(November 1, 2002) Led by Cardiff legend Rob Machado and anchored by Carlsbad’s Taylor Knox, Team San Diego defeated Team Orange County and claimed the first ever National Surf League (NSL) Championship. With an outgoing tide and slowly dropping swell, Cardiff Reef possessed lengthy, crumbly walls in the 3′-4′ range for the professional surfers to do battle in. And battle they did. Fans and competitors alike generated raucous, and sometimes obnoxious, cheers and jeers. Not since the 1846 Battle of San Pascual has this area seen such regional bravado. And just as General Kearney faced an untempered foe in the Californios, so too did the hometeam NSL San Diego squad against an Orange County team that San Diego thought it had a handle on.
All hyperbole aside, it was one hell of a battle. San Diego led at halftime, and it looked like smooth sailing for the local squad. However, tough OC competitor Dino Andino racked up a couple of major scores on the tricky south peak at Cardiff. The judges gave Andino a highly respectable 9 (out of 10) on one ride, which had NSL founder, and San Diego team surfer Brad Gerlach scrathing his head. The San Diego lead dwindled, and then disappeared. Seasoned OC surfer Chris Drummy secured a high scoring ride and the pendulum had swung completely. The momentum was OC’s.
With one chance remaining in the bottom of the fourth–and last–quarter, and trailing by roughly 49 points, San Diego’s second squad of four surfers (Machado, Knox, Che Stang and Dean Randazzo) had quite a task ahead of them. They needed to post scores on average of 11.6 per surfer (two waves scored per surfer).
The heat started rather slowly with only Machado posting a respectable score. Eventually the ocean turned on and a flurry of waves were ridden, Knox carved right, Machado ripped left, Stang and Randazzo floated effortlessly over long sections. With just a few minutes remaining, and the partisan San Diego crowd sensing victory, Knox caught a set wave from the Suckouts peak. The powerful regularfoot ripped two huge rail carves, floated over a lumpy section, beat back the deep middle section with leg pumping rail-to-rail turns, and carried his momentum into the inside sandbar for a climaxing floater. Game over.
After all was said and done, San Diego’s second foursome secured an average of roughly 16 points per surfer, soundly defeating the humbled Orange County squad. “That last heat…they kicked our ass,” said OC coach Mike Cruikshank on the awards podium.
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