It’s official: Orange County has the best surfers in the state, when it comes to riding on their own home turf. At a little past noon on this blazingly sunny second of May, they proved their point. Not only with a decisive win in the clean, peaky, head-high surf next to the pier — crushing the whole of team San Diego weighted atop Taylor Knox/Rob Machado superstar shoulders — but unveiling a team so complete as to being quite possibly without match. From power to spontaneity to finesse, no team on the California coast comes close to the boys from OC, at least for now, and that’s why they’re the current favorites for taking the California Cup to be awarded in four weeks’ time. “Say hello to my little friend; his name is Timmy Reyes.” This is the kind of stuff the OC had Game MC Sal Masakala spouting only minutes into the bottom of the first quarter, which should be some kind of indication of how the boys in the orange shirt . They have serious firepower, and not only with Timmy and his variety of power snaps and slides, but with coaching, and with an attitude that exudes confidence. Which is something Santa Cruz, Ventura/Santa Barbara and now finally San Diego know all too well. Something that made SD’S first quarter captain Taylor Knox, say, “I knew they’d do that; they knew it would be too high tide,” speaking of OC’S home team choice to surf first in the quarter — a compliment that the day’s final outcome would in no way deny.
Basically, the Game was won and lost in this first half. Why? Because Knox and Machado surfed for a combined total of 19.0 points, that’s why. Comparatively, the OC’s Mike Losness posted a 16.25 all by his limber, backside-smacking self. Team Orange had all rhythm, catching backup waves after falls to keep the vibe flowing while SD had trouble trying to decide which timeout to use for which lull. In the third quarter SD did show some signs of form — Knox winding into a handful of huge arcs worth 16.5; Stang, Austin Ware and Matt Yates coming up with double digits for a total of 51 points and a 22 point lead. But Stang also rode a wave in standing after time, which had the OC up in arms. “What’s up; what was that?” were the shouts toward Game referee, Mike Cruickshank, hoping for a call from the rulebook, some kind of infraction. No call was made, but it did show what kind of competitive animals we’re dealing with. The end result of the OC vs. SD, Round One, can be described in many ways: by the cheers of the home team as Rob Machado slammed trying the biggest snap on the biggest wave of the day; in the way Timmy Reyes grabbed one of his oversized thighs and growled full Hulka-maniac style at the SD during the morning starting lineups. It can even be described by Danny Nichols, who as his team overtook the points victory only six minutes into their fourth quarter, took a broom to the ref’s block for at least three minutes and one shamelessly well-executed photo op. While SD showed moments of brilliance — like Dean Randazzo’s angry layback snap for Most Radical Maneuver — like OC had claimed it: it wasn’t even close. Yet, the SD remain optimistic. “We’re still so in it, it’s not even funny,” said Benji Weatherly, speaking of the momentum his team hopes to grab by their next meeting with the OC, in three weeks at the Oceanside pier. But likely it will take more than optimism to beat the OC, who’re already looking forward to their next win. “I think we’ll win next week too,” said the day’s MVP, Mike Todd. “We’ve just got the most depth and we have the format the most dialed.” — Hagan Kelley FOR ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: