Competition: Rising Yanks

NSSA Nationals

INTRO — An unfamiliar group of young surfers made their way down the steps at T-Street in San Clemente

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Rising Yanks

The NSSA Nationals showcase a whole new batch of talent.

By Tim Dowell

An unfamiliar group of young surfers made their way down the steps at T-Street in San Clemente, California. They looked uncomfortable in their unused wetsuits, and after walking down to the last landing of the steps they stopped to look at the surf. Each squinted at the setting sun as they turned to continue down the steps and then proceeded to paddle out to show why they were in San Clemente. These young Hawai’ian men were here to surf in the NSSA Nationals. A full two weeks before the Nationals were set to begin, they were already here—practicing. Throughout the next two weeks, more and more of these groups from the East and West Coasts and Hawai’i would pour into the lineups around San Clemente, and at times, completely invade Lower Trestles. All the practice would pay off, because this year the Nationals witnessed its biggest crowds and some of its best overall surfing.

It’s hard to comprehend the importance of this event. In each heat, surfers from all over the country contend not only for the prestige, but also to continue surfing Lower Trestles with only five other people. Clearly, the contest is not completely about results. The event itself has taken on its own character. It’s about Donny Parker shuttling grandparents down to the beach to watch their grandchildren compete against the best kids in the country. It’s about Mike Morgan and Rockin’ Fig calling the event from their perch next to the judges’ scaffolding.

Many believe wars have caused some of the greatest technological advancements in human history. Although the Nationals is not a war, it provides a chance for the sharing of ideas in a competitive environment. The California guys saw Tom Dosland’s power, and the Hawai’ians saw the poise of Eric Taylor. Everyone watched Mr. Barron (Tory’s dad) do his magic on the barbecue. At one point, I walked back to a tent and saw a kid returning from handing in his jersey. They’d just announced his heat, and I asked the obligatory, “How’d you do?”

He said, “Oh, I got sixth … but at least I made it.” I gave him a quizzing look. “To Nationals,” he smiled.

Friday, nine-year-old Jon-Jon Florence free-fell and landed a floater on a wave that was easily double overhead on him. Later that afternoon, the quarterfinals for the open men’s division were held. Earlier in the week, Lowers showed flashes of its true self—the roping right-hander and shorter, sometimes punchy left—but by late Friday afternoon, Lowers was almost as good as it gets. Each quarterfinal heat looked like it could have been a final.

Throughout the earlier open men’s and explorer juniors’ heats, Dane Reynolds was clearly the crowd favorite. Santa Cruz local Peter Garaway commented, “Any wave he takes off on could be a ten.”

Reynolds met Dustin Cuizon in the quarters. Dustin’s an absolute assassin. Steve Long (Greg’s dad and Trestles’ head lifeguard) observed that he moved his board with the quickness and efficiency of a fencer. Although Dustin won the quarterfinal between them, Dane remained the crowd favorite with a frontside 360 air on a right. If he had pulled it, it would have been one the biggest airs pulled in a surfing contest—ever.

Dane won the repercharge on Saturday morning, and the excellent conditions showed why Lowers can be so crowded. Fifteen-year-old Karina Petroni ripped through the open women’s final doing full rail turns and articulately and graciously accepted the Governor’s Cup. Youngsters and Hawai’ian compatriots Tonino Benson and Kai Barger split the explorer menehune and open boys’ titles. These two goofy-footers surf well beyond their years.

The Open Men’s Governor’s Cup final included Dane Reynolds, Dustin Cuizon, Andrew Gahan, stin Wiegand, Kekoa Bacalso, and Jeremy Johnston—Jeremy was surfing up a division in open men’s and also took the open juniors’ title, narrowly beating Hank Gaskell.

Andrew Gahan started out the heat with two waves and two pulled airs. Dustin caught two long rights and lacerated them halfway to Churches. Then he caught a good left. Dane caught a right out the back. Three turns later, the record 1,500 people on the beach were on their feet as Dane received a ten. Dane went left on the next wave, did an air reverse, and landed trying to continue his ride to assure being scored, but he fell at the last moment in the whitewash. Dane couldn’t find a solid third wave. The final concluded.

There were two camps—some said Dustin had it, and others were sure Dane took it. Dustin won—he had three solid waves. Dane was upset; it was evident as he stiffly walked away from the podium. He wasn’t mad at the judges, the NSSA, or other competitors—he was mad at himself.

