As two-time OSSC National Champions, Sweetwater Surf Shop from Wrightsville Beach, NC, pretty much rendered all the other teams underdogs before the contest even started at the Mid-Atlantic event. And by the end of the first round, Sweetwater was well in the lead with 26.10 points, with WRV, The Pit, and OBBC trailing with 22.46, 20.16, and 13.70, respectively.
By the first exchange of the final, however, returning WRV alumni and whammy surfer Blake Jones posted a 7.15 off the bat for a 14.30 total, sending WRV out to an early lead and applying the pressure on remaining finalists Sweetwater, The Pit, and 17th Street. Sweetwater's whammy surfer, Mike Powell, bested Blake's score with a 7.9 for a total 15.8--the highest single-wave total of the event--but in the end, it all came down to a man-on-man between a pair of surf camp operators: Brendan Petticrew (WRV) and Ben Powell (Sweetwater). Brendan's 4.27 left Ben needing a 5.68 wave, a wave that never came but somehow broke his board. And just like that, WRV had unseated the far-and-away favorites.
"I heard Ben Powell scream, and at first I thought he was hurt," said Petticrew who paddled in from the final with 2:35 remaining to avoid a 5-point team deduction for failing to return to the dugout in time. "But once I saw him swimming, I knew we had it, so I was outta there. I plopped right down to my belly and rode the first wave I could find to the beach."
"We had a full-on practice-contest yesterday," said Jamie Moran, riding for defending regional champs Heritage Ocean City. "Our entire team and everyone from 7th Street was out, and from the look in everyone's eyes, you could tell it was going to be a hard-fought battle."
While all the teams put on impressive performances in the first round, when the scores were tallied, it was Heritage Sea Isle, Heritage Ocean City, Ocean Hut, Farias Ship Bottom, and Inlet Outlet who advanced into the five-team Final.
Mere minutes into the final, Farias Ship Bottom jumped out to a commanding lead when Conor Willem mounted a frontside attack on a bowling left, which resulted in a contest-high score 8.3 that was doubled for 16.6. Both Heritage teams used the slow-and-steady game plan to chip away at Farias' lead. Ian Bloch posted a 7.67 as the first rider for Heritage Ocean City, which was followed up by a whammied 7.0 by Andrew Gesler. Ciramella then came through big for Heritage Sea Isle by whammying a 7.17, however the rest of the team was unable to better a 4.0 through the last 10 minutes of the final.
By the end, it was a three-team race for the trophy, as Ocean Hut and Inlet Outlet had been comboed by the other teams. Heritage Ocean City held a 3.4 point lead over Farias, with Heritage Sea Isle not far behind. In the dying minutes, Jamie Moran managed to nab a mere 3.5 through his first two waves for Heritage Ocean City, which left Farias needing a low 6-point ride to take the lead. Despite some close opportunities, Farias and Heritage Sea Isle posted a 3.8 and 4.07 respectively and failed to better the 30.24 total posted by Heritage Ocean City.
"We're all amping!" claimed Andrew Gelser (Heritage Ocean City) ,who was happy to be back in the water after he recently underwent surgery and therapy to repair a torn MCL. "We've kept the same team together for four years and we've won every time and it's been incredible every time. Oakley puts on such a rad event. We're super stoked to go to Indo, but now it's time to shift gears and make sure we bring home the $10,000 from Nationals."
Video highlights from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Qualifier
Video highlights from the Northeast Regional Qualifier
The complete 2012 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge calendar:
• Stop #1: April 6 - Southwest - Seaside Reef, Cardiff, Calif.
• Stop # 2: April 19 - Mid-Atlantic - Jenette's Pier, Nags Head, NC
• Stop #3: April 20 - Northeast - Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, NJ
• Stop #4: June 1 - West - 54th/56th Street - Newport Beach, Calif.
• Stop #5: July 6 - Hawaii - Ala Moana Bowl, South Shore, Haw.
• Stop #6: Aug. 14-15 - Southeast - New Smyrna Beach Inlet, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
• Stop #7: Aug. 31 - Northwest - Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, Calif.
• Final: Oct. 6-10 - National Championship - Keramas/Canggu, Bali, Indo.