2010 ESA Easterns Preview

Nick Rupp, two-time Junior Men's defending champ, will look for a three-peat to cap off his ESA career. Photo: Volcom

Nick Rupp, two-time Junior Men's defending champ, will look for a three-peat to cap off his ESA career. Photo: Volcom

For the 43rd year the East Coast’s top amateur surfers once again gather on the isolated shores of the Outer Banks in North Carolina to crown the best of the East. September on the Outer Banks offers a mystique that is hard to find anywhere else—it’s typically empty and there’s typically some sort of tropical type swell churning off the coast in the Atlantic. This year is no different as we’ve got Category 1 Igor and T.S. Julia spinning out there east of the famed barrier island. Groundswell at the moment is stacking in from 6-10 feet with unruly conditions as howling northeast winds prevail.

Competition was set to start today (Sunday) but with nearly uncontestable conditions at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse the ESA has decided to postpone the start until Monday morning. As we wait for that here’s our take on who will be shining at this year’s Easterns in the meat-and-potatoes divisions. Stay tuned for much more from the ESA Easterns Championships as the week continues.—Ryan Brower

Junior Men’s Contenders

Nick Rupp

Nick Rupp. Photo: Checkwood

Nick Rupp. Photo: Checkwood

Birthday: November 21, 1992
Hometown: Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina
ESA District: Southern Northern Carolina (SNC)
Highlights: 2008, 2009 Easterns Junior Men's cham
The Lowdown: Nick Rupp has one of the most dominant strings of Easterns titles in the history of the contest. Since his win in the menehune division way back in 2004, Rupp has won Easterns titles in his main division every year since, with the exception of 2005.

However, there is one thing he hasn't done, and it's the big box in his ESA career that's yet to be checked: the sweep, winning both the Open division and Junior Men's titles in the same year. Rupp has absolutely nothing left to prove in terms of Easterns bragging rights, but this is his last year in Junior Men's, and the last chance he'll have of putting a big old double exclamation point on his ESA career. He's been spending a ton of time traveling with seasoned pros and working on a making his modern repertoire consistent, which will make him very tough to beat this year.

Keto Burns

Keto Burns. Photo: Dirt

Keto Burns. Photo: Dirt

Birthday: March 26, 1993
Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
Homebreak: Northside Pier
ESA District: Saint Augustine, Florida (SAFL)
Highlights: First, Open Shortboard 2010 Southeast Regionals; Second, Junior Men's 2010 Southeast Regionals
The Lowdown: Keto Burns is a man on a mission this year. He won the Boys' division at 2008 Easterns in dramatic fashion with a big brown backdoor barrel. The consensus was he'd be a threat the next year when he moved up to Junior Men's, but through a mix-up he didn't make it to Easterns in 2009 and found himself on the sidelines.

But 2010 was a new year, and the lanky goofy-foot took his act to the Southeast Regionals and showed his conviction for getting to this year's Easterns by getting second place in the Junior Men's and winning the Open Shortboard in arguably the most talent-stacked region on the East Coast. If there's going to be an upset in Junior Men's, Keto is the most likely person to serve it up.

Chris Tucker

Chris Tucker. Photo: Dirt

Chris Tucker. Photo: Dirt

Birthday: October 12, 1992
Hometown: Satellite Beach, Florida
Homebreak: Perkins
ESA District: Central Florida (CFL)
Highlights: First, Junior Men's 2010 Southeast Regionals; Second, Open Shortboard 2010 Southeast Regionals; Seventh, 2010 Reef Sweetwater Pro/Am
The Lowdown: Back in 2008, Chris Tucker came close to an Easterns title, getting second place in his first year in Junior Men's. Though 2009 was quiet on the "Easterns" front for him, he's coming in to this year's ESA finale hot. He and Keto Burns flip-flopped for first and second place in the Junior Men's and Open Shortboard divisions at Southeast Regionals. He also made it to the semis of the Reef Sweetwater Pro/Am amidst a talented field of East Coast pros.

