New Smyrna Beach was once again the host for the southeast leg of the 2012 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge. At the final horn, Sunrise Surf Shop claimed the Southeast Regional Title for the fourth consecutive year, earning an expense-paid trip to Bali for the National Championship event in October.
A lackluster hurricane season for the East Coast and a bleak event forecast for the two-day waiting period had contest organizers and contestants all on edge. But if there was going to be surf anywhere in Florida during the peak of summertime, it would be the Inlet at New Smyrna Beach. Nine teams from Jacksonville to Deerfield Beach brought two pros and two shop employees each to the table to fight for bragging rights and the opportunity to score a free trip to Bali.
At the opening horn of the first Semifinal, the five leadoff surfers charged into the lineup. First strike was a solid air by Maui Nix’s featherweight Eros Exarhou, and soon after Sunrise Surf Shop veteran Asher Nolan snapped off the top of a building left for a score of a 6.33. Red Dog’s Noah Schweizer screamed down a walling right and launched an air reverse for the event's highest individual score of an 8.67. Four-time champions, Team Sunrise, tallied enough to put the boys from Jacksonville on top and through to the Final. New Smyrna’s own Red Dog Surf Shop followed in second.
In the next Semifinal, Surf Station’s Gabe Kling whammied a 7.1, then Island Water Sports’s (IWS) Scott Posner responded with the heat's highest score, a 7.33. His teammate and whammy rider Tanner Strohmenger passed on doubling his 6.0 score and was forced to double his next ride of a 4.87 instead. Aqua East’s Shane Murray came through in the clutch with a 5.83 on his second wave, propelling his team into third overall and a berth in the Final.
The question entering the Final was if four-time defending champs and former National Champions, Sunrise Surf, would repeat. IWS's Cheyne Cottrell started things off with a 6.17, followed by his teammate Tanner Strohmengers' double whammy 6.83. Sunrise’s opening man, G-Rat, dropped a 4.17, then their whammy surfer Asher Nolan took a risk in passing on a 7.0 but still managed a respectable 6.5 to double. Teammate Briggs threw away a 6.5, and eventually pulled out a 7.77 as his high score.
It all came down to the battle between IWS's final team rider Stevie Andrews and Sunrise’s Dane Jefferys. Dane struck first, securing a 5.8 with a stylish cutback on a right. In the final minutes, Andrews, needing a 6.35 to comeback for the win, fell short with a score of 5.03.
The Sunrise team remains a dominant force in the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge, locally and nationally. Sunrise team rider Asher Nolan declares Keramas his favorite wave in the world, so good money is on this team to bring back another National Title to Florida.
The next stop on the 2012 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge is in the Northwest Regional Aug. 31 at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. It's the final stop on the regional tour, which culminates in Bali on October 6. —Kevin Welsh
Find out more about the 2012 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge at surfshopchallenge.com/.