Contest organizer and announcer Brian Heritage was calling for an increase in swell during the last heat Saturday afternoon, which got everyone to the beach early Sunday morning in anticipation. Spectators and competitors arrived to an ocean resembling a milky oil slick with 2-3 foot peaks appearing and disappearing as elusively as the Loch Ness monster.
If the early morning ocean was milky, it must have been whole milk, as surfers bogged their way through turns looking like they were pulling anchors. David Awbrey (FL) and Tommy O’Brien (FL) seemed to be the only two successful in cutting their anchor lines, finding pockets of speed where Alejandro Moredo (PR) and Matias Mullanovich (Peru) found none. O’Brien and Awbrey moved on to the semis.
The second quarter might as well have been a final, matching up Floridians Eric Taylor, Eric Geiselman, and Sterling Spencer and Puerto Rican Dylan Graves. The ocean was starting to look a bit more like, well, an ocean, as the morning mist dissipated and a light side-/off-shore breeze brought some surface texture. The dropping tide also helped turn the milky peaks into more defined lines. Sterling opened up with a medium-sized left and did multiple medium-sized backside taps to the sand. Eric Taylor answered back with one big outside maneuver on a right that went soft and wouldn’t connect. Sterling and ET continued to tango, exchanging set waves and taking advantage of the more lined-up lefts. ET’s waves were shorter with fewer maneuvers which were more powerful and vertical, while Sterling found longer lefts with racetracks providing for section floaters, speed turns, and round-houses to the sand. Eric Geiselman wasn’t getting set waves, opting for the smaller inside lefts that provided more bowl, two of which he absolutely lit up. Dylan Graves looked out of rhythm and couldn’t seem to find any decent waves. The beach seemed confused when the results were announced and Sterling finished dead last, but that’s the way contests go. Dylan also failed to advance while ET and Geiselman finished first and second, respectively.
Quarterfinal three pitted backside bashers Justin Wiegand (CA, defending champ) and Ryan Briggs (FL) against frontside snapsters Wesley DeSouza (FL) and Wesley Toth (FL). Possibly the skinniest 15-year-old on the planet, Wesley Toth opened the heat on a shoulder-high left and did anemic turns to the sand. Next up was an exchange between DeSouza and Briggs. DeSouza found a rare right and proved his backhand to be faster and more critical than the others’ when given a chance. Briggs got the better of the exchange with a long left, linking up several speed floaters with vertical backside hits in the pocket. Justin Wiegand used his strategy-savvy head to think himself into the best waves and linked too many turns to count from the outside to the sand and walked off with the win. Wesley Toth found himself on the rest of the better set waves, and, although his turns looked a bit weak due to his being so stick-like, he advanced in second. Until it was announced that he was given an interference, that is. That interference brought to fruition exactly what some feared being that there was a four-judge panel and four-man heats: an unbreakable tie.
Briggs and DeSouza went man to man in a “surf-off” for the elusive semi final berth. Briggs opened with a medium-sized left that provided a racetrack and, count’em, one, two, three, four, five turns, complete with a kick-off on the sand. DeSouza found one, but bogged, then got another, and bogged again. Meanwhile, Briggs continued to find racetracks providing him opportunities for multiple turns, which he delivered flawlessly. Wesley finally found himself a set as the horn blew, and succeeded in sinking several corner-pocket snaps. Too little to late. Briggs moved on to the semis.
The wind was nice enough to turn offshore for the last quarterfinal. Goofy-footer Darrell Goodrum opened the heat with a fast left wall and used his speed for one huge gaff. Darrell would continue to find the walled-up lefts, gaining tons of speed to fly into one huge maneuver, which seemed to work for the judges, as they granted him entrance into the semis. Alek Parker was extremely impressive, his surfing has matured immensely over the past year. He easily won. It just wasn’t happening for Puerto Rican Darren Muschett. Puerto Rican Gaby Escudero surfed very fast and critical, but didn’t get the right waves.
Semi final one was an all-out backhand gator bloodbath. Floridians David Awbrey, Tommy O’Brien, Eric Taylor, and Eric Geiselman all had their teeth showing as they went mental on waist to chest high semi-clean lefts. It wasn’t too long ago, at the previous Junior Pro event, that First Peak (Sebastian Inlet, FL) locals Eric Taylor and Tommy O’Brien went at each other’s throats for the win, which Tommy narrowly won. It quickly appeared that both were going for the jugular again, as it didn’t take long for the two top Junior Pros in the country to find themselves in a heated paddle battle. ET won the rail-to-rail combat by paddling further down the face of the wave and quickly getting to his feet and turning towards Tommy, which then forced ET to go right when the left was clearly better. ET fell on his first turn, but he seemed to have succeeded in permanently rattling the contest-hardened Tommy, as ET found a rhythm and Tommy fell into his shadow. Awbrey used his big, lanky frame to push through vertical hit after vertical hit, and it would be Awbrey and ET moving to the final.
Semi final two was more geographically well-rounded with Justin Wiegand and Darrell Goodrum representing California and Alek Parker and Ryan Briggs representing Florida. Alek Parker opened with a devastating left, which he took apart with multiple backside smashes. Alek found his rhythm with that opener and never looked back, owning the heat from start to finish. Justin Wiegand found an elusive right and clicked an air on the inside, much to the beach’s delight. Meanwhile, Darrell Goodrum, the last goofy standing, had one with several quick pocket snaps, but along with Briggs, suffered from wave famine. Alek and defending champ Wiegand moved on to the final.
The lone California finalist, Justin Wiegand, opened the final with a string of backside hits on a fast left. As the others got a couple and bogged, Awbrey answered with a huge bash on an outside left, weaved through the middle gully, and took full advantage of the lined up racetrack on the inside with two speed floaters and several hits. Contest freak Eric Taylor then stood up on a right and did at least five of his patented frontside gaffs. It had to have been at least an eight. As the other competitors sat waiting, ET paddled out and immediately found a lined-up left, going straight up three times in a row. Alek and Awbrey exchange lefts, both solid, but Alek’s turns were more critical and stylish. Wiegand sat alone south of the peak, finding smaller but faster inside lefts, one of which he clicked a backside air on. Alek and ET exchanged lefts at the horn, both had multiple solid hits, and it was difficult to determine which the judges would score higher. The consensus on the beach was that there was no clear winner—everyone had a different hypothesis. In the end, ET would have his revenge with Tommy O not able to do a thing as he watched from the beach.
- 1st Eric Taylor, FL $2,500
- 2nd Alek Parker, FL $1,500
- 3rd Justin Wiegand, CA $$1,100
- 4th David Awbrey, FL $900