Opening day the Lane during this year's California Cup was a 180-degree turnaround from last year's Nor Cal flatness. What does that mean for Team Santa Cruz? A whole different Game. With two victories under their 5 mils after yesterday's flawless performances, it appears like they're just getting warmed up. Here's how it went down:
GAME ONESanta Cruz demolished the Orange County and Ventura teams today. The coldwater warriors crushed OC in the ocean and humiliated them on the cliff. In conditions ideally suited to the Nor Cal boys – overhead, chilly, windy, shifty, bouncy, tidal – they proved just how impressive they can be on their home turf. The Stormriders threw down buttery smooth turns where other teams bogged, found barrels where others found burgers and were wave magnets in an expansive, ever-changing lineup that confused and confounded everyone but them. Today's double-header was over before it started and what will happen tomorrow already feels like a foregone conclusion. Santa Cruz, a team that went 1-5 in last year's California Cup, will likely start this year with a clean 4-0 sweep.
The writing was already on the Point's cliff face in the bottom of the 1st Quarter of Game 1. The defending champions, OC, had a shocker in the top of the 1st when current and former WCT stars, Chris Ward and Pat O'Connell, were not able to figure out how to muster anything above 5.5 in the high tide warbles. In the bottom of the first, Kieran Horn found a wedge to his liking off the point and four silky smooth wraps later the judges rewarded him with an 8.5. OC kept it fairly close until halftime, but as the sun came out on the tide started to drain, SC went to work. Peter Mel grabbed a nice one in the slot and did his patented Condor cutbacks all the way to Cowells for a 7, Ratboy gouged one through Indicators for a 7.75 and unknown ripper Sean Peterson tore apart a lined up wall off the point for an 8.25 (this year only each player's best wave counted toward his team's total). The statement was crystal clear. Steamer Lane is a complicated lineup – it's literally about five different spots put together – but Santa Cruz was ready to light it up anywhere and at any time. And, as the day wore on, they did.
OC, normally so unflappable under the steady hand of Mike Parsons, was rattled. The Octopus appeared to be lost at sea and looked like they needed their mascot's eight arms to stop them from missing the best set waves. Guys started debating over where to sit – Middle Peak or the Point – and the coaches couldn't even tell from the cliff which set waves would line up and which would mush out. It was hopeless. In the top of the 4th , Pat O'Connell attacked a shouldering peak and scored an 8.75, but couldn't get his teammates going. Santa Cruz clinched victory two minutes into the bottom of the 4th when their ageless player/coach blew the Ruffo off an outside set wave and found a dry tube on the inside.
Santa Cruz: 97
Orange County: 82
Game 2 started about an hour or so after Game 1 giving SC little time to rest or strategize. They didn't need it. The undermanned Ventura team (missing Bobby Martinez and Tom Curren who were in Australia for WQS contests) had phenoms like Dane Reynolds and Tim Curran, and style masters like Joe Curren, but not much else. The surf was still tricky yet it was rapidly improving on the draining tide. In the first quarter, however, Ventura only managed a total of 22.5. SC hit them back with a 28 as Kieran Horn continued to flaunt his letter perfect point break flow and Ratboy went ballistic through the Indicators section, carving the guts out of the pocket and threading through a long inside tube for a 9.25. By this point SC was so far ahead that the boys started their celebrating and trash talking early. Because of the SC onslaught, It seemed to them that the judges were being a little charitable to the Ventura team. The SC boys noticed that Ventura's average waves were being scored in the five or six point range. When a struggling Pelicano fell after a halfhearted roundhouse, one of the SC team members said with withering sarcasm, "Well, he almost did a cutback. Judges, give him a 9.5."
In the second half, Dane, Tim, Joe and Brian Aresco got more aggressive and their solid surfing temporarily quieted the Santa Cruz peanut gallery. But the Stormriders stormed back with a vengeance. Ratboy did a roundhouse reverse, got barreled and landed an air for an 8.5, while Kieran Horn got a wave where he linked together his turns with such effortless grace that the 9.5 he received almost seemed a tad low.
By the bottom of the 4th quarter, the Pelicanos’ beaks were bloodied and battered and SC went for the kill. After only a couple rides Santa Cruz topped Ventura's score. Then the Budweisers came out and the real celebrating began.
Tomorrow, against a San Diego team lacking depth and a squad from LA lacking big names and experience, the SC slaughter will likely continue.