Brad Gerlach and the National Surf League prepare for the biggest thing to hit California since the Gold Rush

Brad Gerlach is excited. He’s sitting in his car at the Seaside parking lot, watching Team San Diego warm up for next week’s Quiksilver California Cup. Taylor Knox runs by and gives him some crap about Jet Skis, and then he watches Benji Weatherley annihilate one to the beach. His partner, Jeff Cutler, has called him 18 times in the last 30 minutes, but everything is OK. The Game, once again, is upon us. Bigger (the inclusion of Los Angeles ups the California Cup team list to five), Better (more TV coverage, a sponsorship from Quiksilver and shorter Games = higher impact) and more charged than ever, this year’s California Cup promises to make a competitive surfing believer out of anyone. Just ask Brad.

SURFING MAGAZINE: Uh, Brad?BRAD GERLACH: [not listening, yelling to Rob Machado on the beach] Why? You got enough guys today! Don’t throw me under the bus, man! [back to us] I’m at the San Diego practice right now. Friggin’ Machado. [back to Rob] I’m passing the torch! I passed it a long time ago. Whatever.

They’re trying to call you in?They’re trying to get me on the team, yeah. I don’t want to take anyone’s slot.

How are the Sea Lions looking?Really good turnout this morning. A good roster here. Rob Machado, Taylor Knox, Benji Weatherley, Darryl Goodrum....I’m really bummed. There’s this kid from La Jolla named Nick Jiampa and he surfs really good. I tried to get a hold of him a bunch of times, and finally he’s here. But we already picked the roster, so he’s gonna have to be an alternate.

What else can we look forward to during this year’s California Cup series?Well, for one, we’ve changed it to the best one wave per surfer per quarter. And it’s like, god, if you can’t put one good wave together, get off the team. Go get a job. Know what I mean? It was best two waves last year, but now we’ve shortened the periods and made it one wave. The whole game works out to be about two and a half hours compared to almost four. Should make for even better, more exciting, more high-risk surfing.

Less coaches, too, we heard?This year, we’ll only have a coach an assistant instead of the water coaches, as well. So, the teams will be using their benches more, the older wiser guys on the team, to be the coaches in the water. Like, LA has Alan Sarlo on its team. He has so much experience and knowledge of the ocean that he could be great for calling time outs and that kind of stuff. And he’ll still be eligible to play if the waves get big.

So, the Wave Killer could be making a comeback?The Wave Killer could potentially surf if it’s, like, 20 feet. I don’t know. He’ll go.

Have you had a chance to look at all the teams in person and really assess ’em?I haven’t looked at Ventura in person this year and I haven’t looked at Santa Cruz. But I know both of em from last year and I know they’re both full of talent and full of potential. Last year, Santa Cruz lost a lot of games, but they were unlucky. They lost some close ones, and then had the largest winning margin of the whole season. They SMOKED Ventura at the Hook. And the obvious standouts were Kieran Horn and Josh Mulcoy, and they absolutely tore the shit out of it. I was really impressed, and I’m not easily impressed.