That scruffy guy selling you wax and folding tee-shirts at your local surf shop might absolutely kill it in the water, if the level of surfing at the South Central west Qualifier for The Quiksilver Surf Shop Challenge presented by SURFER Magazine is any indicator. Four-man teams representing 14 shops from Seal Beach to Santa Cruz battled it out at L.A.’s Topanga Point on June 17, 2004 in onshore but rippable two- to three-foot rights. Scanning the lineup, commentator Chad Wells joked, “You wouldn’t catch me dead out at Topanga on a day like this.” But a lot more than just bragging rights were on the line as the winning team from this and the three other regional events will be given the chance to compete at the 2004 Boost Mobile Pro presented by Quiksilver in September for a prize of $10,000. With motivation like that, it’s no surprise that the event brought out some underground heroes and incredible surfing.
Five teams at a time clashed in 70-minute tag-team heats. Each team featured two shop employees and two shop-sponsored surfers, with one team member designated as an anchorman who would select one of his three waves to be scored twice, a “double whammy,” by raising both arms at the end of the ride. From the starting field of 14, the ten highest-scoring teams from Round one would advance to the semis, and then five teams would progress to the finals. The pressure was already on in the opening heat of Round 1 with ZJ’s, Moondoggies, Val’s and Katin surf shops scrapping in low tide, sectioning conditions. Val’s Jordy Tappis and his teammates used their knowledge of Topanga’s cobblestone reef to make it around long sections and to post up some solid scores. However, it was Ryan Simmons and Dave Pena of Katin that looked the most polished, and the Seal Beach team delivered one of the highest single heat scores of the event. Moondoggies, Val’s and Katin all advanced to Round two.
The tide filled in during the second heat of Round one and set waves began to swing wide, providing some juicy sections. The California Condor, Peter Mel, looking slender and loose in surf 1/30th the size for which he is best known, helped lift his team over cross-town Santa Cruz shop Pacific Wave and Rincon Designs and advance to the semis. The heat also saw the first of what would be three meetings of the Ventura County powerhouses Revolution Surf Shop and Ventura Surf Shop, the latter led by ringer Dane Reynolds who tore into his first wave and double whammied his score of 9.5 into a 19. The third and final heat of Round one pitted Channel Islands, Wavelengths, Central Coast, ET and O’Neill surf shops against each other. Despite having phenom Dylan Graves and Rincon master Brian Aresco on board, the Channel Islands team suffered from poor wave selection, prompting Wells to jab, “He’s going to be sweeping up and closing shop for a while after that one.” Ratboy Collins boosted an air at the end of a great wave to earn a double whammied 8.6 (17.2) to propel O’Neill into the semis. Channel Islands, ET, and Central Coast Surf shop all advanced.
The first heat of the semifinals brought out some of the best surfing of the whole event as the two Ventura teams met again. Adam Virs flew across the point, ripping his waves to pieces before hustling back up the beach to tag teammate Reynolds. Dane again showed why he’s considered to be such a threat, and Katin locked down some great scores; both teams advanced. But it was team Revolution that was on fire. Nathaniel Curran lit up his waves, scoring a doubled 8.5 and a 10- in waist high surf!- to boost them into the finals. After his and his brother Josh’s surfing in the round, the commentators started to refer to the spot as “Curran’s Point.”
Despite deteriorating conditions, the five teams that hit the water for the second semifinal only stepped up their attack. Though they failed to advance, Central Coast’s Carl “Smokey” Holm and Nate Tyler surfed with precision. Richard Silva of ET Surfboards looked like a young Occy on his backhand, and his team pushed it’s way into the finals. Once again, though, it was team O’Neill that shined. Shop manager Alex Brown flowed through three good ones, employee Noi Kaulukui bashed lips, and Josh Mulcoy locked it down after going down, face first, in the sand while running up the beach. Ratboy milked his last wave, probably the largest of the day, all the way to the cobblestone shoreline, and O’Neill was ready for the finals.
The final round of competition started with a clueless kiteboarder jamming through the lineup on the increasing south winds. It was getting worse out there, but the surfing was only getting hotter. Shop rats and managers turned into diamonds under the pressure. Drew Middleton of Katin surfed like a hero and all of the ET team stepped it up. Team O’Neill, too, showed serious desire: Ratboy, with only seconds left in the heat, bailed his board after his last wave, raced up the sand and literally dove into the competitor’s gate as the final horn sounded to avoid a five-point penalty. But the real battle was between the friends-come-rivals of the Ventura County teams, trading high scores in the increasingly feeble waves. Jesse Mota and John Villela of team Revolution absolutely ripped, with Villela even finding the only barrel of the event, and Josh Curran worked the most out of all of his waves. Nathaniel Curran proved that Topanga was his for the day- he owned it the finals. Said Curran after the final, “It was exciting to be the anchor… after my bad first heat, I guess I made up for it.” With 15 minutes left, it was clear Team Revolution had run away with it; the next time they meet to surf together, it will be in front of the surfing world at the Boost Mobile Pro in September. Jeff Booth, on hand to represent Quiksilver, put into words why this Surf Shop contest series is so great: “The rivalries are intense, and the surfing in this event was amazing… there were some darkhorse shop guys coming out to just kill it- and that what this is all about, to give those guys a chance to rip.”
Thank you to Quiksilver and SURFER Magazine, as well as Boost Mobile, DC Shoes, ASR Biz, Snapple, Surf Expo and Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, for making the day such a great success.
5. ET Surfboards