He's a fan of progressive surfing, but also realizes you've got to be able to ride out of maneuvers for them to be scored in a heat. "There's the progressive side," says Tucker, "but you've got to be consistent too. Maybe I'll try something crazy in the heat if I have two good waves already."

Dylan Kowalski

Dylan Kowalski. Photo: Jack McDaniel

Dylan Kowalski. Photo: Jack McDaniel

Birthday: October 22, 1993
Hometown: Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
ESA District: Southern North Carolina (SNC)
Highlights: First, Open Shortboard 2010 Mid Atlantic Regionals; Fourth, Junior Men's 2010 Mid Atlantic Regionals; Fourth, Junior Men's 2009 ESA Easterns; ESA Allstar
The Lowdown: Dylan Kowalski has been training with Hawaiian legend Ben Aipa for years, spending part of the year on Oahu and part of the year in North Carolina. This makes him deadly in an array of conditions. This year, though, Dylan has added in some crucial training, working on one of his weakness in past years: power surfing.

"This year I've been working with Pancho Sullivan, who is teaching me about the strength part of surfing," Dylan says. One of the most notable power surfers in history, Pancho's know-how has obviously been helping Dylan improve. Last year where Dylan was getting fourths, this year he's been getting firsts. If Dylan can utilize everything he's improved upon this year while at Easterns, then look for him to easily make the final of both Junior Men's and Open Shortboard, which is his goal.

Evan Barton

Evan Barton. Photo: Jim Whitney

Evan Barton. Photo: Jim Whitney

Birthday: September 14, 1992
Hometown: Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
ESA District: Southern North Carolina (SNC)
Highlights: First, Junior Men's 2010 Mid Atlantic Regionals; First, Junior Men's 2010 East Coast Scholastics; First, Open Division 2009 East Coast Surfing Championships; Fourth, Open Shortboard 2009 ESA Easterns; ESA Allstar
The Lowdown: Evan Barton had a breakout year in 2009 and has carried over his success into the first half of 2010.

With his continued success, he will look to capitalize this year in Hatteras by pulling a Junior Men's Triple Crown, as he's calling it. It, of course, being a win at the Scholastics (check), Regionals (check), and Easterns. If Evan keeps to his game, which is "no pressure, just going to have fun," then his goal of a Junior Men's Triple Crown could be a possibility. Plus, he spends a fair amount of time in the Outer Banks and has as close to home field advantage as any of the contenders.

Mason Barnes

Mason Barnes. Photo: Jim Whitney

Mason Barnes. Photo: Jim Whitney

Birthday: December 15, 1993
Hometown: Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
ESA District: Southern North Carolina (SNC)
Highlights: Third, Junior Men's 2010 Mid-Atlantic Regionals; Fourth, Junior Men's 2010 East Coast Scholastics; ESA Allstar
The Lowdown: Though Nick Rupp may have the SNC district on lock, there are plenty of worthy surfers from the area. Mason Barnes is one of them, and his fast, loose style is well suited to racking up points in heats. He links tight roundhouses together with air reverses effortlessly and has been doing it for full effect.

Many kids put all their focus into tail blows and airs, and while Mason can unleash those too, he's already got a solid foundation of linking maneuvers together and doing the right move on the right section. Whether it's a fin waft, a pocket gouge, or a layback hack, he's got a deep bag of tricks. Not only is he well-rounded in the water, he says he's into a ton of other activities on land as well.

Head to the next page for the Boys’ Contenders.

Boys’ Contenders

Cam Richards

Cam Richards. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Cam Richards. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Birthday: September 24, 1995
Hometown: Surfside Beach, South Carolina
ESA District: Northern South Carolina (NSC)
Highlights: First, Boys' 2010 Mid-Atlantic Regionals; First, Boys' 2009 ESA Easterns; ESA Allstar
The Lowdown: Since Cam Richards first started turning heads he's always been stylish. When he's on his game he stays calm and collected in any and every heat, applying his suave rail turns and serene tail-high antics to a contest-winning strategy. Last year at the lighthouse Cam's surfing improved with every heat, and it was obvious that he was just having fun linking the lefts off the Hatteras groin.

