2008 O’Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro: Final Day

Event: 2008 O'Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro Presented by Ron Jon
Conditions: clean, waist to chest high peaks that looked eerily like T-Street
Nature's Call: I can't tell you what Mitch Varnes had to do for eight straight days of surf (at least not on a family website)
Predicted: The Gudauskas pull a reverse Beverly Hillbillies and rock their Oakley blades all the way back from Florida

It's hard to say what's more historic about this year's SI Pro.. The fact that it was the first 5-star and biggest prize purse ever on the East Coast. The fact that that for the fourth straight year they had a full week of waves. Or that after three years of finals with nothing but Atlantic bred talent -- much of it WCT caliber -- it ended with two young Californians surfing alone: Pat Gudauskas and Mike Losness.

It had to happen eventually. You can't build a five-star anywhere and expect it to stay locally dominated -- especially in event-starved mainland America. Brett Simpson. TJ Barron. Gabe Kling. Shane Beschen. Every would-be qualifier was here looking to start the year solid. But, from the beginning, 2007 champ {{{CJ}}} Hobgood picked Gudauskas as the man under most pressure to perform.

And perform he did. With a single bootie hiding a duck taped ankle, Gudauskas stayed glued through a full selection of harrowing turns and huge airs, handily nixing Losness along with other key players - including CJ. Twice. Once yesterday in the round of 24. Then, today in the Quarters he chopped out the champ in only two moves - a pair of giant frontside airs -- flexing the very skills he learned at Camp Hobgood in 2004 in quintessential grasshopper-beats-master kung fu. Furthermore, now he and Losness are riding the top of the ASP North America ratings - spots that belonged to East Coasters last year. Or as Pat called it: "Full sabo."


It's hard to say if Pat and CJ's quarter was THE heat, but it was the last big-scoring battle of the day. Possibly the most exciting, however, was Nathanial Curran and Ben Bourgeois' quarterfinal showdown. Ben surfed above his ability on every wave, cramming in parabolic cutties and fangy snaps into the tiniest spaces and leaving Curran in need of a high eight for much of the second half. But in the closing seconds a race track appeared with enough of ramp to yield a 9.33 in a single bound. "Clean!" "Lofty." "Inverted." "Smooth. "Hands free.' Every pro under the tent had a different reason for claming the off-axis frontside three, but all agreed it was the best move of the whole contest. Furthermore, that heat proved prescient in two big ways: one, it marked the beginning of a former SI Pro finalist losing streak; two, each upset came at the landing of a single giant aerial.


A lot of young bucks fought valiantly to take down their first potential keeper score of the season, from TJ Barron to Dylan Graves to Spain's Gony Zubizareta. But the POD nod goes to another Camp Hobgood grad, Spencer {{{Sterling}}}, who not only made it further than any other Floridian - he took down former 'CTers, SI Pro standouts, and fellow Gulf Coast natives, Shea and Cory Lopez, in back-to-back rounds.

CJ Hobgood


As the last standing former finalist, Asher Nolan paddled out in his quarter against Losness, you could feel all of Florida rising up in support -- especially since last year he lost the final by failing to back up his opening 9-point ride. This time the ocean went flat on him needing a measly four with minutes to go. Watching the best Florida surfer not on tour lose another golden opportunity, you could feel the hope empty out of the contest site. Almost. Asher's take? Same as the last three. "Next year."


"I pulled that thing out of my [points to his butt] -Nathaniel Curran celebrating his 9.3 frontside three

"I'm boycotting this final." - a laughing former finalist Shea Lopez as he left the contest a few minutes early

"We need to rethink our program." - CJ's take on Camp Hobgood as Spencer and Gudauskas made the quarters


1 - Patrick Gudauskas 14.73
2 - Mike Losness 12.17

Semifinals: 4 surfers remaining (1st advances to Final)
SF 1: Patrick Gudauskas 15.10 def. Nathaniel Curran 14.23
SF 2: Mike Losness 12.00 def. Sterling Spencer 8.00

Quarterfinals: 8 surfers remaining (1st advances to Semifinals)
QF 1: Patrick Gudauskas 15.50 def. C.J. Hobgood13.23
QF 2: Nathaniel Curran 11.76 def. Nathan Yeomans 11.74
QF 3: Sterling Spencer 15.96 def. Cory Lopez 13.87
QF 4: Mike Losness 11.26 def. Asher Nolan 10.44