Shane Upchurch, 17, Oak Island, North Carolina This Month’s Grades:
Junior Men’s champ, 2002 United States Amateur Surfing Championships Remarks:
" I’ve been trying to win that thing forever." The new U.S. Junior Men’s champ, Shane Upchurch, isn’t exaggerating. Competing since the age of 4, the North Carolina regularfoot – a true pre-schooler – is the Occy of the amateur ranks. Thirteen years is a long time to wait for a national title, but Upchurch – who lives in a small town 30 minutes south of Wrightsville – has shown steady signs of greatness all along. He’s won regional events, had a handful of seconds in the ESA Easterns and represented the U.S. in this year’s ISA World Games. His skills were even flashy enough to catch the attention of a local KFC franchise, which has supported him with the finger-lickin’ good stuff since his menehune days. But it wasn’t until late July at the USSF’s prestigious event in Oceanside that he finally found the secret recipe to competitive success. In surf he called "worse than home," Upchurch outgroveled Hawaii’s Nathan Carroll in a unique, double-elimination, man-on-man format. "I couldn’t explain the format to you if I had to," admits Upchuch. "All I know is that I surfed eight or nine heats and came out on top in the end." At only 5’5" and 110 pounds, Shane knows he has some growing room before he’s fit for the World Qualifying Series. But he listens carefully to Wrightsville hero Ben Bourgeois, surfs often with NC ripper Mark Hunt and has been putting in the hours in the weight room. For his final course, Upchurch plans to spend at least a month on Oahu’s North Shore this winter after he graduates a semester early from South Brunswick High. Will his transition to prohood be as seamless as Bourgeois’ smoking tar-heel trail? Perhaps. But even if it isn’t, Shane’s never had a problem waiting his turn.