School may be out, but for many of the nation’s top young surfers, final exam time didn’t begin until Friday at Salt Creek. The 2004 NSSA Nationals kicked off another year of high pressure and high expectations three days ago, with the scholastic divisions taking the first test at Orange County’s favorite beachbreak. Conditions were marginal at best, but when bragging rights and school hero status is at stake, no one mailed it home.Although we can’t give the official results until next Sunday’s banquet, we can tell you a few things. For one, San Clemente High and Huntington Beach High were locked in tight race up until the quarterfinals, but word has it SC came on strong at the end. In the collegiate division, it was a three-way duel between Mira Costa, Cal State San Marcos and UCSB Victor. And in the Middle School, Dwyer and defending champs Bernice Ayer locked horns.

Individually, the picture is a little clearer. Announcer Ryan Divel couldn’t divulge the standings and heat scores after the five minute warning, but here who was leading at that point:In the high school men, Pat Gudauskas held a narrow lead over fellow SCers Tanner Gudauskas and Dane Ward, along with New Smyrna’s Jeremy Johnston and HB’s Cory Lapoint. If Pat wins, he could be well on his way to the first Nationals trifecta.In collegiate, SDSU’s Ryan Schnell and USD’s Dylan Slater battled for the lead, followed by USDer Sam Baugh, SDSUer Ryan Clancy, Mira Costa’s Bryce Frees and UCSD’s Ted Travers.Finally, in Middle School, New Smyrna rat Caleb Johnston held a comfortable lead over Kyle Kennelly, Mike Dumfee, Ian Barry, Christian Wach and Chase BradyThe O’Neill Airshow also kicked off, running heats up until the Grand Final, which will be held at Lowers this Saturday. Ventura’s Cory Arrambide stuck the high score so far, with 22.5 points. Ola Eleogram, Hank Gaskell, {{{Sterling}}} Spencer, Danny Shea and Eddie Guilbeau will also get to fly at the world’s most rippable pointbreak.This year’s NSSA Nationals kicks into full gear today, Tuesday, at Lower Trestles and runs through until Saturday. With a head-high swell and {{{600}}} fired up kids on deck, it’s going to be a wild week. Stay tuned.For daily updates on the NSSA Nationals, log on to