ESA Eastern Championships Preview – Title Threats: Boys

Tayler Brothers

DOB: 10/12/91
HOMEBREAK: North and South Jetty
DISTRICT: West Florida/WFL
SCHOOL/GPA: Laurel Nokomis Middle School/NA
HONORS: 2005 Globe Scholastic Boys Champion; 2004 Op Scholastic Menehune Champion; 2004 Southeast Regional Boys Champ; 2003, 2004 ESA All Star Team Member

It's no wonder they call 81-pound Tayler Brothers, "Termite." This small, devastating competitor lies hidden along the Gulf Coast only to swarm on Florida ESA events and reduce them to shambles. And with a string of Globe and Regional victories to his name, there's only one left: an Easterns title. "It's really important for me to win," says Tayler. "That's one of my main goals right now." Of course, Brothers wouldn't be the first Gulf Coaster to wear the crown. WCT standouts Shea and Cory Lopez took home several, and Tayler follows their same path to success, spending his weekends zipping across the state to compete. And if that isn't enough, his family also has a condo in Satellite Beach, offering another set of role models to monitor. "We live in the same neighborhood where the Hobgoods did," laughs Tayler. "It's such an inspiration to watch those guys." For Brothers, inspiration is key, giving him the momentum to surf bigger waves and train harder. And though Termite may be small, his dreams are huge. "I figure if Kelly Slater can win six world titles from Florida, anyone can," says Tayler. "You just have to put your mind to it."

Nick Rupp

DOB: 11/21/1992
HOMETOWN: Shallotte, NC
HOMEBREAK: Ocean Isle Beach
DISTRICT: Southern North Carolina (SNC)
SCHOOL/GPA: Shallotte Middle School/NA
HONORS: 2004 ESA Eastern Menehune Champion; 2004 Mid-Atlantic Regional Menehune Champion; 2004, 2005 ESA All Star Team Member

Only four seasons surfing the ESA and 13-year-old Nick Rupp is already a five-time champ. Raffle champ, that is. At last year's Easterns giveaway night, this kid took more winning tickets than anyone, weighed down with enough gear to open his own surf shop. But it was winning his Menehune title -- and taking down the likes of super grom Evan Geiselman -- that made the trip most memorable. "That felt good," says Nick. "It felt like I could do it." This year, Rupp steps up to the Boys division, which means older, stronger competitors. And though he was leading his district at press time, Nick knows he must face other rivals, whether its fellow NCer Fisher Heverly or Floridian Tayler Brothers. That's why he's already training, paddling a half-mile to his local pier each day and going even farther to push his limits in waves of consequence. "I've been to Puerto Rico six times so far," says Rupp. Between PR's thumping barrels and the smaller chop of his Ocean Isle home, Rupp's certainly prepared for any conditions. But is he prepared for the competition? You bet. "It would be incredible for me to win my first year," he explains. "Do that and you've got nothing to prove -- because you've already proved it."

Fisher Heverly

DOB: 2/2/91
HOMETOWN: Emerald Isle, NC
HOMEBREAK: Bogue Inlet Pier
DISTRICT: Central North Carolina (CNC)
SCHOOL/GPA: Broad Creek Middle School/NA
HONORS (BEST RESULTS): 2003 ESA Eastern Menehune Champion; 2nd, Boys, 2005 Globe Scholastic Championships; 2004, 2005 ESA All Star Team Member

We've all seen what happens to child stars. They get a little taste of fame and everything goes down the tubes. Not for Fisher Heverly. When this Emerald Isle felt the spotlight as one of SURFING's "First Look" subjects, he figured he hadn't arrived -- he'd only begun. "It gives me more confidence to do better, really," says Fisher. "That was my first time in a big magazine, I don't want it to be the last." Unlikely. With one Easterns title to his name already, Fisher is fast on the heels of CNC standouts like his brother Hunter, plus the Schub brothers and Dylan Stone, ESA graduates who keep him amped in their isolated corner of the Carolinas. But while there may not be a huge number of surfers, Emerald Isle is near some of strongest beachbreak the East Coast can muster. Add a recent North Shore trip and some runs through Australia, and Fisher's feeling confident come September, provided the surf rises to the challenge. And if that's not enough, there's another pulse of energy to keep him motivated -- the next generation of surfers fighting for surf stardom. "It seems like the younger kids keep getting better," says Fisher. "It pushes you. It makes you want to win before its too late."

