Full Circle With Ben Bourgeois

You couldn't pick a more fitting trophy. Sure, that black Chevy {{{Blazer}}} may be 13 years old, but it's also the only vehicle Ben Bourgeois ever drove back home in Wrightsville Beach. Whether he'd just won 1995's Quiksilver Grom Invitational or 1996's ISA World Junior Games to stand as the planets top surfing teenager; or both times he qualified to stand as North Carolina's only WCT pro. No matter where he was in his competitive career -- or where he'd been in the world -- to see that truck tooling through town, meant North Carolina's best surfer ever was home to hop in the water and inspire the next generation of talents. So with the 30 year-old Tarheel deciding that 2008 will be his last competitive season no matter how he fares in Hawaii, his trusty ride was the perfect prize to pass along as part of this past weekend's Benny B. Pimp My Blaze Surf Contest. And though it's hard to see Benny go, when he handed the keys to current US Team member and SNC heir apparent Fisher Heverly who - along with 15-and-under champ Mason Barnes — beat 64 of the Mid-Atlantic's best surfers, Benny not only proved he's leaving the Carolinas' competitive fate in capable hands, he verified the huge impact one world-caliber pro can have on an entire region. We talked with Bourgeois on his way to Hawaii to see just how he'll continue his inspirational career in years to come.

SURFINGMAGAZINE: Are you happy with how the event went?

BEN BOURGEOIS: Definitely. It went insane. I've been wanting to do a free contest for the kids for a long time and give away a bunch of gear -- and my car. It's a 1995 Chevy Blazer, the same truck I've had since I was 16. Fisher Heverly won that. And then, Mason Barnes got a new bike from Two Wheeler Dealer. And then Reef threw out boxes of gear, a ton of Da Kine stuff. And my friend Tony Delcotto made all the contest t-shirts. We flooded the beach with stuff.

How many miles were on the truck when you gave it to Fisher?

Something like 97,000.

Really? That's nothing for a '95. Guess that shows how little time you spend back home.

[laughs] Exactly.

Speaking of which, you're off to Hawaii. Will you be doing the whole Triple Crown or focusing on Pipe? And what's it gonna take for you to re-qualify?

I'll be doing all three. Someone told me have to get first or second at Pipe, but I haven't looked. I'm not even worried about it. Even if I won Pipe I won't be doing the 'CT next year. I'm not retiring from surfing -- but from competing on the tour? For sure.

Is that official? What will you do instead?

Oh, it's official. I'm just gonna do a ton of trips -- mag trips and video projects -- and a couple other things I'm not ready to talk about yet.

But you spent six years re-qualifying. At what point did you decide you were over it? Was it one of those things, where you just had to get back on to prove it to yourself?

Not really. I just haven't been having fun all year. And I obviously haven't been doing well -- so that's part of it. But to tell you the truth, I've been feeling this way since after Australia. I just haven't been stoked. Everywhere we go it seems like I'm not surfing. Not getting good waves. It's really crowded. It's taken its toll; I just had no drive, whatsoever. Meanwhile, I'm looking online and seeing Cory Lopez on another perfect trip scoring waves by himself. Or I see Hatteras is better than any day in France for a month. I had to turn down so many good mag trips this year because I was doing contests. It's killing me.

Wow. This is weird: you, Bruce, Pancho - is the Dream Tour losing its appeal?

I wouldn't say that. I just lost a lot of drive. You have to be really fired up and on top of your game. I want to surf more than ever; I just don't want to win as bad as a lot of those guys. And if you're not in the top 5 and winning events, nobody knows or cares. So Reef and everyone's been really supportive, because, really, they didn't get much out of me at all being on tour. But I'm fired up to go to Hawaii. I want to finish strong. And then I'm really looking forward to next year.

Does that mean you're coming home to NC? Or will you still be bi-coastal Benny?

Yeah I'll still be in California for sure, for now. But I'll be going to new places and getting good waves away from everybody. And I'll definitely be coming home next year. Next year, I'm not gonna miss a swell in Hatteras.

Stay tuned to WBLiveSurf.com to keep tabs on Benny's whereabouts in months to come, as well as all the current Wrightsville Beach haps, including Dec. 5's Hope From Helen Benefit Fundraiser and silent auction.

Benny B’s Pimp My Blaze Surf Contest Nov. 8th Oceanic Street in Wrightsville Beach Results:

16-18 Division
1. Fisher Heverly
2. Nick Rupp
3. Dylan Kowalski
4. Cole Richards

15-Under Division
1. Mason Barnes
2. Cam Richards
3. Conner Lester
4. Dylan Kowalski

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