Being the defending Boys champ can put a lot of pressure to repeat in Hatteras the following year, but Cam's not feeling any of it. "I just want to do the same thing I did last year—win," Cam says slyly while not revealing any of his secrets to success. Whatever he did last year worked, so don't be surprised to see him repeat in 2010.

Corey Howell

Corey Howell. Photo: Steindler

Corey Howell. Photo: Steindler

Birthday: November 10, 1995
Hometown: Melbourne, Florida
ESA District: Central Florida (CFL)
Highlights: First, Boys' 2010 Southeast Regionals; Second, Boys' 2009 Easterns; First in Boys' and Junior's 2010 Ron Jon Easter Festival; ESA Allstar
The Lowdown: The gangly goofy-foot has been earning his Right Coast stripes over the last few years, and after an impressive performance at the Ron Jon Easter Festival where he not only won boys, but went ahead and helped himself to a win in the juniors' division as well, he earned his next belt.

When it comes to the Boys' title at Easterns, if all goes to script it's going to be a battle royal between Corey and Cam Richards. Though Cam got the win last year, Corey has returned the favor a few times this year. His contest strategy and small-wave acts are typically tight, and he's been working on adding more power and spray to his game, which he'll need to activate at Easterns in order to best Richards. Either way, it'll be an exciting matchup to watch.

Sam Duggan

Sam Duggan. Photo: Duggan

Sam Duggan. Photo: Duggan

Birthday: August 25, 1995
Hometown: Merritt Island, Florida
ESA District: Central Florida (CFL)
Highlights: Third, Boys' 2010 Southeast Regionals; First, Boys' 2010 East Coast Scholastics; ESA Allstar
The Lowdown: Most surfers would cite their forehand attack as their strong point. Not so for Sam Duggan—he cites his backhand attack as his major strength. Being a regular-foot, that means those long lefts running off the Hatteras groin will play well into his strength.

But don't pin him down as only a backside surfer. Being from Florida, he's developing an aerial assault one would come to expect from any Sunshine State grom that spends a good amount of time in the water. Those tougher maneuvers are what can help someone with his backhand skills really break through, and that's exactly why Sam's been working on higher-difficulty stuff.

Mixing in the whole repertoire during a heat is the crucial part for Sam, and he knows if he can do that he's got a chance: "On any given day, anyone can win."

Head to the next page for the Junior Women’s Contenders.

Junior Women's Contenders

Haley Watson

Haley Watson. Photo: Ken McNair

Haley Watson. Photo: Ken McNair

Birthday: April 14, 1992
Hometown: Flagler Beach, Florida
ESA District: St. Augustine Florida (SAFL) and North Central Florida (NCFL)
Highlights: First, Junior Women's 2010 Southeast Regionals
The Lowdown: Haley Watson loves being in the water. Whether it's big Puerto Rico in the winter, solid Florida hurricane surf in the fall, or knee-high dribblers in the summer, she's constantly in the water. This undoubtedly has helped her become a contest threat. As she notes, "It’s important to be able to adapt in any conditions because you never know what the waves will be like in the contest. I feel like I'm prepared for whatever Mother Nature has to throw at me."

This is Haley's final year in the junior ranks, and a big win to cap off a junior career is really what she's gunning for. If the goofy-footer keeps focused on surfing as powerful and exciting as possible in Hatteras, she'll easily be a threat for her first Easterns title this year.

