During the awards ceremony for the 13th annual National ScholasticSurfing Association’s Eastern Championships, {{{Explorer}}} Men’s championEric Geiselman thanked the Lord for sending him his winning wave.

“I’d like to thank God for that wave, because it really helped,” saidGeiselman.

However, in one of the most dramatic Eastern Championships ever,Geiselman isn’t the only one who should be thanking the Almighty. The2005 event, held March 31st to April 3rd at Sebastian Inlet, not onlyscored the best waves in its 13 year history, but during thecompetition’s final day, several underdog competitors pulled off amazingupsets and two college contestants narrowly avoided serious injury afterbeing swept into Sebastian’s rocky jetty.

Every spring, the best amateur surfers from Maine to Miami flock toSebastian to battle it out in the Eastern Champs. Over 500 competitorsshowed up this time, looking to claim an east coast title and qualifyfor the N.S.S.A. National Championships at Lowers this June 16th to25th. Those who made the trip were rewarded with an all-time swell,ranging from two-to-three-foot chunks to four-to-six-foot glass over theevent’s four days.

“It’s definitely the best surf we’ve ever had for this contest,” saidN.S.S.A. Executive Director Janice Aragon.

Although the waves were stellar throughout most of the event, dawn ofthe last day revealed a 20-knot north wind, which created rough surf anda ripping sideshore current. During the morning’s first match-ups,competitors made the most of the conditions, but when the CollegeWomen’s final entered the water, things took a turn for the worse. Inthe middle of the heat, the raging current caught two contestantsunaware and swept them into Sebastian’s 700-foot rubble mound jetty.Although one of the girls was pushed safely through the pilings and intothe river, U.C.F. student Diana Westerman found herself trapped beneaththe barnacle encrusted walkway.

“I tried to stay in front, but the drift was really bad,” said abloodied Westerman, still visibly trembling 15 minutes later. “It pushedme into the jetty, and I got stuck against the rocks and couldn’t paddleout. Three waves broke over me as I was trying to undo my leash, andthen a big set slammed me underwater. When I came up, I was beneath thejetty, stuck between the pilings. I thought I was going to die, but Imanaged to hold onto this rock until a park ranger dropped me a rescuefloat. I can’t believe I made it out.”

After such a close call, the local Sheriff’s Department moved thecontest several hundred yards north to keep competitors away from therocks. Within two hours, however, the wind subsided, the waves cleanedup, and everybody was once again focused on the competition. And withsemi-glassy, four-to-six foot lines rolling through, the lineup offeredan ideal stage for contestants to cut loose and unleash a flurry of bigmaneuvers.

The one move that had everyone talking and Geiselman thanking heaven wasthe perfect ten tuberide he scored during the Explorer Men’s showdown.With the tide on its way out, the surf for the heat was capping on theouter sandbar and reforming into dumping shorepound. Puerto Rico’s Tommy

Bursian and Melbourne Beach’s Rylan McCart boosted and floated their waythrough the racy sections to pull into a respectable lead, while Jerseyboy Zack Humphreys and New York’s Travis Beckmann weren’t far behind.Oddly, New Smyrna Beach’s Jeremy Johnston and Eric Geiselman, bothlikely contenders, seemed to be unable to find good-scoring waves. Butin the last minutes of the heat, a solid head-high right stacked up infront of Geiselman, who turned and dropped into a gaping cavern. With anoncoming section threatening to trap him in the pit, it looked unlikelyhe would make it, but amazingly, he came flying out just before the peakexploded into whitewash. With that wave, Geiselman not only picked upthe event’s highest score, but he also nabbed his second title of theday after winning the Airshow earlier that morning.

“I won a Menehune title a few years back, but I haven’t had anythingelse in a while, so these two victories are really important for me,”said Geiselman.

In the Explorer Women’s final, Christa Alves of Cocoa Beach was able toovertake Melbourne Beach’s Connie Arias-considered the divisionfavorite-with a big move of her own. Alves claimed the win after pullingoff a stylish fins-free lip bash, garnering a 6.56 from the judges.Because she’s only been competing for two years, Alves was a littleoverwhelmed she landed such a flashy move in the stressful atmosphere ofa major championship.

“I went up and did this big snap, trying to push my tail out as far as Icould,” said Alves. “I’ve never really done that before, so I was amazedI landed it, especially in a contest.”

In another dramatic come-from-behind victory, Justin Quintal of NeptuneBeach, Florida, took down defending Open Longboard champion TonySilvagni of Kure Beach, North Carolina. On his winning wave-a screaminglefthander-the 15-year-old immediately walked to the nose upon takeoff,then backpedaled down the line and nailed two floaters. The victory wasparticularly sweet for Quintal, not just because it was his firstEasterns final ever, but also because Silvagni is one of his idols.

