Surf shops in the greater San Diego area locked their front doors and headed out to Seaside Reef in Cardiff over the weekend, kicking off the 2014 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge. Fun, rippable swell set the stage for yet another competitive Southwest Regional.
The contest format pits four-man teams of shop employees and team pros from surf shops around the region against each other, with a year's worth of bragging rights, a sizeable amount of swag, and an expense-paid trip to Central America on the line. Friday's Southwest Regional brought out the likes of Damien Hobgood, Chris Ward, Ricky Whitlock, and Taylor Clark, big names that shared the competitive lineup with employees and other local pros. At the final horn, it was a familiar crew celebrating, the boys from Surf Ride Oceanside, who for three years running have won the Southwest Regional.
Gabe Garcia, a Surf Ride team rider and seasoned OSSC veteran by now, led the charge into the Final. "It's our third year winning," said Garcia. "We've got a new shop guy that pulled through great and the waves were a little better than last year. It's been pretty bad recently in San Diego, so we're stoked to have some waves."
For the past two years, the winning team was sent to Bali for Nationals, but in 2014 they'll be sent down to compete in an undisclosed Central American locale. Team Surf Ride Oceanside, which includes Darrell Goodrum, Gabe Garcia, Brent Reilly, and Blaine Robinson, left Seaside Reef stoked to go track down their board bags and passports.
"The last two years we lost at Nationals, so we're hoping to be able to step it up and prepare and pull it together here in 2014," said Garcia. "We're fired up to win. It's going to be cool going down to Central America, something way different than years past."
Surf Ride jumped out early in the event and never looked back, a strategy they plan on taking with them when they head south for Nationals. Clairemont Surf Shop took home the runner-up trophy, and Hanger 94 came in third. Each team left with a bag chocked full of Oakley, Futures, and New Era gear, but only Surf Ride got to leave with the plane tickets too.
Surf Ride shop employee Brent Reilly likes his team's chances Central America. "It's great seeing all the other shops out here, we know most of the guys down here so it's cool to surf alongside them," said Reilly. "Winning again is the highlight though, and heading down to Central America. Super stoked with Oakley, stepping it up again, sending everyone down there. It's cool to get the first event out of the way. I know there are seven other regions, but still it's good to be ready to go and win down there. So we're stoked! We're psyched and ready for Nationals already."
The Southwest Regional featured an added event the day after, the Oakley High School Challenge, which throws high school teams from around the city into the lineup for another daylong contest. The groms from Point Loma High School took home top honors, and custom Oakley iPad minis and OHSC Futures fins for their efforts.
Find regional event recaps, photos, videos, and schedules at SurfShopChallenge.com. The next stop on the 2014 Oakley Surf Shop Challenge is at Ponce Inlet, Florida, for the Southeast Regional on April 8-9.
WATCH: Highlights from Seaside