"Try this, it's so good," says 14-year-old Dax McGill, passing around her mother's homemade baked coconut shavings. "Are those your winning secrets," asks Nike team manager Frankie D'Andrea. The freckle-faced Hawaiian laughs suspiciously and takes another scoop.
Two weeks ago at the US Championships at Lowers, McGill suffered two heart-breaking second-place finishes. One loss came from an interference call, and the other came when Tatiana Weston-Webb found a score in the final 15 seconds of their heat. In an hour, McGill will have the opportunity to redeem herself when she meets Webb in the final. For now, she turns to the water to watch Ezekiel Lau paddle out for his Open Men's Final.
"That's Ezekiel Lau, he's going to be gnarly one day."
At NSSA Nationals in 2004, then Volcom Hawaii team manager Dave Riddle pointed out the spindly young South Shore native during his heat and made a prediction. Today in Huntington, the world is starting to see just how true Riddle's words were.
Lau opens with a strong frontside turn, followed by two more to the beach. The turns are powerful and smooth, with seamless transitions between maneuvers. It's clear that his competition—California's Jacob Halstead and Thelen Worrell, along with Hawaii's Josh Moniz—have their work cut out for them. Lau is on fire, and he's been working toward this title since he was 10 years old.
With just two minutes remaining, both Halstead and Moniz need only a small score to take the lead, but the ocean has gone to sleep. A small pulse hits the lineup and both Moniz and Halstead drop scores, but it's Moniz who gets the better of the exchange and looks capable of getting the 5.1 he needed to overtake Lau.
Moniz and Lau hold their breath while excited masses holding Hawaiian flags make their way to the shoreline. The commentator announces that Moniz's score isn't enough and that Zeke Lau is the new National Champion.
While the beach is congratulating Lau, the Open Women's Final begins, and McGill is going to work on her fronthand, attacking the fickle lefts with a purpose. The crowd's attention turns back from the new Men's Champ and focuses on what is turning out to be another close final.
With less than five minutes remaining, McGill needs a score in the four-point range to overtake 15-year-old Kulia Doherty. McGill gets her opportunity on a walled right, and she capitalizes with three strong backside turns. She gets the score and secures her title as the Women's Champ.
Dax McGill’s younger brother, Finn, runs down to the shore to chair his sister up the beach. While Lau's day and NSSA career are over, McGill looks around for her coconut shavings—she has some time to kill before her 14 and under Open Girls Final.