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During a summer of National pride and Olympic glory, what with Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals and our sprinters famously falling to the Jamaicans in nearly every track event, the SIMA Surfing America USA Championships were sort of like the Olympic Trials for surfing. If, that is, say Phelps swept all of the events but then didn't compete for the good ol' US of A in Beijing.
That's basically what went down this weekend at Huntington Beach where Hawaiian Keanu Asing won both the under 16 and under 18 national titles.
"It was good to get experience against these guys," Asing said, "I'm not trying to amp too hard, but I'm psyched."
In the U18 final, with the waves blown out and on the small end, Asing sat way down to the South side of the contest area and picked off an unusually lined up right, ripping it for a 9.33, putting everyone else in a combo situation and, eventually, winning the contest.
But while Phelps had his mom crying in the stands, and Conner Coffin had Pat O'Connell checking up on him, many of the competitors had their Surf Dads (like soccer moms) there for support. The massage table at the event was more often than not filled with parents instead of competitors, and rightly so since between heats many of the groms were starting licorice fights and swinging from the scaffolding when they weren't rubbing tiger balm in each others eyes. It was definitely a family affair this week at The Pier.
The US Championships play a large role in deciding which surfers make Team USA and a chance to represent their country at the ISA Junior World Championships next March in Ecuador. The problem, as most of you probably know, is that Hawaii and the US, when it comes to international surfing, are different countries. So, come March, Asing will be surfing for Hawaii.
That's not to say that we didn't get some damn good surfers on our team, which was announced after the trophy presentation. In fact we have what Team USA Coach Joey Buran calls "the best under 16 boys in the world" They are—drum roll please—Kolohe Andino, Conner Coffin, Evan Geiselman, Taylor Thorne, Luke Davis, and Ian Crane.
"Keanu is ripping right now, but we didn't see Conner in full form today," Buran said. "Last year's team was inexperienced, but now we have the experience and unfinished business at worlds that we intend to finish."
Now that the team is decided Coach Buran has the task of trying to improve upon a fourth place finish at last year's ISA Championships in France. Because we all know that Americans don't like any place except first place.
But not to worry, Coach Buran has a plan:
"I need to really work with the girls, find a fourth for the U18 boys besides Nat Young, Andres Doheny, and Nathan Carvalho, and I need to keep the U16's from killing each other. Last year we were good. But we need to be great. You need greatness in the final. You need greatness for a gold medal."
Come 2009 expect our juniors to train like decathletes and watch for Coach Buran's big three—Kolohe Andino, Courtney Conlogue, and Nat Young—to do big things in Ecuador.