Conditions: 1-3 feet, chunky banks with a South chop
Events Held: {{{Explorer}}} repercharges, Open Boys/Women/Juniors
Nature's Call: Good waves are SO last week – heat waves, too
Prediction: Read ahead, we'll leave it to the experts (ok fine, Granger will win every division…including Explorer Girls, somehow)

It's common sense, really: if you wanna make money at the racetrack, you listen to the horse trainers.

So to get a taste of what's to come at the business end of the NSSA Nationals later this week, we roped up the surfing equivalent of trainers (team managers) and pressed 'em for info. These guys have seen champions rise from the stables to the podium – Slater, Irons, Gudauskas – and they have a thing or two to say about who's coming out of the gates strong in '08. Surf fans and gamblers, perk up your ears: these are the predictions of the sharpest eyes at the track.

Kieran Horn, O'neill: "Too many interferences because it's six-man heats at fifteen minutes. Some of the kids who are favored to win might get knocked out because of an interference or because they just can't catch a wave."

Fact. Just ask Dillon Perillo, LA County's top prospect this year, who incurred a triangle right off the bat in his Explorer heat this morning. Dillon went on to post two big 8's and make it through anyway, but many others won't be so lucky…or won't rip so hard.

Dave Riddle, Volcom: "The Lowers of last week was as good as it gets. Sure enough we show up here this morning, and it's a grovel-fest. That being said, the cream does rise to the top, and these kids are finding ways to get their scores and make it through heats. As far as someone coming out of left field, I think we might see one or two surprises where one of the little guys shows up, one of the mini-groms. They have that window of opportunity to catch a medium or inside wave and it's still shoulder high."

With conditions having deteriorated to the extent that no one without a jersey really bothered paddling out today (and this is the NSSA, mind you), Riddle's analysis rang true. Some of the most explosive performances came from size-small surfers doing size-large maneuvers. Imai Devault, Lahiki Minamishin and Kanoa Igarashi wielded their mighty 4'10"s and made the dribblers look…well, kinda fun. Riddle also called out the Women's quintet of Ho, Conlogue, Hurst, Quizon and Erickson, noting that these five girls were "on another level" – and that there would only be room for four of them in the finals. Showdown, anyone?

Jason Kenworthy, Nike 6.0: "Kai Barger. Open Mens. Winning the thing, taking the glory. Kai's good big or small. He'll rip these little things, but I was at Teahupo'o with him a week ago and he was taking off on bombs. A lot of the attention's on Granger, and that's all anyone's been talking about."

It's true: predicting a win for Granger Larsen at this point is like betting on Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes, or John Kerry in 2004. Granger surfs so far out of the NSSA that it's questionable whether he should even be allowed to use that patented carve of his against underage competitors. But then again, Big Brown bombed at Belmont against all odds – and we all know what happened to Kerry's presidential bid. What should be is not always what is, and if anyone can play the – darkhorse, shall we say? – Kai Barger is the man to do it.

Rainos Hayes, Billabong: "Overall, the scoring has been leaning towards quality and risky maneuvers on larger waves, versus four or five smaller turns with a lack of commitment – and that's the way it should be. Otherwise we're rewarding good waves instead of good surfing. They're doing their best to mirror the WQS with this event, and that's important, especially if we're going to hand out contracts and tout the winners as, 'Hey, this is the next guy.' It needs to based on a legitimate structure. That being said, the best always find a way to make it through, and there are some who, it's obvious that, 'Wow, this is a little overwhelming for me, and I'm not quite at the level to win, place, or even show.'"

Translation: This ain't Rick Kane's wavepool contest. Doing well at this Nationals will mean the biggest moves on the best waves, and with an improving forecast for the later rounds into the weekend, luck and headsnaps just won't go the distance. That bodes well for the big guns – Evan Geiselman, Keanu Asing, Coco Ho, Zeke Lau, Nat Young, Barger, Larsen. But Lowers has a history of making things interesting, and with three days of competition remaining, this race is far from over. Stay tuned for continued coverage of the 2008 NSSA Nationals presented by No Fear, and log on for Surfing/Nike 6.0's live webcast starting tomorrow. This one's going to be a doozy…

Visit the live event website for the 2008 NSSA National presented by No Fear at