“It feels awesome to beat Tony,” said Quintal. “He’s been my role modelever since I started longboarding. I always watch him at contests andtry to surf the way he does.”

Perhaps the most surprising upset and hard-fought final occurred in thevaunted Open Men’s division. For this last heat of the day, the contestwas moved back to the jetty, where Blake Jones, Brady McKenzie, RylanMcCart, Marshall Alberga, Wesley Toth, and defending champion JeremyJohnston duked it out for the event’s most coveted title. Though allcontestants were in fine form during the battle, it was McKenzie andJohnston who stole the show.

In the beginning of the 30-minute heat, Johnston looked like he’d haveno problem retaining his crown, after ripping apart several waves with aseries of spray-hucking gouges and tail-sliding floaters. But sittingnear First Peak, McKenzie soon got on the board with a reeling left,sticking a big floater followed by two carving snaps. As McKenzie madehis way back outside, Johnston paddled south, taking over Brady’sposition in the lineup. When a wedging right popped up, Johnston litinto it with two smooth backside hits. Just behind him on the very nextwave, though, McKenzie went square off the bottom and boosted a hugefrontside air. He emerged from the whitewater to the roar of the crowdand a 7.67 from the judges. Though several minutes remained in the heat,the high-flying aerial proved impossible to match. Competing againstsomeone as talented as Johnston, McKenzie knew such a major move was hisonly hope.

“Jeremy was surfing really good, so when that wave came through, I knewI needed something big to beat him, so I just went for it,” explainedMcKenzie. “Luckily, I landed it and got a good enough score to make itthrough.”

Speaking of luck, contest organizer Aragon was feeling somewhat blessedherself following such an action-packed, wave-filled Easterns. After 12years of holding the event at Sebastian, the infamous inlet has neverlet her down. Although she thinks there’s nothing supernatural behindher good fortune, others have their doubts.

“Every time I come here, people tell me I have a halo over my headbecause I always score such good surf,” said Aragon. “I don’t know abouta halo, but in 13 years of holding this event, we’ve never beenskunked.”


1. Brady McKenzie
2. Jeremy Johnston
3. Marshall Alberga
4. Rylan McCart
5. Blake Jones
6. Wesley Toth

1. Caleb Johnston
2. Tyler Crawford
3. Fisher Heverly
4. Rob Kelly
5. Zack Humphreys
6. Michael Dunphy

1. Evan Thompson
2. Nick Rupp
3. Evan Geiselman
4. Michael Ciaramella
5. Hector Santa Maria
6. Paulo Diaz

1. Tanner Strohmenger
2. Corey Howell
3. Forest Johnson
4. Tristan Thompson
5. Josh Motes
6. Mauricio Diaz

1. Ashley Bobb
2. Connie Arias
3. Ashley Frances
4. Amy Nicholl
5. Leilani Pickett
6. Kate Fleming

1. Justin Quintal
2. Tony Silvagni
3. Matt Daly
4. Alex Metz
5. Nick Gregory
6. Ian Bloch

1. Eric Geiselman
2. Rylan McCart
3. Tyler Crawford
4. Marshall Alberga
=5 Blake Jones
=5 Ian Bloch

1. Eric Geiselman
2. Rylan McCart
3. Thomas Bursian
4. Zack Humphreys
5. Travis Beckmann
6. Jeremy Johnston

1. Blake Jones
2. Eric Geiselman
3. Thomas Bursian
4. Jesse Heilman
5. Cody Thompson
6. Ben Graeff

1. Kris Wiernicki
2. Nick Rupp
3. Evan Geiselman
4. Taylor Brothers
5. Michael Dunphy
6. Eric Templeton

1. Evan Geiselman
2. Evan Thompson
3. Hector Santa Maria
4. Nick Rupp
5. Nathan Colburn
6. Paulo Diaz

1. Amy Nicholl
2. Leilani Pickett
3. Sarah Pfeiffer
4. Coral Johnson
5. Savannah Bradley
6. Evan Humphreys

1. Christa Alves
2. Connie Arias
3. Amy Nicholl
4. Marissa Guthrie
5. Ashley Boob
6. Moira Dougherty

1. John Lacerte
2. Travis Ajay
3. Anthony Passerelli
4. Jason Motes
5. Lyn Meyers
6. Steve More

1. Justin Quintal
2. Tony Silvagni
3. Matt Daly
4. Les Carrithers
5. Billy Compton
6. Joe Pulido

1. Dave Hoag
2. Glenn Klugel
3. Dave Smith
4. Ricky Carroll
5. Craig Colburn
6. Sean Hayes

1. Bill Miller
2. Craig Colburn
3. Randy Rose
4. Joe Keenan