores on his next two waves, which did not materialize. At the heats end this left his team two points shy of advancing into the finals. A proper claim on any of his earlier rides would have easily pushed them past Ocean Hut and earned them a slot in the finals. It happens more frequent than you'd think.
The 2nd blundering whammy call occurred in the final where Coastal Edge's Lucas Rogers failed to claim any of his 7.0 plus opening rides. His closing two rides didn't come together as planned as he attempted more progressive air reverses but to no avail. His teammate Bryce Humphrey of Virginia Beach almost pulled in enough of the slack on his final two rides for the Coastal Edge team with two high scoring waves. His final ride included multiple snaps and ending in a smoothly executed reverse 360 earning him the award for Functional Creative Surfing by FCS. Unfortunately for Team Coastal Edge last years champions Heritage Surf Shop stayed on top with a consistent performance and smart double whammy claims by Captain Andrew Gesler and backed up with solid support from teammates John Barrie, Zach Humphreys and Ian Bloch. A strange note was that the standings of the teams coming out of Round One is exactly how they finished in the finals.
The series now continues on to Southern California on June 5th where last years champion Surf Ride will attempt to regain their Southwest regional title at Newport Beach. The National Championships will be held at the Huntington Pier on September 14th where the winning team will earn $10K.