The 2014 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge finished in perfect fashion at the National Championships in Nicaragua. Seven teams from seven corners of the country earned their expense-paid trip to Playa Colorado by winning their regional events, and were given the shot to compete for the 2014 trophy and bragging rights as the best surf shop in the land.
The day of the contest saw clean and tropical head-high A-frames scattered across the Nicaraguan sandbars, proving to be a perfect arena for the shop employees and team riders in attendance. The format consisted of two semifinal heats, with the top four teams advancing to the final, in a “whammy” style event, giving each team’s top rider the chance to double their score with a claim. Each team features two shop guys and two team guys rotating between the competitors tent and the lineup, which also forces each leashed surfer to sprint a few hundred yards on the sand. Always an entertaining sight. The Oakley Surf Shop Challenge has a vaunted history, and since 1983 SURFER has been fielding the event for the surf shops and their employees that create the core of the surf industry. Only in recent years have the finals been held in exotic locales, giving these shops the excuse to skip work for a week and head abroad to Bali in 2012 and 2013, and now Nicaragua here in 2014.THE TEAMS:
Southwest: Surf Ride
West: Val Surf
Northwest: Pacific Wave
Hawaii: T&C Surf
Northeast: 7th Street
This put five dozen surf shop employees, team riders, sales reps, and surf brand types in a tropical paradise with nothing to do but surf and shoot the shit for a week, a recipe that toes the line between perfection and disaster with ease. It was packed lineups while the sun was up and packed patios once it went down, with no shortage of stoke or cold beer anywhere in-between. The teams were here for a contest, yes, but one knew that while there would certainly be a clear winner come time for the event, there wouldn’t really be any losers.
The contest was called on early in the third day of the trip. In dominant form, the boys out of Sunrise Surf Shop in Jacksonville, Florida, took the title for the second year in a row. Dane Jefferys, Ryan Briggs, and brothers Tristan and Evan Thompson won both the semifinal and final heats, relying on a dialed strategy of solid scores from the shop guys combined with whammied double-scores in the excellent range from their ringer Evan Thompson. Evan Thompson rode two waves the entire event, and both were 9s. The strategy worked.
The victors carried their fourth team rider to the podium, where they collected their trophy and doused each other in cheap champagne and cold Toñas. The celebration overflowed into the beachside infinity pool, where the Sunrise crew reflected on their win. “We came down here a week early to get some sessions in, figured with all these offshore winds we’d have a good time,” said Evan Thompson. “We brought a bunch of boards down, and have been giving each other great feedback. It helped us a lot.”
Sunrise took an unconventional path to their National Championship, having been the only competitor to win their regional event in a wave pool. “Coming from a wave pool was definitely different, but it was for sure a challenge in itself,” added Thompson. “We proved to ourselves that we can win in any kind of conditions.” Every Florida surfer seems to surf with a chip on their shoulder, wanting to prove that the state’s surfers can hold their own in any lineup the world over. These four are no exception.
An added storyline to the event surfaced from the two Thompsons, whose older brother Trey was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. The Sunrise team had #winitfortrey emblazoned across their boards, and having now won it for Trey, were ecstatic they could support getting him healthy and back into the lineup.“Last year was a big party, but this year…we’re going bigger. We love the support we get from our surf shop and town, and that we get to bring them back this trophy.”
“We’re rallying to donate money to Trey’s cause, and this win will do a lot to generate support,” said Tristan Thompson. Other competitors have already pitched in to the cause, and Oakley matched contributions and donated $2,500 toward covering his treatment expenses. It was an emotional announcement, and was perfectly indicative of the family dynamic this OSSC series tries to foster between surf shops, surf brands, and their employees. Click here to learn more about Trey’s story and donate.
So now they’ll head back from resort living at Mark and Dave’s in Nicaragua to Florida, invoice the sponsors for the baggage fees associated with their giant OSSC trophy, and look forward to celebrating with the locals back home. “It’s gonna be a big party,” said Dane Jefferys. “Last year was a big party, but this year…we’re going bigger. We love the support we get from our surf shop and town, and that we get to bring them back this trophy. We’re also so stoked on Oakley and SURFER Magazine for making this all happen. We need to bring it back to the core of the surf industry, it’s the guys in the surf shops that are really pushing surf brands. We’re stoked SURFER and Oakley recognize that, and we want to see this contest keep going for years.”
See more at SurfShopChallenge.com.