Tears of a Patriot

Don't let all the red, white, and blue fool you—these medals slipped through the fingers of American surfers. Photo: ISA/Rommel

Shea Lopez

The author of SURFER’s Top 32 Review, Shea Lopez spent 11 years competing on the World Tour and now reigns as our resident expert on the pro surfosphere.

Well, it happened again, and it becomes more difficult to digest every time: At the ISA World Games recently completed in Panama, Team USA finished a deplorable 8th place.

We really did.

Aren’t we supposed to be only challenged by the equally talented Australians? Or the recently emerged Brazilians, who are now about as threatening to us in competitive surfing as China is in the global economy?

A Top 3 finish should be a given.

Yes, “K-Hell” Andino was busy videogame surfing his way to a US Championships title at perfect Lowers. And “Goldy” Geiselman was relaxing between big-budget boat trips to the Mentawais. But c’mon man, we are the USA! Our shores are chock-full of exceptional talent from the past, present, and future that could have/should have been drawn from to be competitive in Panama. Sure, the team had some fine developing talent, but not nearly the experience needed to grind out multiple heat wins from the doubl- elimination format held in marginal conditions, while up against an international field of patriotic, do-or-die competitive machines.

Just looking at my nearby waters, here is a solid team: Gorkin, Asher Nolan, Kyle Garson, and Benny B. One of them would have had an excellent chance at an individual gold, and the cumulative results to match any of the other teams—especially considering those four surfers know all about mushy, junk surf from a lifetime of East Coast sessions. Not to mention they have all traveled countless times to Central America, surfing those same waters since they were groms. It makes sense to think of these things when selecting proper representation for our country.

Maybe it wasn’t the surfers of Team USA’s fault. Every guy on that team was a solid human, but not known for their small-wave skills. Proper preparation would have confirmed the mushy bay as the site for the Games in Panama, and the proper team could have been fielded accordingly. That reminds me of when Shane Beschen spoke with me regarding his desire to coach the USA Team a while back. With Shane as coach, you know the USA squad would have consisted of Kolohe, Evan G, Conner, and Luke Davis—our four best young competition surfers right now, and all are friends of Shane’s. Shane himself would have been a good choice to compete in Panama. Heck, he’s waxed Hedgey, Cambo, and Courtney a million times.

Not to worry though, the future of surfing in the USA is looking better than ever—you just have to ignore the results at the ISA level…uh, and the WT level too actually. Once you look past Kelly on the World Title Rankings, Bobby Martinez is the top US performer at the WT level with a current ranking of 14th, tied with Alejo Muniz and Wilko, while just ahead of Ace and the Hobgoods. Bobby on the OWR (One World Rankings) is fairing much worse however. He currently sits at 44th, and without two more good results or one big banger, he will be cut after New York.

Yeah, the future’s so bright.

As long as the well-tuned Andino machine keeps leading by example, forcing his friends to set their sights at similar levels, we may be looking at a collective group of American talent, the likes of which haven’t been seen on our shores for some time.