Tommy Orsini

DOB: 3/6/92
HOMETOWN: Satellite Beach, FL/Aguadilla, PR
SCHOOL/GPA: Deloura Middle School/2.8
HONORS (BEST RESULTS): 1st, 2004 Rip Curl Grom Search, Puerto Rico; 2nd, 2004 Rip Curl Grom Search, Florida; 2nd, Menehune, 2004 Southeast Regional Championships; 4th, Boys, 2005 Globe Scholastic Championships; 2005 All Star Team Member

Imagine. You're a 12-year-old surfer living on the north shore of Puerto Rico -- the Hawaii of the Atlantic -- and all of sudden you have to move to Florida. Bummer, huh? Not necessarily. "The waves aren't as good," says Tommy Orsini. "But there's a lot more contests and a lot more good surfers." Of course, Tommy's not talking about his hometown heroes Dylan Graves and Brian Toth, super rippers who helped put PR back on the surfing map and encouraged Tommy to carve out some territory for himself. "I used to surf with them at Jobos," says Tommy. "They'd always tell me to come out and surf the peak." Now, Tommy takes what he learned on his native island and applies it in the talent-thick waters of Central Florida where he hones his skills with everyone from top ESA ams like Tayler Brothers to any number of Sunshine State pros. His hope? That after a close call in last year's semis, his second year surfing Easterns is victorious. His strategy? "Be aggressive and wait for the good waves." It's a simple plan, but the best moves are often swift and calculated. And applied correctly, it could carry him to another exciting new home: the winner's circle.

Cole Richards

DOB: 9/18/91
HOMETOWN: Garden City Beach, SC
HOMEBREAK: Garden City Pier
DISTRICT: Northern South Carolina (NSC)
SCHOOL/GPA: St. James Middle School/NA
HONORS: 4th, Boys, 2004 ESA Eastern Championships; 2002/2003 Boys Champion, East Coast Surfing Championships

Few can claim surfing roots like Cole Richards. As son of shaper and shopowner Kelly Richards, this young South Carolinian has grown up around every aspect of the culture -- from making boards and selling wax to giving lessons and repairing dings. No surprise then that he also knows how to surf a heat. And though Cole may be short on words -- most interview responses remain a simple "yes sir" or" no sir" -- his results speak for themselves. For three straight years, he took a title at Virginia Beach's ECSC. And in 2004, Richards turned an alternate post into fourth place in Boys -- the top spot went to his main rival, fellow SC standout Hunter Lineback. "I actually surf a lot with Hunter," says Cole. "It's good that we have each other for the competition." Now, with Lineback surfing Junior Men, Cole hopes he can keep the Boys tile in SC as he works his way toward his ultimate goal, a professional career. In the meantime he'll keep manning the shop and scoring plenty of water time, getting all the experience he can for his future -- whatever that may be. "I'm definitely gonna take over for Dad one day," he replies "But I've got a few things I'd like take care of competitively first."

{{{Morgan}}} O'Connell

DOB: 5/29/{{{90}}}
HOMEBREAK: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
DISTRICT: Virginia (VA)
CURRENT RANK: 2nd place, Boys, VA
SCHOOL/GPA: Cape Hatteras Secondary/3.8
HONORS: 2nd, Boys, 2004 Op Scholastics; 3rd Boys, 2004 Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships; 5th, Boys 2004 ESA Eastern Champions; Member of High School Championship Team, 2005 Globe East Coast Scholastic Championships

Most teenage kids want to be where the action is. So why did the 15-year-old Morgan O'Connell bail his bustling hometown of Virginia Beach for the sleepy off-season world of Frisco, stuck on the most isolated end of this isolated sandbar? "The surf," he answers. "Besides I've been coming down here since before I was born, so I knew Brett Barley and a lot of the other kids already." In just over a year, Morgan's already infiltrated Hatteras' tight local scene. But while he scores ten times the surf he did back in VB, he still chooses to surf in the VA division. "There's lots of good surfers down here," he explains. "But it's a lot more competitive back up north." It's this best-of-both-worlds approach that's kept Morgan in striking distance of a major victory and gives him a decided edge at this year's Easterns. He knows the ins and out of Buxton's Lighthouse, from tide and swell directions to lineup points, plus he's faced the variety of competition that lurks beyond borders. Now he's only got one problem: if he wins, who's he gonna claim the title for? "Probably Virginia since that's the district I surf," he answers. "But I'm not too worried -- I figure that's a problem I can handle."