So, I have few confessions to make. I am completely unqualified to be reporting on a surfing contest. I just started working, well interning actually, at SURFING Magazine yesterday (I tend to tell people I am working here). I got into the office on Tuesday morning, thinking we would go over some sort of plan for the internship, an hour later I am driving up the 5 towards Huntington and the biggest World Qualifying Series event in the continental United States. My only instructions from the editors are to check in at the media tent, and then find something to write about each day for the next week. There is some difficulty with the first part; the girl giving out the press credentials can't find my name on the list.

"Of course you can't find it!" I want to tell her, "It's not there. Interns don't get on credentials lists."

But of course I don't tell her. Instead, I act real surprised, telling her how my editor just sent me here and assured me I would be on the list and the mistake must be on her end. Apparently, I was convincing.

Hanging in the competitors area with Pancho Sullivan and family
So, now press credentials hanging from around my neck, feeling pretty cool, I set out to fulfill the second part of my assignment: find something to write about. I soon realize that the only people who think it's cool to have credentials around your neck are the girls hanging out outside the competitor area. I have the same conversation over and over, no I am not a famous surfer, no I don't know where Andy is, no I cannot get you inside, no I can't ask Andy to come out here and meet you.

At one point I do manage to sneak a girl into the much-less-cool, but also catered, press tent, but she got kicked out really fast. See, for the whole time I have been here, there have only been two people in the media tent: me and this pale guy from the Orange County Register who spends all his time staring at his laptop, looking up enviously at me every time I come back soaking wet after surfing or sneak a girl into the tent. In fairness, he does a lot more work than me, and at the end of every day he pretty much gives me a rundown on what really happened: the surprises, the upsets, basically all the important contest stuff. Anyway, being only the third person to enter the tent in the last two days, my stowaway was quickly spotted and escorted out, while me and my Register friend were left alone to finish the catered lunch for fifty.

The competitor tent is a lot nicer. To begin with, the food is better. The press (me and Register guy) got vegetarian lasagna today; for the competitors it was fresh-made burritos, with their choice of steak or chicken. But the luxuries go far beyond the catering. The competitor tent gets couches, throw rugs, potted plants…you feel like you are in a living room that happens to look out over a surf contest.

So, I have been hanging out up there sometimes and the problem is, I am supposed to be this surf writer, but I don't know who most of these guys are. Before yesterday I had never followed professional surfing. It wasn't a part of what surfing was for me; I just didn't care. And now that I am in the thick of it, surrounded by them, I feel a little disrespectful. These guys are the best at the world at what they do, to a lot of people they are celebrities, and I have no idea what most of their names are. More than once today I'd be talking to someone, get a few quotes, get a picture and then have to ask their name.

Of course, there are a few people I recognize. Rob Machado is here, and so is Sunny Garcia. At first I was a little scared of talking to Sunny, he has an intimidating presence, or maybe it is just his association with the North Shore heavies. Whatever the case, my fear was completely unwarranted. He was really friendly, just talking about how this is going to be his last time here and he was enjoying hanging out.

Passing the soap to Rob in the competitors shower!
Rob Machado has a reputation as this mellow, creative, soul surfer, just a really chill seeming dude. Growing up I always thought he would be a guy I'd want to hang out with. But now it is 4:00pm. The day's last heat just finished, and maybe he is just over it, but Rob looks pissed. He just won his heat, he's walking up the beach and the Lost TV guys, these kids who do live webcasts of the contest, are hanging out by the contestants' area and ask Rob for an interview. "For what? " he replies and walks away. Maybe he just gets sick of having microphones and cameras shoved into his face all day.

But because I idolize and really want to talk to him, I abuse my press credentials and follow him into the competitors' area. I corner him while he is rinsing off and stick another camera in his face and ask him a few questions. Mostly he doesn't seem to want to say much, basically just says the surf is bad. I try kissing up to him a little bit, seeing if I can loosen him up. I tell him he ripped, but I get the feeling that he is used to people kissing up to his surfing, and it really doesn't help at all. Instead he is humble, brushing off the compliment, telling me he was just copying Timmy Reyes.

It makes sense to follow Timmy Reyes out there. Timmy is from Huntington Beach and has been surfing this wave and watching this contest for a long time. His whole family is down here cheering him on. He was in the heat before Rob and won it. He has beat Andy and Kelly before, and is just coming off his best WCT finish ever in South Africa, and is definitely someone to watch in the next few days.

But for now the contest is over, things are winding down and I am going surfing. Paddling out on the South Side, I realize just how shitty these waves are. I can barely string together two turns in this slop. There are only a few guys out, mostly contest employees taking a break from the day. Tomorrow is when it really starts, they tell me, when the bands are cranking, the skating gets going and you can hear the motorcycles throughout the whole venue. But out here in bad surf, which is predicted to get worse. I'm thinking that at some level, even with all the sideshows, you still need waves to have a good surf contest. But like I said, "What do I know?" Maybe Huntington will prove me wrong.

UPCOMING HEATS: Round of 48Heat # 1: Jock Barnes, Russell Winter, Pat Gudauskas, Armando Daltro
Heat # 2: Andy Irons, Luke Munro, Fred Patacchia, Tim Curran
Heat # 3: Mikael Picon, Gabe Kling, David Weare, Chris Davidson
Heat # 4: Odirlei Coutinho, Bobby Martinez, Dane Reynolds, Maz Quinn
Heat # 5: Paulo Moura, Dunga Neto, Marcelo Nunes, Shea Lopez
Heat # 6: Corey Ziems, Dustin Cuizon, Shawn Cansdell, Leonardo Neves
Heat # 7: Brett Simpson, Dane Gudauskas, Nathaniel Curran, Sunny Garcia
Heat # 8: Gavin Gillette, Bron Heussenstam, Yuri Sodre, Joel Centeio
Heat # 9: Tim Reyes, Rob Machado, Troy Brooks, Bruce Irons
Heat #10: Eric Geiselman, Daniel Redman, Adriano de Souza, Jarrad Howse
Heat #11: Nathan Carroll, Adrian Buchan, Adam Robertson, Travis Logie
Heat #12: Kalani Robb, Jano Belo, Glenn Hall, {{{CJ}}} Hobgood