On October 6-7, 2016, the world-famous Lower Trestles played host to the 2016 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge National Championship. Of those teams competing were the regional champions from their respective aresa: Surf Ride (Southwest), Sweetwater (Mid-Atlantic), Town & Country (Hawaii), Heritage (Northeast), Quiet Flight (Southeast), Pacific Wave (Northwest), and Huntington Surf & Sport (West). Each of the four-man teams, consisting of two shop pros and two shop employees, would battle in the water for the prestigious title of America's best surf shop.
With a nice, little combo swell, San Clemente's cobblestone skatepark did not disappoint on Thursday, delivering clean, waist- to shoulder-high waves for those competitors lucky enough to surf in an almost empty lineup. From the beginning, Surf Ride was on fire, netting 41.25 points in the opening round, one of the highest single heat score totals in Surf Shop Challenge history. The rest of the teams were shocked, even leaving ex-World Tour C.J. Hobgood of Quiet Flight with his hands above his head in disbelief. As Round Two came to a close, it was clear that Surf Ride (72.1 combined total) would be the team to beat, followed by Pacific Wave (63.71), Huntington Surf & Sport (61.57), and Quiet Flight (56.93), who would meet the Southwest champions in the final.
Friday morning saw a dropping swell and foggy conditions, but a still-fun Lowers nonetheless. The individual heat draw would wrap up first, starting with the shop employee final, which saw both of Surfride's employees, Brent Reilly and Chris Murnane, meeting Willie Eagleton (Pacific Wave) and Jeremy Johnston (Quiet Flight) when the buzzer went off. A hard-fought battle between the shop guys went down, but it was Jeremy Johnston's attack on the left that would take home the win. As the pro final entered the water, it was clear to see that fireworks were about to go off. Two ex-World Tour surfers in Brett Simpson (HSS) and C.J. Hobgood (Quiet Flight) were poised to do battle, as were two of Santa Cruz's best, Austin Smith-Ford and Randy Bonds of Pacific Wave. The final did not disappoint with carves, airs, and blow tails flaring in every direction. In the end, Simpo would edge out Hobgood and take home the bragging rights.
As the fog bank continued to roll through, the final of the Surf Shop Challenge made its way out into the lineup. The teams surfed it out in the relay format, blasting scores and battling back and forth. With all eyes on Surf Ride, the teams knew it would take a solid final score to reach the top. Huntington Surf & Sport, led by Brett Simpson and Brad Ettinger, found their rhythm in the Lowers lineup. Backed up by Jake Saenz and Jonathon Ross, HSS closed the final with 35.8 points and hoisted the Surf Shop Challenge Cup proudly above their heads. Surfride (33.77) came in second, followed by Pacific Wave (30.84), and Quiet Flight (27.92). At the end of the day, all of the competitors got to surf Lower Trestles with just a few others out. We'll chalk that up as a win-win for everybody.