Team East Coast solidified its stranglehold on X Games Surfing today by trouncing its cross-coastal rivals. The 11th annual ESPN Extreme Games produced a surfing media milestone this morning with the stunning success of their East Coast vs. West Coast event. Despite Kelly Slater’s last-minute drop out, and organizer Brad Gerlach’s subsequent penalization of the East Coast team, most apprehensions and controversies of the preceding days were dispelled by an event filled with intense competition and stoke.
The large crowd and media circus stippling the beach under the contest scaffolding were greeted this morning with classic 5- to 6-foot Puerto under sunny skies and light offshore winds — providing a stark contrast to Huntington Beach slop, which has been the location of the contest for the last two years.
The East Coast came out strong in the first half with Todd Morcom, Baron Knowlton and Peter Mendia leading the pack, expertly navigating the lightly groomed Puerto caverns. Morcom posted an early 7.75, while Mendia set the crowd on fire in the 2nd Quarter with a long grinding left, earning him a 9. In the second half the talented West Coast team launched a comeback with an array of sick barrels and high-scoring rides. Taylor Knox dropped into a long tube to start a West Coast rally with a 9.5, soon followed by Kieran Horn of Santa Cruz whose 7.5 wave earned him an award for the event’s best maneuver. Chris Ward, Rob Machado and Pat O’Connell soon followed with a 6.25, 7, and 7.75 respectively. Their onslaught was not enough to catch the fledgling East Coasters, however, who were still leading by 29.5 points as the 4th Quarter rolled around.
Jamie O’Brien put an end to the West Coast’s comeback with a seemingly endless ride, earning him an 8.5, and the event’s MVP award. O’Brien credited the win to a solid team performance, telling ESPN, “We all worked off of each other to get the scores we needed.” The final score of 100.75 to 96.50 represented the third win in a row for the East Coast in the X Games, continuing the friendly rivalry that the event reinvigorated. As San Clemente local Chris Ward lamented, “I wish the team would have had better luck with the waves in the first half. It probably would have ended differently.” Fellow Californian Rob Machado echoed his frustration but extolled the event, calling it a “great experience in Puerto Escondido. We had an amazing turnout and the local crowd truly gave us a warm welcoming.”
East Coast Coach Matt Kechele confidently explained, I knew we had a strong team to pull off the competition with or without Kelly,” as champagne flew in the air courtesy of the celebrating victors, who occasionally yelled “SLATER WHO??” Some even openly questioned showing up for Slater’s invitational event in Fiji later this month. All in all, the X Games surfing competition was a great success with classic waves, weather, and atmosphere.
ESPN X GAMES 11 SURFING – THE GAME
Puerto Escondido Mexico, August 2, 2005
Quarter 1 25.75
Quarter 2 26.25
Quarter 3 21.25
Quarter 4 27.50
Quarter 1 21.75
Quarter 2 21.00
Quarter 3 28.5
Quarter 4 25.25
Team East Coast 100.75
Team West Coast 96.50