Team East Coast won the surfing portion of the X Games yesterday at Huntington Beach in front of thousands of screaming fans and untold millions, live, on ABC. Until recently, this was unimaginable for a sport that’s only sporadically trickled into the mainstream. But in an age when big-wave documentaries get nationwide theater releases and “The North Shore” is a nighttime soap on {{{Fox}}}, this year’s big-stage production — perhaps the costliest undertaking yet for a surf competition — seemed. . .well, almost normal. Of course our world’s best should be treated like Sportscenter stars. Of course Irons and Slater should be compared to other X Games gods, guys like Tony Hawk and Mat Hoffman. After all, Irons, Slater and the rest of ’em get “extreme” on a on a regular basis, soul-arching through 10-foot meatgrinders and launching to the moon over shallow coral reefs.The only problem is, limping Huntington in the dead of summer allows for none of these exciting visuals. So, while MX legend Travis Pastrana risks a double concussion with his double back flip and Danny Way tries to avoid broken femurs while clearing a 70-foot gap in the big air skate comp, our sport’s only dangers were a few sting rays gliding along the inside shorebreak. Keep shuffling those feet, boys!At least Brad Gerlach’s Game format has a way of pumping life into a dead ocean. In conditions like today, traditional comps or even a “best trick” expression session would have had X fans crying foul. But by dividing the surf world into our version of the Civil War (East vs. West), everyone can pick a side and cheer.Last year’s East Coast squad pounced on the home team, spinning the red-tide mushburgers into gold. This year, the West Coast had a few advantages coming in: they gained a better wildcard in two-time world champ Andy Irons and coach OC’s Mike Parsons just enjoyed a dream run during this spring’s California Cup. And if you think Irons was there just to collect the ${{{5000}}} appearance fee, think again. “I can’t wait to surf in this thing,” he said two days before the event. “We’re gonna go out there and smoke those East Coasters.”Irons’ prophecy looked valid during Friday’s practice Game, when the West Coast won the coin toss, fell into rhythm with the sets and won by a tight margin. “Everybody was feeling it on Friday,” said Taylor Knox. “Too bad the surf had to die when it really counted.”

The East Coast nailed the coin toss on Saturday and the Game itself in their very first quarter. Damien Hobgood put up a three-carve combo good for a high seven, while Cory Lopez launched the day’s best 180 air to reverse for a seven something. They finished the 12-minute period with 27 points (tallied on each of the four surfers’ best one wave) and never looked back.

The West made a few attempts at saving face: Rob Machado and Timmy Curran both strung together backhand blurs for high sevens, while AI posted a solid score in his first outing. Dane Reynolds gave ’em fourth-quarter hope with a backhand lipper combo to tail-whip reverse that netted an 8.2. But with time running out, both Curran and Irons ended the Game in the least “extreme” way possible: by sitting out the back, staring out at a flat ocean. Final score: East Coast: 97.03; West Coast: {{{90}}}.02.”I think I should have been voted LVP — Least Valuable Player,” said Kelly Slater of his mediocre wave scores. “But at least we had some guys who really stepped it up.” “I’m claiming three-peat!” EC assistant coach Todd Kline added, one of the few X surfers to keep the smack-talk consistent. But at this point, after their second ugly loss in as many years, the West Coast team was too crushed to even retort. “They just outsurfed us,” admitted Curran. “They had the sets and they outsurfed us.”The morale was so low in the home camp, alternate and perennial Westsider Jason “Ratboy” Collins pleaded to Slater, “Hey, can I be on your guys’ team next year?”

As for the rest of us, we’ll continue to root for our team in the X Games because we love surfing and we love the format. But if the dismal luck with Mother Nature continues, we shouldn’t become too comfortable with our sport in the spotlight. Think of it this way: would you want to watch the big-air skate competition go down on some bumpy, 2-foot ramp in Huntington?— Evan Slater

ResultsTeam Quarter 1 Quarter 2 Quarter 3 Quarter 4 Total Score
East 27.60 22.79 24.73 21.91 97.03
West 22.47 26.22 21.99 19.34 90.02 MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Dean RandazzoTEAMS
Quarters 1 and 3
1. Taj Burrow 5/Blue Yallingup, Australia
2. Cory Lopez 8/Yellow Indian Beach Rocks, Fla.
3. Dean Randazzo 1/Red Atlantic City, N.J.
4. Damien Hobgood 6/Pink Satellite Beach, Fla.
Quarters 2 and 4
1. C.J. Hobgood 4/Blue Satellite Beach, Fla.
2. Asher Nolan 2/Yellow Neptune Beach, Fla.
3. Kelly Slater 7/Red Cocoa Beach, Fla.
4. Aaron Cormican 9/Pink New Smyrna, Fla.
1. Bryan Hewitson 10 Indialantic, Fla.
2. Peter Mendia 3 West Palm Beach, Fla.
Quarters 1 and 3
1. Rob Machado 9/Blue Cardiff, Calif.
2. Shane Beschen 1/Yellow San Clemente, Calif.
3. Taylor Knox 3/Red Carlsbad, Calif.
4. Mike Losness 4/Pink San Clemente, Calif.
Quarters 2 and 4
1. Andy Irons 7/Blue Kauai, Hawaii
2. Pat O’Connell 5/Yellow Dana Point, Calif.
3. Tim Curran 8/Red Oxnard, Calif.
4. Dane Reynolds 6/Pink Ventura, Calif.
Substitutes 1. Jason Collins 2 Santa Cruz, Calif.
2. Nate Yeomans 10 San Clemente, Calif.