2009 NSSA Nationals Day 2

Keanu Asing. Power and flair, Hawaiian style.

Never let first impressions fool you, especially at a contest that involves hordes of hormonal teenagers, demanding parents, and National titles. Day 2 of competition marked just that -- revealing thick tension infecting the event's fun-loving faade. Trestles began to morph from playground to Coliseum -- the frontlines of the battle of America's brightest young shredders.

Although Round 1 of the Open Juniors saw mediocre Lowers lefts and rights, there was no less heart in every kid in a singlet. The usually peaceful cobblestone Trestles shoreline had become a war zone: Family base camps stretched farther north and south and on-deck contestants gazed seaward, ready for the race of paddle-battles and position. They were suited in the latest aquatic armor and equipped with fiberglass blades tucked tightly under their arms, thrust forward, ready to charge. Some were already bruised and broken, like New York wave guerilla Balaram Stack, who had a waterproof cast wound around his wrist -- plaster proof of an unwavering commitment to his sport.

Though the Volcom brigade onshore fought to keep the amusement levels high with a sizeable onslaught of arts and crafts, finger paint wasn't enough to make every contestant a happy camper. The word around the tents was that there had been a bit of a tussle the day before between two competitors -- one, a San Clemente local, the other a Hawaiian. Frustration, a natural side effect of tense rivalry, had infected the two groms who were both in hot pursuit of eternal NSSA glory.

Over the loudspeaker, heavy metal smudged the once happy-go-lucky atmosphere even further. In the water, Conner Coffin, Luke Davis, Kolohe Andino, and Evan Geiselman slayed their first round heats. Davis and Andino made onlookers dizzy, shifting everyone's gaze from left to right as the two local soldiers split peaks and dismantled the tricky, weak Lowers sections.

Now, one would think that the young ladies of the Open Women's division would bring some order to the day's drama, right? Think again. The girls can be just as malicious as the boys. An anonymous dad put it simply: "Girls get feisty out here; forget about sisterhood."

After working over the rest of the girls in her Round 1 heat, contest junky Malia Manuel took some time to elaborate on Anonymous Dad's remarks: "Girls can get pretty nasty; I've had some kick in my face and take off inside me a bunch of times."

Conner Coffin keeps it casual down on the stones.

Polished competitor Courtney Conlogue even spoke up after her Round 1 heat, pleading her case. "I got back-paddled 3 times out there by the same girl -- but she didn't make it. I guess that's karma."

But out on the outskirts of contest city, there was Kanoa Igarashi, playing in the dirt again -- making the most of his precious 3 hours of freedom before it was time to suit up and duke it out in Round 2 of Open Juniors. He was serious, sure...about the current game of hide-and-seek that he was embroiled in. Earlier he had taken his Round 1 Open Juniors heat, a division that has both age (he is only 11) and experience stacked against him. But the miniature Huntington Beach local seemed refreshingly unfazed by the day's mounting pressure and drama. He might as well of been in Disneyland. I guess there are two ways you can deal with the build-up to the final days of Nationals: feed into the hype and start firing or just focus on being a kid...either way, you've made it this far, and you're already a decorated soldier.