TROPICAL STORM: Humphreys nabs two titles, but every kid wins in a Helene-soaked Easterns youth showdown

Conditions: chest-to-head high and semi-blown from the southRounds Held: Finals for: Menehune Bodyboard, Open Bodyboard, Menehune Longboard, Junior Longboard, Womens Longboard, Girls, Junior Women, Menehune, Boys, Junior Men, Open.Nature's call: You should've been here yesterdayPredicted: Some cheerin', some cryin' and a whole lot of drivin.'


Helene. Or was it Gordon? Or Florence ....or Ernesto? Whatever their names, the past month of tropical activity meant that every competitor came to Hatteras this year fully primed where the they met perhaps the best batch of hurricane surf yet. The combination of solid waves and surfers made for highly contested battles in every division. In fact, the only champ who truly smoked his opponents was Southern New Jersey's Zack Humphreys, who took both the Junior and Open titles this week with a polished, powerful approach promising true pro potential. Not only was his surfing on fire, he burned consistently, staying smooth under pressure and finding the scores he needed in the most critical moments. While other title threats like Hunter Heverly, Florida's Sean Poynter, VB's Philip Goold and Maryland surprise Vince Boulanger gambled on big moves when behind the eightball, Zack stuck to his favorite takeoff point in front of the judges tent and hammered the lip on the longest lefthanders he could find for wins in both divisions. "This feels so good to win both titles after six years,' he says. "It's a great way to graduate to the next level."

Of course, that's what Easterns is all about - seeing what surfers are destined for the big time - and there were other clearly talented watermen surfing all week. Justin Quintal's performances were as bright his trademark Zinka, fulfilling his destiny as the Junior Longboard champ. And Menehune Bryan Leide showed that Puerto Rico's got more rippers following on the heels of the Graves and Toth brothers. But if you had to pick one waverider who blew the whole field away, it's PR's Jorge Collomer, whose combos of airs, el rollos and ARSes comboed the entire Open Bodyboard division. As one spectator noted, "That was an exciting bodyboard heat." And for once they weren't kidding.


Boys final double elim one. Yes, it was better on Friday. Not just because the waves were bigger and cleaner, but so was the surfing in most cases as nearly every finalist peaked. All except one --Boys champ Nick Rupp. For the past few days, Rupp seemed almost sluggish. He was winning most heats, but not dominating any, even sustaining a loss to NJ surprise and Jr. Hot Wave Winner Ian Bloch (Bloch scored a 10 in the earlier rounds). On the other side, Fisher Heverly - who at 145 lbs. is the biggest boy out there - was putting man-sized moves on man-sized sets , pulling into tubes, and generally showing the best form of the division. Even into today, as he waited undefeated, Fisher seemed a shoe-in for the crown, especially as Rupp got through on a questionable score on his match-up against Bloch. But when Rupp moved on to face Fisher for the title in their first heat, he matured into a master surfer and competitor. First he held Heverly off a first potential heat winner then - on the very next wave - he did his best impression of Slater v. Beschen in 1996 by slipping around Fisher and dropping behind him, drawing an interference on Heverly as he unknowingly went on to nail home what would have been the necessary winning score. As Volcom Team manager Daniel Terry noted: "That was the single best heat I've ever seen Nick surf." Good thing Daniel stuck around. Come the Boys' final face-off, the normally composed Fisher slowly went to pieces, picking off wrong waves and risking big moves while Rupp only built more momentum. For Rupp, it was a huge comeback. For Heverly, it was a wakeup call that, just like his dad said early that morning, "It doesn't matter if he can surf better than any of them, and he's still got to win the heat."