The conditions may not have been all that pretty, but then neither is life as a surf shop employee, so the fit was perfect for the Southwest Qualifier of the Quiksilver Surf Shop Challenge presented by SURFER Magazine. Held on June 10, 2004 at Newport’s famed 56th Street, 18 surf shop teams (72 surfers in all) from San Diego and Orange County battled it out in overhead, crossed up lumps, hoping to be the team lucky enough to win a berth in the main event: a four team blow-out, worth $10,000 to the winning team, slated for the 2004 Boost Mobile Pro presented by Quiksilver in September.
Drawing inspiration from the classic SURFER Surf Shop Challenges of old, this year Quiksilver got behind the event breathing new life to the classic contest series. The Surf Shop Challenge is a chance for shop owners, managers and rats to buck up and put their money where their mouth is. As Quiksilver’s Chad Wells remarks, “Everybody spends all year talkin’ the talk, this a chance for them to walk the walk.”
And walk the walk they did. With strong rivalries already imbedded, from the opening heat on there was no shortage of tension, trash talking and trickery. Each heat saw five teams (one surfer per team in the water at a time, tag-team rotation) duke it out in filthy 56th Street. In Round 1′s first heat arch rivals Surfside Sports and the Frog House had to contend with one another, along with Huntington Surf and Sport (HSS), The Closet, Main Street Surf and Wavelines. The star studded HSS team looked sharp, and with the likes of Danny Nicoles and Shaun Ward anchoring their team they cruised through into Round 2. And as luck would have it, Surfside Sports and the Frog House both advanced together as well.
The second heat of Round 1 also saw quite the rivalry as Orange County’s Killer Dana and Laguna Surf and Sport faced off for the first of what would be three meetings. And in the same heat, on the San Diego side, Emerald City, K-5 Boardshop and Surfride all got a chance to test their metal. Without a sworn enemy, Beachcombers was the lone wolf of the heat, but that didn’t stop them from advancing, as did combatants Killer Dana and Laguna Surf and Sport.
And while the rivalries may not have been as severe in the first two heats of Round 1, the level of competition in Heat 3 was just as high. But plagued by a draining low tide it was one of the more difficult heats of the day. South Coast’s Parker McNaughton commented, “It’s really hard out there right now. The smaller ones are breaking in six inches of water, and when those big sets come through it’s almost impossible to find a corner.”
Because only the top 10 highest scoring teams advance out of Round 1 Sundiego was the only team to squeak out of Heat 3. Sending South Coast, BC Surf, Encinitas Surfboards, Jack’s Surf Shop and Boardrider Laguna back to the drawing board until next year. The stage was now set for the semis.
Semi 1 was an all Orange County affair. Killer Dana, Laguna Surf and Sport, the Frog House, HSS and Surfside Sports were all thrown into the mix. “I don’t care how we do as long as we beat Surfside,” said the Frog House’s Logan Dulien with a laugh. “We could finish second to last, but as long as those guys are behind us I’m stoked.”
As the tide bottomed out the boys battled on. HSS’ Danny Nicoles got stuck in a rip and lost at sea for awhile, which resulted in less surf time for the rest of his comrades. But it’s hard to say if that really would have made the difference. Both Laguna Surf and Sport and Killer Dana were on it. Laguna’s Bron Heussenstamm led his team through to the finals with two high scoring rides. “It’s tricky out there, but you just gotta put it together for the team,” he commented.
And the Frog House/Surfride rivalry paid off, as did Killer Dana and Laguna Surf and Sport’s, all four teams made it through to the finals, leaving last year’s defending champs HSS out in the cold. There was but one slot for left, and Sun Diego claimed it in the second semi as long lulls and stiff west winds continued to make things difficult in the lineup.
So the Final was locked in: Killer Dana, Laguna Surf and Sport, Sundiego, the Frog House and Surfside. With nobody to banter back and forth with Sundiego’s team was quite and focused on the task at hand. Other than that it was a battle of the rivalries. The Frog House’s Dave Giddings played mind games with Surfside, “There’s just no way you guys can win—it isn’t possible. No way!” While Killer Dana’s Chris Drummy made it a point to pester Laguna’s grom Matt Johnson, “So you think you can do it grom? Lets see it grom. Can ya win grom?” Heussenstamm battled back with whistles, shouts, claps and pretty much any other cheering device known to college frat boys. It was hard to tell which was more competitive, the war of words or waves.
With four surfers per team and an hour to surf it was a hard heat to call. Giddings got a couple of good ones, Heussenstamm tore into his waves, Hans Hagen took his time, but found long connecting waves. Chris Drummy went for the big moves. Geoff Moysa went big as well, but ended up turning an ankle, leaving him out of the hunt. Grom Matt Johnson made amends for face planting out of the starting blocks by getting two good waves. Jason “Watto” Watson took care of business quite efficiently. It seemed everybody was making the best of the steadily improving conditions. Unfortunately there can only be one winner, and when the spray settled the polished team of Laguna Surf and Sport squeaked away with the victory—next stop, the Quiksilver Surf Shop Challenge at the Boost Mobile Pro.
And proving that sometimes coming in first isn’t always the most important thing, as the Frog House’s “Punker” Pat Towersey drove off he exclaimed, “Fourth is fine with me, at least we beat Surfside. Ha!”
Thanks to Quiksilver and SURFER Magazine, as well as Boost Mobile, Snapple, DC Shoes, ASR Biz, Surf Expo and Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, for making the day such a huge success.
1. Laguna Surf & Sport
2. Killer Dana
3. Sun Diego
4. Frog House
5. Surfside Sports
- Jake Howard