NSSA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: Heavy Weather on Day One at Lowers

The portable generators are purring, the extra porta-potties are up and waiting, the camera men are poised, and the crowds are—well, it's Lowers, they're always there, but this time they're all on the beach.

From the competitors to the fans, everyone looked ready for the first day of Nationals at Trestles on Tuesday, June 27th. Sure, there was thunder, rain, heat, cold, and so much wind that they had to tie down the judges' scaffolding with ropes to keep it from blowing over, but there was also surf; and this year's crop of surfers held nothing back once they stepped in the water.

"I've been calling the level of surfing since Nationals last year," said director Janice Aragon, looking tired but happy at the day's end. "We didn't have too many graduates so I knew the bar was going to be higher, and it's pretty obvious after some of the surfing today that it was."

Just watching round 2 of the {{{Explorer}}} Juniors was enough proof to realize that these young surfers haven't just raised the bar for their age group, they've ripped the thing off its hinges and chucked it into the air. Maui's Kai Barger worked his backside on the rights in his heat, pulling off nearly a dozen top to bottom turns and arcing carves per-a-wave, earning him one the highest scoring heats for the day. Indeed he had one of the most powerful surfing style's out there.

"I'll tell ya, the Hawaiians are blowing up," Janice pointed out. "They have style, they're radical, they're focused, and they come here to get the gold which shows in their surfing."

And then there was Heat 4 in Round 2 where Casey Brown and Clay Marzo battled it out for first, with Brown posting a 9 and Clay posting a 10—via his signature tail-whip. Following a flat heat 9, heat 10 opened with a set and the waves continued to come through. Brown went right, holding nothing back in his turns and Clay answered him by dropping in on a left and doing what he does best despite his injured foot.

"I got staff infection surfing in Indo," Clay said, limping out of the water after his heat. "The bandage came off when I was surfing, but I'm just glad I pulled off some waves."

Round 1 of the Expolrer Menehuene went down today, too, with the usual suspects—Ezekiel Lau, Kolohe Andino, and Evan Geiselman standing out above the pack

"I was fired up in my heat because Ezekiel got a 9.5 in his before mine and I wanted to beat that," said Kolohe Andino.