NSSA National Championships: Renewed Expectations on Day Three at Lowers

Roll up to Lowers at 5 in the morning and you're already too late. Carissa Moore and Dane Zaun are on it, laughing and splitting peaks still hours to go before the sun rises above the San Mateo Mountains and the first heat bell whines.

"Sure I posted a perfect score yesterday," jokes Dane when he's out of the water. "But Clay did it in the finals and I'm just making sure I didn't peak early."

Now fast-forward to later in the day. Carissa has earned so many Shark {{{Freestyle}}} watches for posting 9s and10s in her earlier heats that she'll probably have to start strapping them around her ankle. And Dane is lounging on a couch watching heat 10 of the Open Mens Round 1 as time ticks down.

Like so many of the other heats before it, this one's tense. Five out of the six competitors have triangles against them from paddling into the competition area before the bell so that they might get the set rolling through. Casey Brown is one of those five competitors and sits during a long lull, yet to catch a good wave with only minutes left before the heat ends. A bump rises on the outside and the colored jerseys begin to scrap. Picking off a wave, paddling back out and then getting another, Casey moves up from 5th to 1st. Talk about stressful competition.

And then Dane says it: "The thing about Carissa is that she's not only focused, but whenever she's in the water she always seems to have fun."

For this year's NSSA, there were over 1,500 competitors signed up. Currently the halfway mark of the weeklong event, Wednesday was a day of renewed expectations. Sure, the {{{Explorer}}} Finals are already set and waiting until Saturday, but with the beginning rounds of the Nationals Open, the men, women, juniors, boys and menehunes all have a second to chance to advance in another event.