Fifteen-Member United States Team Rips It’s Way To A Sixth-Place Overall Finish At The Pan-American Surfing Championships.

Eric Rheaume’s third-place finish in the Jr. Men’s division led the fifteen-member United States team to a sixth-place overall finish at the recent Pan-American Surfing Championships in Salinas, Ecuador.
Brazil dominated the team competition, capturing the gold medal with 28,049 points, but a mere 2,000 points distanced the United States from the second-place finish claimed by Guadaloupe.
Rheaume’s surprise bronze-medal showing led the U.S. in individual points scored, capping a team performance that included Steve Newton’s first-place Longboard finish, Joe Gillen’s third-place Kneeboarding result and a fourth-place Women’s division showing by Holly Beck.
“Of course I’m disappointed in the sixth-place finish but that just doesn’t tell the whole story about how close it was,” said Paul West, president of the United States Surfing Federation (USSF) and manager of the U.S. team.
Individual competitors were awarded points for their team based upon their results in their respective divisions in the four-day event. Points earned in the Open and Jr. Men’s division were increased by a factor of four when computing the overall team scores.
“It’s like the Super Bowl,” Mitch Kaufmann, coach of the U.S. team, said. “The competition is super, super stiff. Every surfer has to be in tip-top mental and physical condition and all the team members have to work together to do well.”
Rheaume, a 15-year-old surfer from Jacksonville Beach competing in his first high-profile international surfing event, never gave himself much of a chance against the top surfers from 12 countries in Central and South America.
“It was really, really hard,” Rheaume said. “All those kids from Central and South America were really blowing up. I thought I was going to do bad – it was just so hard – but I kept on making it through my heats.”
Rheaume’s finish caught just about everyone off guard.
“He was totally a darkhorse,” West said. “No one had ever heard of him outside of Jacksonville, but he’s on the radar screen now. It’s been six years since we had a junior in the finals – to make third out of 48 surfers is just unreal. He did exceptionally well.”
U.S. team members’ concerns about the on-going war in Iraq, which broke out on the second day of competition at the Pan-American Surfing Championships, added to the intensity of the event.
“There was a lot of pressure and it was very difficult for them to be out of the country when the war was going on, West said. “But politics were not involved at all in the contest – when we went to the beach, we left the politics at the hotel.
In fact, West said, the United States team members were cheered by the spectators as they marched in the parade of athletes throughdowntown Salinas streets on the first morning of the competition.
The United States team was represented by Sean Mattison (Oceanside, Calif.), Jason Venn (Jacksonville, Fla.), Jay Gordon (Jacksonville, Fla.), Justin McBride (San Diego, Calif.), A. J. Sehorn (Santa Cruz, Calif.), Morgan Faulkner (Corpus Christi, Tex.), Eric Rheaume (Jacksonville, Fla.), Lucas Rogers (Virginia Beach, Va.), Holly Beck (Palos Verdes, Calif.), Anastasia Ashley (San Clemente, Calif.), Steve Newton (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), Joe Gillen (Virginia Beach, Va.), Chris Brooks (Wrightsville, N.C.), and Brian Holloway (Fort Pierce, Fla.)