By Matt Pruett
"This was a surprise," smiled Dare County kingpin and Outer Banks Boarding Company teamrider Noah Snyder as he surveyed the lineup at Kitty Hawk Bath House on Thursday, April 22. "The forecast called for knee-high, and it's quite a bit better than that, with chest-high sets. And the weather couldn't be better. That's just part of the beauty of the Outer Banks. This place can throw you curveballs."
With 10 to 15 mph southeasterly winds conspiring with a slinky rip current spilling over the sandbar to offer contestable right-hand wedges, most of the best surfers from three states—Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina—arrived in the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" eager to face off in the newly instituted Mid-Atlantic Regional for the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge.
"The main goal is to bring credibility to the surf shops, while giving the employees and team riders an opportunity to compete alongside each other," said Contest Director Darren Brilhart. "For this year's series, we were able to have computer scoring and bring out an ASP International judge to stress the importance of professional scoring. Having the two-day waiting period helped, too. We got here the day before, scouted the whole area, and found this was the best sandbar."
Though spectator turnout left something to be desired, to most of the athletes, this is what Outer Banks surfing is all about: finding the best sandbar and surfing your brains out without too many people around. "Stoked they had it down in Kitty Hawk this year," said Virginia Beach aerial savant Lucas Rogers. "We didn't have to go up north and surf the cold shit. We were already stoked to be a part of this contest, since we got second in 2009 in Coastal Edge's first year competing. Holding it down here just made it all that much better. It just feels like another Banks session with all the boys."
Ten squads composed of surf shop team riders and store employees—Sweetwater, Whalebone-OB, Village People, 17th Street, Wave Riding Vehicles-OB, Whalebone-VB, The Pit, Coastal Edge, Wave Riding Vehicles-VB, and Outer Banks Boarding Company—competed in one round of two tag-team-relay-style heats, the five teams with the highest point advancing to the 70-minute final (which organizers extended by ten minutes to thwart the inconsistency that came with an encroaching high tide).
That didn't stop New Smyrna Beach pro and Wave Riding Vehicles-VB whammy designee Jeremy Johnston (who WRV recently acquired along with Wrightsville Beach, NC, charger Mark Yonkers) from posting an event-high 9.0 for a series of backhand verts in Heat #2 of Round One. "That's bullshit!" protested Whalebone-OB teamrider Sterling King. "WRV pulls JJ out of Florida, puts him on the team, and look what he does… goes right out and gets a 9.0."
Coastal Edge's whammy surfer, Lucas Rogers, answered back in the same heat with a stunning backside air-reverse, posting an 8.8. Not enough to outdo JJ, but plenty enough to put his team in the five-team final, where Rogers immediately teed off on a crisp right, punctuating the wave with a carving backside reverse for an 8.5. Meanwhile, JJ made an uncharacteristic mistake, claiming an average 5.33, but even more shocking was when the only regular-foot whammy surfer, Noah Snyder, dug a rail and pearled on the biggest set of the day, prompting him to swim in for his board and dimming OBBC's hopes for a win. "I have never seen that in my life," commented a bewildered Wes Laine. "Noah has always been 'Mr. Clutch.'" And Village's whammy gremmie Cam Richards' patience got the best of him, as the tide became too high and the sets too elusive for even Richards' light frame to negotiate.
In fact, the only whammy surfer to hang in Rogers' territory (i.e. not blowing it) was Sweetwater's Michael Powell, who blasted a right five times all the way to the sand for an 8.67. "It came down to my third wave so the pressure was on," said Powell. "I'm kind of overwhelmed right now, but I'm having more fun than ever competing. Weird, right?"
Powell's rally elevated Sweetwater past the other shops, leaving them only requiring a meager 2.76 points to grab the victory…and shop grom Mason Barnes left to do the job. Mason did the job three times, scoring 4.04, 3.6, and 5.93 on his rides.
"We couldn't be happier about how this morning worked out," finished Brilhart. "Again, it's all about stoking out the shops. Especially the employees who sell the products. The pro riders usually get a lot of stuff already and make money and whatnot. But the shop guys put in a lot of hard work in the stores, and it's great to have them come out on the beach and reap some of the glamour for a change."
For photos, videos, stories and more, go to SurfShopChallenge.com
1. Sweetwater [www.sweetwatersurfshop.com], 33.37 points (Ross Stevens, Michael Powell*, Mason Barnes, Owen Moffett)
2. Coastal Edge [www.coastaledge.com], 29.74 points (Wes Laine, Lucas Rogers*, Bryce Humphreys, Tyler Bohn)
3. Wave Riding Vehicles-VA [www.waveridingvehicles.com], 25.06 points (Jeremy Johnston*, Mark Yonkers, Brendan Petticrew, Ian Parnell)
4. Outer Banks Boarding Company [www.outerbanksboarding.com], 15.76 points (Noah Snyder*, Chris McDonald, Jamie DeWitt-Baittinger, Morgan Taylor Leavel)
5. Village People [www.vilagesurf.com], 13.66 points (Cam Richards*, Cole Richards, Luke Gordon, Evan Barton)
(*Indicates whammy surfer)