Surf: From overhead and slightly mixed-up to head-high and glassy to waist-high chop, this contest got the full range of east coast conditions.
Events Held: The WQS 2-Star Outer Banks Pro Presented by WRV and the 1-Star Angel Eyewear Pro
Nature’s Call: If you wanted something easy to read you shoulda bought a comic book.
Predicted: A third annual Outer Banks pro, same time next year.

There wasn’t much to talk about on finals day of the Outer Banks Pro. After a run of solid surf continued from Thursday through Saturday, surprising everyone from national weathermen to local fishermen, Sunday’s slow-moving, choppy waist-to-chest-high conditions meant sporadic peaks of action marked by long, yawning lulls. But all that changed toward the end of Semifinal 2, when Ben Bourgeois, Jody Davis, Jason Shibata and Chris Ward started shuffling positions like the illustrated Kama Sutra. Looking in -form all contest, the two most seasoned competitors — Wardo and Bourgeois — took a commanding lead before Shibata turned on the last half to bump Benny down to third — but not for long. Bourgeois snapped, going on a rampage of righthand attack not just usurping Shibata, but Chris himself. It was the kind of blazing show that makes one wonder if he peaked too early. Come the final, Ben’s magical powers disappeared, finishing third, as Wardo streaked to victory ahead of Gabe Kling while Timmy Reyes ended up in fourth.

Gabe Kling. If Wardo was the talk of the first three days, then Kling held the buzz for the last two hours. In Semi One, the St. Augustine regularfoot cranked in a series of backside power-hacks to stay in front from start to finish, leaving Timmy Reyes, TJ Barron and Jesse Merle Jones in a 25-minute game of catch-up. Then, in the final, Kling clicked perhaps his best ride all day on a rare lined-up left — two solid snaps, followed by a perfectly launched and landed aerial. “That was an eight, easy,” claimed a recently outed Jason Shibata. “But you know they won’t give it to him.” He was right, by more than a point and half. And if you’re wondering what that strange hum in the atmosphere is, it’s a chorus of East Coast fans still crying foul.

We all know a contest comes down to who wins, but it’s not always the biggest news. The beauty of these small local events with bulky heat sheets is all little dramas that develop along the way. Surely the most watched exchange — at least until it ended — was the Chris Ward versus Noah Snyder showdown that went on for four rounds as the international bad boy and local golden child took turns trading first and second. With each advance the pressure built as spectators wondered if the Nags Head underdog could crank his way to the final. Noah even smacked home an 8.75 on the set of the day during their second-match up, but it all came to an end in the Round of 96 when Snyder finally slipped to third, ruined more by a lack of sets than a lack of skill. Fortunately for the home team, Jesse Hines was still in the game. Hell, he was the game for a little while, earning the highest score — a 9.5 — and loudest cheer of the whole contest for a lengthy lefthand barrel and frontside bash before going down in the semis. And last year’s men’s champ Aarron Cormican seemed destined for a repeat, busting big airs and throwing away seven-point rides until being knocked off by Timmy Reyes, TJ Barron and Dustin Cuizon in the final seconds of his quarter final.

Karina Petroni taking a humbling second to Claire Belivacqua in the Angel Eyewear Pro. With other WQS contests bearing down, officials opted to run the whole women’s event first, giving the girls a worthy stage of solid overhead sets. And from Round One, Karina was the star, snapping and carving out heat victories. With local favorites Patti Hook and Katie Coryell nixed in the semis, the returning champ was also carrying the most local support for the four-woman showdown with Claire, Lindsay Baldwin and Falina Spires. Unfortunately, that’s right where she lost her momentum — and Belivacqua found hers, showing her WQS seasoning by saving the best for last and blowing up to steal the whole show. And, finally, Wardo himself. Not because he won — you could see that one coming the second he paddled out– but because he showed up. With the San Clemente lost boy an official shoe-in for next year’s WCT, why would he bother with a low-ranking two-star 3000 miles away?

“Practice,” Ward replies. “I’ve been doing a lot of these events to keep honing my competitive strategy. That’s why I started in Round One instead of taking a seed, I wanted to surf as many heats as possible and try to stay in tune.”

It’s working. Whether he’s screaming through beyond vertical lipslides or humming over big sections, Chris’ surfing is sounding sweeter than ever.

“He called me an “f”-er.” But he meant it in a nice way.” An amused Noah Snyder, censoring Chris Ward’s complimentary take on his wave-catching abilities. Matt Walker

1. Chris Ward ${{{5000}}}
2. Gabe Kling$2500
3. Ben Bourgeois $2000
4. Timmy Reyes$1500

1. Claire Belivacqua$2000
2. Karina Petroni${{{900}}}
3. Falina Spires${{{600}}}
4. Lindsay Baldwin$500