ESA Eastern Championships Preview – Title Threats: Girls / Junior Women

Amy Nicholl

DOB: 3/13/{{{90}}}
THEY CALL ME: Pickle. "It rhymes with my last name and my board's green."
HOMETOWN: New Smyrna Beach
HOMEBREAK: New Smyrna Beach Inlet
DISTRICT: North Central Florida (NCFL)
SCHOOL/GPA: New Smyrna Beach High School/ 4.31
HONORS: 2004 ESA Eastern Girls Champion; 2004/2005 Globe Scholastic Junior Women's Champ; 2005 ESA Southeast Regional Girls Champion; 2004/2005 ESA All-Star Team Member

What's that in the sky? A bird? A plane? Nope. It's Amy Nicholl, and she's just pulled her first aerial. "It was down at Bethune Beach," says the New Smyrna 15 year-old. "I had this dumpy incoming section so I just went for it and it worked." She sounds elated; almost giggly. But what's exciting for Amy is dangerous for her competitors, who now have one more reason to fear the latest product of the North Florida's talent factory, home of such heroines as Karina Petroni, Lisa Andersen and Frieda Zamba. Nicholl's powerful frontside cutties are most reminiscent of Zamba and now with the gift of flight she has even more in common with the four-time world champ, not that Amy necessarily agrees. "If you mean I'm blonde, tan and goofyfoot, sure," she says of the {{{comparison}}}. "But if you mean we surf alike, no way." Amy's modest. Still, though she claims Keenan Lineback as a potential rival for this year's Easterns crown, the odds are clearly in the defending champ's favor. First Nicholl has three years of extra experience. Second, she's got the results, including a second coastal win at the Globe Scholastics. But most importantly, she's got the momentum. And, with the recent divisional changes putting her most seasoned rivals in Junior Women's, look for Nicholl to soar again come September.

Keenan Lineback

DOB: 9/11/92
HOMEBREAK: 64th Ave. North
DISTRICT: Northern South Carolina (NSC)
SCHOOL/GPA: Conway Christian School/ 3.8
HONORS: 2nd, Girls, 2005 Globe Scholastic Championships; 4th Open Women, 2005 Globe Scholastic Championships; 3rd, Women, 2005 No Fear/Aqua East Pro/Am; 4th, Menehunes, 2004 ESA Eastern Championships; Girls and Open Women Champion, 2004 South Carolina State Championships; 2005 ESA All-Star Team Member

Wanna know the difference one contest can make? Ask Keenan Lineback. Prior to last year's Easterns, Keenan was just another kid from South Carolina. Afterwards, she was a one-girl wahine phenomenon. That's what happens when you make the Girls final your rookie year. But it was her fourth-place finish against the boys in Menehune that really thrust Keenan into the spotlight, earning {{{comparisons}}} to rippers like Carissa Moore and Lisa Andersen. "Things have improved a lot," she says. "I picked up some sponsors and I've even been in a few magazines." Of course, with exposure comes pressure, but Lineback tries not to think about what's at stake. Instead, she concentrates on learning as much as possible, mostly from her brother, 2004 Boys champ, Hunter. "Hunter's pretty much my main influence," she explains. "He helps me try new things in surfing." Let's see: she charges waves twice her size. She's taken home ${{{100}}} in a pro event. What else can a 12-year-old surfer girl do? Well, for one she can win her first Easterns title. And though she won't be able to surf against the guys this year, there's one particular boy she'd still like to take down. "I'd love to beat my brother in a contest," she laughs. "Maybe one day."

Christa Alves

DOB: 5/ 30/1989
HOMETOWN: Cocoa Beach, FL
HOMEBREAK: Cocoa Beach Pier.
DISTRICT: Central Florida (CFL)
DIVISION: Junior Women/ Open
CURRENT RANK: 1st, Junior Women, CFL
SCHOOL/GPA: New Covenant Christian / 4.0
HONORS: 2005 ESA Southeast Regional Junior Women's Champ; 2005 Globe East Coast Scholastic Girls Champion; 2005 Jupiter Pro Women's Champ; 2004 Girls Champ, Billabong Jr. Pro Sebastian Inlet; 2004/2005 US Team Member; 2004 ESA All-Star Team Member

In just three years of competition, Christa Alves has amassed a lifetime's worth of titles. From Junior Pro wins to a slot on the US Team, this Cocoa Beach 16-year-old stepped into the national arena almost as soon as she stepped on a surfboard, but she still lacks the most important coastal honor of all -- an ESA Easterns championship. But a lot's changed since she suffered a credit-card thin loss to Amy Nicholl in last year's highly contest girls final. First, she's moved up to the Junior Women's division. Second, she made the US Team, traveling to Tahiti for the ISA World Junior Games. "It's so cool to see so many good girls from all over the world, " says Christa. " Once you see that, you realize it's not just kids in the US you have to try and beat." Since then she's racked up still more wins, becoming the Globe East Coast Scholastic Girls Champion, and she has more challenges in store, from surfing the US Open this summer -- one of the most difficult pro events in the whole United States -- to the ESA Eastern Junior Women's title. "I want to win it really bad," she explains. "Basically, I just want to win everything."

