- What: the first North vs. South Powerhouse showdown
- Why: The East Coast wanted an NSL Game sanctioned event. When Gerlach denied the sanction, he gave Todd DiCurcio his blessing to go ahead with the event.
- Where: Ocean City, NJ
- When: June 26, 2004
- Waves: 1-2 foot on the sets
- Quote of the day: “I’d rather have my feet nailed to the boardwalk than to have that happen.” –Luke Ditella after bogging on the wave of the day
Todd DiCurcio originally wanted Brad Gerlach’s NSL to sanction and oversee the first Game on the East Coast—pitting the North vs. South—East Coast surfing’s version of the Civil War. When the NSL sanction fell through, Todd decided to run with the event regardless. With Gerlach’s blessing, Todd organized the event, hand-picking the teams and, with the help of a “meeting of the minds,” as Todd calls it, came up with the “Powerhouse Format.” Although the event would no longer be part of the high-profile NSL Game series, the surfers’ enthusiasm had not waned—these guys were frothing to represent their respective areas and bring home the cup.
The “meeting of the minds” responsible for the Powerhouse format consisted of Todd and Megan DiCurcio, Mike Martin, Pete Dooley, Larry Friedel, and Dave Tarantini. The format differed from Brad’s in two primary ways: first, the contest was broken up into two 90-minute halves, where Brad’s consists of four quarters. Second, instead of four surfers from the same team going out together in each quarter, as in Brad’s Game, the Powerhouse format pitted one surfer from each team against one another. Each coach would send one surfer out at a time and each could catch up to three waves per half, with the top two scores from each surfer being tallied for the team’s total score.
The South had a deadly line-up consisting of all Floridians: Kyle Garson, Baron Knowlton, Alek Parker, Tommy O’Brien, Eric Taylor, Danny Melhado, Gabe Kling and Asher Nolan, and Pete Dooley serving as coach. Aaron Cormican couldn’t make it, so Alek Parker surfed twice—once as himself and once as Aaron. The North’s team was well-prepared to defend their turf. The team consisted of all New Jersey-ites: Dean Randazzo, Matt Keenan, Andrew Gesler, Randy Townsend, Luke Ditella, Ben McBrien, Sam Hammer, Ryan Kimmel and Frank Walsh, and Larry Friedel the coach.
Attempting to hold a contest anywhere on the East Coast in late June is a huge risk, as the odds are stacked against there being good surf on a pre-determined date. No one was surprised that the surf was meager, and everyone was prepared for grovel conditions. The Floridians are known for their prowess in less than ride-able conditions, and they proceeded to get their grovel on and quickly took a substantial lead over the Jersey-ites. But with guys like Dean Randazzo representing the North, the game, or should I say “Powerhouse,” was on. Early in the first half, Dean exploded the lip on a knee-slapper, leaving nothing left of the wave but some foam—and was rewarded a 7.0. Luke Ditella found a nugget later on in the half and linked up some hits to match Dean’s 7.0. But when Danny Melhado, Asher Nolan, and Kyle Garson were awarded an 8.7, 8.7, and 8.0, respectively, it was clear the first half was the South’s. At the end of the first half, the South had the North in their gator-trap, leading 91.8 to 67.8.
One very noticeable aspect of the Powerhouse format, which is very different from the Game’s, is the hassle factor. With one member of each team in the line-up together scrambling for a high-scoring wave, paddle-battles are inevitable. No one realized this as abruptly as the South’s Kyle Garson, who, early in the second half, found himself battling with the North’s Matt Keenan. Once the paddling and splashing cleared, Keenan got the wave (which only turned out to be a 3.3), and Kyle got the interference. Kyle now would only be able to offer one wave’s score to the South’s second half total. When asked about the incursion, Kyle said with a laugh, “He’s (Matt Keenan) the ‘wingman!’” Kyle and Matt have been competitors and friends for years and have several endearing nicknames for each other, and it’s all in good fun. “It was a cheap move, but it’s part of contest surfing. I just try to keep it positive,” Kyle added.
Another showdown, or showdowns, that had the crowd on their feet was between Dean Randazzo and Baron Knowlton. Although the glare from their freshly-shaved noggins had the spectators squinting, all eyes were on the two seniority power surfers as they continued to harass each other whenever one or the other paddled for a wave. No interferences were called, but the crowd could feel the intensity and were on the edges of their beach chairs. Dean succeeded in keeping Baron from getting a third wave that would better his score. “We ain’t at Lakeworth Pier (Baron’s home break),” said a chuckling Dean of the multiple exchanges. “No worries, it’s cool,” said a smiling Baron, “I’m not here to hassle anyone. I’m just here to have fun.”
The North was able to out-score the South (82.0 to 80.2) in the second half with the help of a run by Sam Hammer, who posted a 14.3—the highest total of the second half. But it was not enough to overcome the damage done in the first half. The final score was South 173.8 to North 148.0.
In front of a packed beach and weekend crowd, the South team was presented with a Bruce Lindsay-sculpted cup and medals. The cup will serve as surfing’s Stanley Cup for the North vs South event, which Todd DiCurcio plans to make an annual event. “We set history here today. There’s been a long rivalry between the North and South, and today the South was dominant,” said Hunter Joslin at the commencement ceremony. “Better than the NSL Game format,” said Joslin when asked what he thought of the NSL Game-inspired experimental format created by Todd DiCurcio.