Savannah Bradley

Savannah Bradley. Photo: Richard Bradley

Savannah Bradley. Photo: Richard Bradley

Birthday: February 17, 1993
Hometown: Cocoa Beach, Florida
ESA District: Central Florida [CFL]
Highlights: Third, Junior Women's, 2009 Easterns; Third, Junior Women's 2010 Southeast Regionals; First, Junior Women's 2010 Scholastics; ESA Allstar
The Lowdown: Savannah Bradley has had a very solid year so far, coming in third at Southeast Regionals, and following it up by winning her division at Scholastics. She seems to do well at Scholastics (she won Girls' Shortboard in 2008), but so far hasn't kept the hot streak going to get a big win at Easterns. However, 2010 may just be her year. She spends most of the summer in the quality conditions of mainland Mexico, so if there's some surf this year in Buxton, the stylist goofy-foot will have her sea legs fresh and ready to do damage. The field is fierce, but she's gone through a growth spurt that has also seen her off-the-tops get more powerful, and an Easterns title is at the top of her wish list.

Kayla Durden

Kayla Durden. Photo: Checkwood

Kayla Durden. Photo: Checkwood

Birthday: March 25, 1993
Hometown: Jacksonville Beach, Florida
ESA District: North Florida (NFL)
Highlights: Second, Junior Women's 2010 Southeast Regionals; Third, Junior Women's 2010 East Coast Scholastics; Fourth, Junior Women's 2009 ESA Easterns; ESA Allstar
The Lowdown: Traveling is a major facet in the creation of an East Coast champion. Let's face it, the East Coast is not the most consistent place on Earth for a young up-and-comer. Jacksonville's Kayla Durden recognizes this as something she must do to reach that next level.

This year she’s been working hard on making that weakness a strength. She's done California, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica all since last year's Easterns, and it's shown in her results already this year. With her competitive nature and patience during heats, she's making huge strides toward her current goal of an East Coast title. As Kayla says, "I have been traveling a lot this summer, so I believe these experiences are preparing me for Hatteras."

Head to the next page for a full 2010 ESA Easterns Championships schedule.

2010 ESA Easterns Championships Schedule

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Sunday, September 19
7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.: Adult competition begins at the Lighthouse Jetty.
6:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.: TransWorld SURF presents the 43rd Annual ESA
Kick Off Party at REAL Watersports, Highway 12, Waves, NC, (252) 987-6000.
ESA competitor catered dinner buffet from MoJo's and live band.

Monday, September 20
7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.: Adult competition continues at the Lighthouse Jetty.
Monday evening: No official ESA activities planned.

Tuesday, September 21
7:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.: Adult competition concludes; adult awards ceremony to follow at Natural Art Surf Shop, (252) 995-5682.
Tuesday evening: No official ESA activities planned. Stay updated at transworldsurf.com and surfesa.org/easterns.

Wednesday, September 22
7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.: Youth competition begins at the Lighthouse Jetty.
Wednesday evening: 6:30 p.m.–8:30p.m., Surf Nano Product (SNP) competitor pizza party.  Location: Papa Nino's in the shopping center next to Natural Art in Buxton, NC, (252) 995-0060.

Thursday, September 23
7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.: Youth competition continues at the Lighthouse Jetty.
Thursday evening: REAL Watersports, ERGO, Outer Beaches Realty, TransWorld SURF, MoJo's Sunset Café, Waterman's Retreat, and John Wayne Foundation ESA competitors' party.  Location: REAL Watersports, starting at 6:00 p.m. Dodgeball competition, catered barbecue, and live band. Also, don't miss the new premiere of TransWorld SURF's new movie High 5. Additional information can be found at transworldsurf.com and surfesa.org/easterns.

Friday, September 24
7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.: Youth competition continues at the Lighthouse Jetty.
Friday evening: No official activities due to competition finals.

Saturday, September 25
7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.: Youth competition concludes at the Lighthouse Jetty.
Awards ceremony and announcement of the Allstars presentation at Natural Art Surf Shop will follow immediately after contest.
Saturday evening: No official ESA activities planned.

Sunday, September 26
Backup day for wave/weather delays.