"Kelly who?" was the cheer that came out of the victorious East Coast huddle after the team of nine, missing their star player, secured their third X Games victory in a row in perfect 6-foot-plus hollow tubes of Puerto Escondido. The East came out of the gates firing in the 1st Quarter as Todd Morcom, a veteran of several Escondido campaigns, got the ball rolling midway through the 1st with a deep stand-up tube on a bending right-hander.
"I waited forever for that wave," Morcom said. "I was getting a little nervous, but I've sat on that peak my whole life and I knew it would come."
Morcom was aided by both C.J. and Damien Hobgood, Shea and Cory Lopez, Baron Knowlton, Peter Mendia, and Wildcard Jamie O'Brien, who took an immediate liking to the Mexican Pipeline. "This place is unreal," said O'Brien, after his first-half series of tubes helped propel the East to a 10-point halftime lead.
But while the West Coast started off slowly, Rob Machado, Kieran Horn, Shane Beschen, Pat O'Connell, Chris Ward, Taylor Knox, Dane Reynolds and Wildcard Kalani Robb fought their way back to within striking distance by the end of the 3rd Quarter, ending up just two points down. With pressure mounting, the East took their final turn at bat in the top of the 4th, with another impressive quarter that left the West with a 29-point gap to close in the bottom half of the final quarter. Taylor Knox and Shane Beschen got the West Coast straight back in with back-to-back barrels, scoring a 9.5 and 8.5 respectively, leaving the East Coast bench to sweat out the final minutes as Kalani Robb and Dane Reynolds looked to overtake the lead, each needing only a 6.5. But both surfers' numerous attempts failed, and as the clock expired, the West could only hang their heads in agony once again.
"I won't lie," said Coach Mike Parsons. "This one hurt pretty bad. I could have subbed in Che Stang at one point, as he was in position for a good wave, but I wanted to give my guys a chance, and go down swinging."
"Nobody can doubt us now," said East Coast Coach Matt Kechele. "Maybe now people will realize it's not all about Kelly back there. Don't get me wrong, we all love him, but it's safe to say some of these guys are ready to come out of his shadow. We're dominating right now."