Ashley Francis

DOB: 2/26/87
HOMETOWN: Satellite Beach, FL
DISTRICT: Central Florida (CFL)
DIVISION: Junior Women
CURRENT RANK: 6th, Junior Women, CFL
HONORS (BEST RESULTS)) 3rd, Junior Women, 2005 Globe Scholastic Championships; 2nd, Women's Longboard, 2004 American Surfing Championships; Junior Women's Champion, 2002/2003 East Coast Surfing Championships; 2003, 2004, 2005 ESA All-Star Team Member

Ashley Francis has had one amazing year. By graduating early, she's been able to travel to places like Peru, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Australia, stockpiling experiences most teenage surfers only dream of. "Mostly it's training, " she explains. "But that's the good thing about surfing: when you're training, you're surfing." Now, the trick will be converting such seasoning abroad into contest victories back home. As the veteran Junior Women's competitor -- one who surfed along side such former champs as Kira Sheppard -- Francis was the heir apparent at the 2004 Easterns, but a wave-poor semi kept her from even making the final. And this year, the competition is only getting stronger as she faces the next generation of female talents. "I think the girls are only getting better," says Ashley. "It's almost like watching the guys. "But rather than feeling the pressure, it's this very performance boost that drives Ashley to make sure her last year in the Junior Women's division is a winner. "I'm gonna keep surfing the ESA through college," she explains. "But these are the girls I want to win against because they're the top girls right now and they're the ones who are making things happen."

Lindsey Bowman

DOB: 6/8/89
THEY CALL ME: "Usually Bowman or Bow -- I don't get called my first name too much."
HOMETOWN: Virginia Beach, VA
HOMEBREAK: First Street, Middleton, or Croatan
DISTRICT: Virginia (VA)
DIVISION: Junior Women
CURRENT RANK: 1st, Junior Women, VA
SCHOOL/GPA: First Colonial High School/ 3.9
HONORS (BEST RESULTS)): 3rd, Girls, 2004 ESA Eastern Championships; 1st, Women's Longboard/ 7th, Women's Shortboard, 2004 American Surfing Championships

Location. Location. Location. That's the secret of Lindsey Bowman's success. Sure, she's grown up in wave-starved Virginia Beach, but at least she's grown up in Croatan, just steps away from one of the town's rare, year-round surfing beaches. "It's super convenient," says Lindsey. "I actually didn't start surfing until I was 12, but now I'm hooked." Being so close to the water also keeps her in contact with the area's best surfers, from fellow team rider Philip Goold to competitive vets Jason Borte and Bobby Holland. "It helps surfing with the older guys because I didn't grow up in a surfing family," she explains. "It's good to go to them for coaching and advice." One thing they don't need to tell Lindsey is how to compete. The First Colonial High School sophomore runs track and plays basketball, so it's not surprising the team player helped FC take the high school surfing win at the Globe Nationals, upsetting the favored Florida competitors. Come September, she hopes she can do the same for herself. And if not, there's always basketball, right? Well, maybe not. "The other sports are fun and all," she admits. "But surfing's my favorite. Win or not, that's what I want to do."

Caitlin Lawson

DOB: 9/25/89
THEY CALL ME: Skeeter.
HOMETOWN: Hilton Head Island, SC
HOMEBREAK: Burkes Beach
DISTRICT: Southern South Carolina (SSC)
DIVISION: Junior Women
CURRENT RANK: 1st, Jr. Women, SSC
SCHOOL/GPA: Hilton Head Preparatory School, 4.0
HONORS: 4th, Girls, 2005 Globe Scholastic Championships; Junior Women's Champion, 2004 South Carolina Governor's Cup

Any southern girl will tell you family's important, but few wahines have reason to be so thankful as Caitlin Lawson. "My dad always surfed," says the toe-headed 16 year-old. "Plus [Easterns champ] Glenn Tanner's my uncle, his wife Terri rips and I compete with my cousin Kristin all the time -- it's awesome." It's just this family push that keeps Lawson motivated as women's surfing isn't quite the craze in South Carolina as it is elsewhere. "Some girls are slowly getting into it," says Caitlin. "But they don't understand why I miss so many weekends for contests or how important it is to me. They're kind of like 'What's the big deal?'" That's a question Caitlin has no trouble answering. Since first stepping on a surfboard at nine, she's watched her trophy rack grow with her competitive dreams, taking fourth at this year's Globe Scholastics. The trick will be stepping up a notch in September as she faces the same tough lineup of ladies. But Caitlin knows she has ability. And she knows that ESA family will always be there to encourage her. "We actually have a contest tomorrow," she beams. "I look forward to that all week. Just going up and seeing everybody -- that's the best."