By Phil Bannan
The NSSA Nationals, the most prestigious amateur event in the Northern Hemisphere (any hemisphere for that matter), kicked off this morning in peaky Huntington Beach surf. There was everything one would expect to see at an NSSA event: a fun, festive atmosphere with groms wrestling on the beach and hometown support crews going nuts at every turn. However, as the week kicks into gear, it won't be all fun and games as the nation's top surfers battle for this year's National titles.
Everyone will be looking to take down last week's Surfing America champs, Evan Geiselman and Kaleigh Gilchrist, in the NSSA Open Mens and Open Womens divisions. Heated rivalries are sure to ensue as Evan and Kaleigh look to keep their win streak alive.
Who to watch for:
•Lakey Peterson looks to defend her title as the Open Womens champion.
•Ezekiel Lau (2009 Open Juniors champ) and Ian Gentil (2009 Open Boys champ) try to one-up last year's performance with an Open Mens title.
•Conner Coffin and Evan Geiselman show why they are considered to be at the top of America's next generation of surfers.
•Christian Saenz goes into Nationals abreast with the Coffin brothers and leading the Southwest Open Mens standings.
•Tanner Hendrickson won the NSSA Hawaiian Regional titles in both Open Mens and Explorer Mens divisions in March, and looks do the same this week in Huntington Beach.
Today's action saw powerhouses San Clamente, Huntington Beach, Newport Harbor and Kamehameha high schools take to the Huntington Beach lineup for the early rounds of the High School National Championships. Standouts included Kamehameha's Ezekiel Lau, who won his Quarterfinal heat, and Newport Harbor's Colin Moran, who advanced through to the next round in a close second to Lau.
Tomorrow, make your way down to Huntington Beach or follow the event at http://nssalive.com as the Open Womens and Open Juniors divisions get underway. The Open Mens heats are scheduled to start on Thursday, July 1 at 7 am.