NSSA Nationals are over. We're back in the office, we've got the results. The Trophies are all the mantle and the interviews are done. Brother is the real deal. Girls pull airs. It's all good. But what does it all mean? Does the winner of the Open Mens division automatically elevate to surf stardom? That's what we're led to believe, right? But that may or may not be the reality nowadays. Surfers have more options now. They aren't necessarily taking their Open Mens trophies to the top of the 'QS anymore…some aren't even taking them to the 'QS. They're doing lots of different things. For example: have a look at this list of past winners:
2009- Kolohe Andino
2008- Nat Young
2007- Tonino Benson
2006- Kekoa Cazimero
2005- Clay Marzo
2004- Dane Gudauskas
2003- Pat Gudauskas
2002- Dustin Cuizon
2001- Greg Long
2000- Anthony Petruso
1999- Fred Patacchia
1998- Mike Lossness
1997- Bruce Irons
1996- Andy Irons
1995- Eric McHenry
Not what you'd think, right? Some of these guys aren't even competing anymore. I mean, other than the Irons bros and maybe Freddy P, this list is borderline lackluster. And prior to that, the only other Open Mens Champs in NSSA history even worth listing would be Kalani Robb and Taylor Knox.
Some of the recent champs show potential so you can’t write them off just yet. But the track record of the Open Mens winners is not exactly what you’d call "star-studded."
I’m a big fan of Kolohe Andino’s surfing. I think most people are. He’s got all the right things going on out in the water and it’d be hard to argue that. He may just be the first Open Mens Champ since Andy Irons to eventually threaten for World Title. But the thing I realized this year standing on the beach eight hours a day watching heats is, NSSA Nationals isn’t entirely about who wins or even makes finals. It’s about getting all the best young surfers in America all in one place at one time, and examining how they surf to see who the has “It”, and who doesn’t.
Here’s a few of the Open Mens competitors who didn’t make the final, but deserve recognition for how they surfed at Nationals…
Evan Geiselman(pictured above):
It starts and ends with Evan Geiselman. In my opinion, he’s neck and neck with Kolohe for best surfer in the entire event. His Open Mens Round 3 heat was a thing of beauty. A heat total of 19.75 and considerable backup scores that would have passed the heat even without his top two scores. Bottom line was, this kid has what it takes to be successful on the next level and so what if he didn’t make any finals for the first year of his life surfing the NSSA. If you watched any of his heats, you know he’s the shit.
Another surfer who didn’t make a final but has a clear future in surfing is Luke Davis. He’s kind of a strange kid but all his peers seem to like him and whatever flare he lacks is made up for with style. Definitely one of the smoothest surfers in the NSSA who hopefully has a growth spurt and starts packing some serious power in with his already polished style.
Just being honest, if this kid didn’t get robbed out of his quarterfinal heat by the Kolohe-loving judges, Andino would have not even made the final. He needed a mid-range score at the end of the heat, caught an insider, and ripped the shit out of it, stamping an exclamation mark with a fully committed no-grab air reverse on the end section. How he didn’t lose his mind and go freak out on the judges? I don’t know. But he kept his cool; which speaks for his character. I’d never heard of Keala before this contest and every heat I watched him in he impressed with solid power surfing and landing his air attempts.
Another kid who showed flashes of brilliance. I knew the kid charged big Pipe and could surf well on good waves, but I didn’t know he could rip in the small stuff too. He made the Airshow final and stuck a couple nice lien grabs in that, but he’s already probably exceeded every surfer to come from his home state New York and he’s only 17 years old.
A favorite during the whole contest until he suffered a meltdown in his Open Mens semi-final and was comboed by the whole field. He was impressive in most heats surfing with power and also the ability to get the tail out and spin some reverses. Kind of reminiscent of mini version of Kekoa Bacalso when he was that age. And that’s not a slight to Keanu at all. Kekoa as we all know now, is one of the better surfers in the world and proving it on the World Tour right now. He was dominant in the NSSA days as well. Plus, he went on the win the Nike 6.0 Pro Junior the next day in Huntington Beach.
So there are five surfers who might not have made finals this year but people still noticed them and that’s just as important for an up-and-coming surfer.