2001 Open Men’s Champ Greg Long was absent from the banquet the day following the finals, but he did have his dad give away a scholarship on his behalf for a young man to compete for a full season next year—Nick Valverde’s father passed away earlier this year, and Nick couldn’t afford to compete. The NSSA has given so much to people, and these people give back. It has many facets, and although no organization is beyond reproach, the NSSA is doing what it can for surfing.

2002 NSSA National Championship Results

National Open Mens/California State Parks Governor’s Cup

1. Dustin Cuizon

2. Dane Reynolds

3. Andrew Gahan

4. Justin Wiegand

5. Kekoa Bacalso

6. Jeremy Johnston

National Open Womens/California State Parks Governor’s Cup

1. Karina Petroni

2. Lelani Gryde

3. Anastasia Ashley

4. Kim Mayer

5. Lauren Sweeney

6. Ashley Fagerstaedt

Open Juniors

1. Jeremy Johnston

2. Hank Gaskell

3. Kilian Garland

4. Kellen Ellison

5. Shane Valiere

6. TJ Barron

Open Boys

1.Kai Barger

2. Clay Marzo

3. Granger Larson

4. Cory Arrambide

5. Kekoa Cazimero

6. Chas Chidester

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Open Mini-Groms

1.Dane Zaun

2. John John Florence

3. Andrew Doheny

4. Albee Layer

5. Tayler Brothers

6. Kedren Ferrero

National Explorer Championships

Explorer Mens

1. Nathaniel Curran

2. Justin Wiegand

3. Matt Yates

4. Mike Maurer

5. Chris Abad

6. Steven Przybylowski

Explorer Juniors

1. Dustin Cuizon

2. Dane Reynolds

3. Raymond Reichle

4. Kekoa Bacalso

5. Pat Gudauskas

6. Andrew Gahan

Explorer Boys

1.Kilian Garland

2. Chad Compton

2.Tanner Gudauskas

3.4. Alex King

5. Nick Rozsa

6. Brady McKenzie

Explorer Menehuene

1. Tonino Benson

2. Granger Larson

3. Chas Chidester

4. Kai Barger

5. Cory Arrambide

6. Clay Marzo

Explorer Womens

1. Lelani Gryde

2. Karina Petroni-

3. Anastasia Ashley

4. Eric Hosseini

5. Alana Brennan

6. Lilia Boerner

National Interscholastic Championships

College Team

1. University of Cal Santa Barbara Victor—92 points

2. Mira Costa Red—88

3. Cal State Long Beach—77

College Mens

1. Sam Baugh

2. Chris Abad

3. Mike Reilly

4. Dylan Slater

5. Bart Templeman

6. Ryan Hussey

College Womens

1. Liz Clark

2. Natalee Trefren

3. Loryn Wilson

4. Julie Russell

5. Bridgett Saeman

6. Nicole DeLeon

High School Team

1. San Clemente—129 Points

2. Carlsbad—89

3. Huntington Beach—78

High School Mens

1. Andrew Gahan

2. Pat Gudauskas

3. Jeremy Johnston

4. Jason Franco

5. Dane Gudauskas

6. TJ Barron

High School Womens

1. Stephanie Cadman

2. Taira Barron

3. Eva Lewington

4. Tessa Merel

5. Rosalie Nolin

6. Tasia Jones

Middle School Team

1. Shorecliffs A—92 points

2. Dwyer—90

3. Bernice Ayer—79

Middle School Boys

1. Ian Ekberg

2. Trevor Saunders

3. Matt Calderon

4. Tanner Gudauskas

5. Cory Arrambide

6. Jensen Hassett

Middle School Girls

1. Molly Hulsizer

2. Ashley Smeltzer

3. Chelsea Corwin

4. Cheyne Arnold (Cote’s sister)

5. Olema Miller

6. Ashley Benedict

Franco

5. Dane Gudauskas

6. TJ Barron

High School Womens

1. Stephanie Cadman

2. Taira Barron

3. Eva Lewington

4. Tessa Merel

5. Rosalie Nolin

6. Tasia Jones

Middle School Team

1. Shorecliffs A—92 points

2. Dwyer—90

3. Bernice Ayer—79

Middle School Boys

1. Ian Ekberg

2. Trevor Saunders

3. Matt Calderon

4. Tanner Gudauskas

5. Cory Arrambide

6. Jensen Hassett

Middle School Girls

1. Molly Hulsizer

2. Ashley Smeltzer

3. Chelsea Corwin

4. Cheyne Arnold (Cote’s sister)

5. Olema Miller

6. Ashley Benedict