The crowded erupted in applause. “Yes!” “That was epic!” “Yeah!” they exclaimed. No, this wasn’t the reaction to a 10-point ride or some unheard-of maneuver. This was the unanimous refrain when a member of the opposing team fell, bogged a turn, or missed a section. Unlike your average surf contest, the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge brings out competition’s most fervent, boisterous anti-support.
Fuelled by friendly rivalry, the fourth event of the 2010 Surf Shop Challenge Tour brought the best surf shop teams in Orange County together to do battle for the title of Best in the West. On the overcast, shoulder-high Friday morning at 54th Street in Newport Beach, seven teams—Huntington Surf and Sport, Jack’s Surfboards, Laguna Surf and Sport, The Frog House, Surfside Sports, Katin Surf Shop, and Spyder—showed up with two pro team riders and two surf shop employees ready to dominate the tag-team format event. (Jack’s and Katin were so intent on winning they even chose to pull in ringers from Hawaii in the form of John John Florence and Tyler Newton, respectively, who happened to be in town for the Arnette Pro Junior the following day).
Round One consisted of two heats, of which the top four teams overall would earn a slot in the final. Of the first-round standouts, Tyler Newton, Teddy Navarro, Shaun Ward all put on impressive performances, and Frog House’s Richie Collins proved that Newport’s not just an arena for the young aerialists, as he instantly slotted himself in a barrel unlike any that had been seen all morning.
As Round One drew to a close and the local rivalries reached full volume, three teams remained on the bubble for finals’ qualification. With five minutes left on the clock, Jason Watson of Laguna Surf and Sport needed just a mediocre wave to bump HSS from the final. In the dying moments, he snagged a mid-size set and made it back to the tent before time was called, but in the end, Laguna came in just a tenth of a point short, allowing HSS the slot in the final.
HSS joined their archrival Jack’s, as well as Surfside and Katin, in the Orange County showdown final. The heat kicked off with an on-fire Shaun Ward who immediately set the bar, taking off on the lefts and earning Jack’s a 13.44 two-wave total, the highest score of the day for a non-whammy-rider.
After Ward’s opening performance, it seemed Jack’s had it in the bag until the team’s whammy rider, John Florence, finished off three waves without throwing up his arms to double his score, making his final wave a mandatory whammy wave. To the dismay of his team members, the final wave offered little scoring potential, earning him a meager 1.2 points. Doubled, his whammy score was less than his back-up wave of a 2.8, meaning that his double-whammy didn’t even count toward the team’s total score. This left the competition once again open to any of the final teams.
It was Surfside’s Chase Wilson, who picked up where Shaun left off, whammying a 6.2-point air, and putting Surfside back in contention. But with 20 minutes remaining, Jack’s still held the lead, until HSS’s whammy surfer Christian Saenz paddled out and blew up, taking home a grand total of 18.6 points and the lead. In a true race to the end, Victor Done brought Surfside back in the mix with 6.7-point backhand snap in the pocket. In a true to-the-buzzer final, in the final five minutes all teams were within striking distance of the win, each team needed just one mediocre score to take the win.
As the clock ticked down, Jake Saenz from HSS got the wave he needed to take the win, but wasn’t able to make it back to the tent before the horn blew and were subsequently given a 5-point deduction, leaving Jack’s victorious after all.
“I’ve never surfed in a format like this—it’s definitely harder, but it was a fun contest though for sure,” says Jack’s whammy rider, John Florence. “I ride for Jack’s and they called me a couple days ago and asked me if I want to be on their team. I didn’t really have a strategy; I just paddled out there and tried to get lucky. It didn’t really work out for me in my heat, but it all turned out okay in the end.”
For their win, the Jack’s team took home Firewire surfboards, custom Buell wetsuits, a full-page SURFER ad, gear from Oakley, a month’s supply of Muscle Milk, and an invite to the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge National Championships in Huntington Beach, CA, on September 13, 2010.
1. Jack’s Surfboards (Shaun Ward, John Florence*, Clay Crandal, Bobby Okvist)
2. Huntington Surf and Sport (Bryan Van Arsdale, Derek Peters, Christian Saenz*, Jake Saenz)
3. Surfside (Nick Skawinski, Chase Wilson*, Ryan Lopiccoll, Victor Done)
4. Katin (Teddy Navarro, Kyle McGeary, Alex Gullett, Tyler Newton*)