Huntington Beach pier saw the opening wave thrown down at 10:05 sharp Friday morning at the Hurley Game Weekend, the official start of the long-awaited National Surf League California Cup series. It’s a four-weekend series culminating in a championship fifth weekend starring teams from each of California’s coolest surfing counties — San Diego, Orange, Ventura/Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Each region is allowed a 15-man roster, including an eight-man starting lineup plus two first alternates, while still leaving the entire squad free to be utilized if need be throughout the four two-sided quarters allotted the teams to score points. Each event is meant to have a stadium feel with one home team locking horns with the away teams for an individual three game series. And it’s all made for TV; the whole thing is set to air on ESPN2 starting June 15. Put simply, The Game is surfing for sports fans made easy.

Of course, similar to a sofa superstar calling out his favorite player locked in the TV: it’s always easier to enjoy The Game from the outside. That was made clear today when Santa Cruz coach, Alistair Craft, was nearly booted from the beach after flipping event commentator Sal Masekela the bird, as he described the visiting teams hefty point deficit. It all seemed pretty funny until Game referee, Mike Cruickshank, started pulling out the rulebook. ” It says here that a team can be penalized points for un-sportsmanlike conduct,” said the man in the striped shirt to Game director Bradley Gerlach. “And you probably thought I didn’t even read the rulebook,” he added, walking back to the ref’s block, obviously fired up.

Speaking of fired up, that was the rule of the day for Orange County at The Game. Led by a strong performing four pack of Timmy Reyes, Mike Todd, Pat O’Connell, S. Carolina transplant Mike Hoisington and a devastating average of 28 points apiece, the up north boys basically had no choice — they were going home. ” Rematch!” yelled Adam Replogle from the SC dugout to the waiting ear of OC head coach Mike “Snips” Parsons, which was music to his ears. Word around The Game is that the OC are already breaking out the brooms.”Yeah, we’re looking to sweep, and we’re looking to the championships,” claimed Mike Todd, the winner of today’s Most Radical Maneuver award, for a lethal power hook combo. Looking to tomorrow’s match-up with a stacked Ventura/Santa Barbara team including Tom Curren, Tim Curran and Dane Reynolds to name but a few, he noted, “I see them as being our toughest rival, but we’re keeping an eye on San Diego as well.”

That’s not to say that Santa Cruz doesn’t have any depth. Rookie Tyler {{{Fox}}} and veteran Josh Loya both looked solid as most on the OC, but overall the shifty head-high peaks had the SC searching for a miracle by the time the fourth quarter came around. HB local Timmy Reyes made this a fact by consistently honing in on the better waves of both his quarters. “I’ve even impressed myself,” he beamed when awarded with the day’s MVP award for his outstanding 28.25 points, “now we’re saying ‘bring it on!'” Which is a fire Santa Cruz will have to have to match if they want to even the score at their next meeting with the OC, two weeks from now, and this time on their home turf. Said SC power hitter, Kieran Horn, “We were at a disadvantage in these average conditions cause we’ve been surfing perfect waves at home all week; surf as good as it gets.” “But just wait; we’ve got Ventura C Street and the Lane coming next — I’m pretty sure that should turn things around.” — Hagan KelleySCORE:
California Cup Game No. 1 — Sponsored by Hurley International
Orange County: 188.25
Santa Cruz: 145.5