Déjà Vu At The ESA Easterns
I had a strange sense of déjà vu when the humid Buxton Saturday afternoon brought the completion of the 2010 ESA Easterns. Maybe it was that sentiment of another trip back to the eastern seaboard nearing its end. Maybe it was the jovial awards ceremony culminating in Brian Bielmann’s traditional ESA family group shot. Yes, those all attributed to my buzzed feeling of againness at the awards ceremony. But what really caused the feeling were the names at the top of the three most cherished divisions (Boys, Junior Women’s, and Junior Men’s): Cam Richards, Keenan Lineback, and Nick Rupp.
Cam Richards hails from South Carolina and plays it as cool as they come. Things don’t really seem to get to him and whenever he needs a score his frontside slashes or tail-high attack can conjure it up in any and all conditions. This year the Boys’ division was his to lose after taking the title in 2009.
Despite everyone in the Boys’ final except Giorgio Gomez receiving an interference call early on, Cam still said, ‘Hey, this is my last year in this division and I’ll take another win thank you.’ He wanted two titles in a row and took it by mixing in a few full wraps on his forehand and one right with some chippy backside hits in the knee-high windswell bouncing off the Cape Hatteras groin. Two in the books and on to Junior Men’s for Cam next year.
Fellow South Carolinian Keenan Lineback played the ‘I wanna keep my title’ card as well this year. Going back to her last year in the Girls’ division, Keenan had won three Easterns titles in a row before this year. But Keenan hadn’t surfed in a contest since last year because she’s been doing Olympic swim training in preparation for college, and well, the Olympics. “I was a little nervous and had to tell myself that I could still surf good,” Keenan told me over the phone on her way to another crucial swim meet Saturday afternoon.
Wanting to prove to everyone that she was still the reining queen of the ESA, Keenan managed to pick off waves with the best possible sections in the final. Picking up a 7.10 and an 8.10 by generating speed and slashing those sections, Keenan had the field comboed at the last situation announcement with five minutes left in the heat. Three-peating to finish her ESA career was definitely the capper the multiple-time Allstar was looking for.
Speaking of capping ESA careers, there was still the matter of the sought-after Easterns sweep that had to be settled. We had documented earlier in the week that Nick Rupp and Chris Tucker were in contention to resurrect the famed sweep, waiting for Open Shortboard results and the Junior Men’s final on Saturday.
Being the last heat of competition, and despite the meager surf, there was an electricity on the beach at the possibility of seeing another surfer finish their ESA career as good as you can. Parents paced back and forth, sat on the edge of their seats, and watched intently. Tucker started quick with a 6.50 for a right with multiple backside hits and added in some tailblows in later waves that garnered some decent scores. Dylan Kowalski got a 6-and-change by executing two of the solid turns on his backhand. Keto Burns kept to his fins free attack but was having trouble finding the sections that would allow this. Rupp did work, lots of work, on his backhand by projecting out of every hit and floater with speed.
When the final situation call came it was Rupp and Tucker sitting 1-2. Rupp though continued to get things done on with his backside repertoire into the dying minutes of the heat, seemingly pulling away from Tucker. As the hooter sounded the Carolina crew greeted Rupp at the water’s edge and carted him up the beach with his dad Greg right by his side. It had been determined; there would be no sweep once again at Easterns.
The eventual announcement of Open Shortboard gave the title to Tucker, solidifying everyone’s initial thoughts. Ecstatic that he won an Easterns title in his final go, Tucker was still a bit disappointed at having not completed what everyone wants to do: “I didn’t come here and do what I wanted to do [winning the sweep], but at least Nick didn’t win the sweep.”
And Nick’s feelings were mutual, though obviously they both have no hard feelings towards each other. “I definitely didn’t want to lose my title in my last year and give up the sweep, I’d be pissed about that. I said good job to him after the Open and he said good job to me after the Junior Men’s. We’re both satisfied but we both wanted the sweep.”
It was an illustrious three-peat end to a storied ESA career for Rupp, finishing with five years of Easterns titles in a row. Nick and his parents, Greg and Debbie, gleamed from the end of the heat till we departed ways after the awards ceremony. Finishing on top like that couldn’t happen to a better kid. The ESA has been his home he told me in his southern drawl, and hopefully his success there will project him to bigger and better things.
As for that Easterns sweep ever reappearing, Rupp gave me a little bit of insight: “I think the next person could be Cam—I don’t see anyone coming up against him except Keto that could really challenge him.” The future of kids like Cam continuing to dominate at Easterns remains to be unseen.
As for us, we’re psyched on another incredible year at Easterns. We want to thank everyone at the ESA, all the other sponsors, and the great barrier island of the Outer Banks for once again welcoming us with open arms. Always seems to be that southern hospitality happening over and over again.—Ryan Brower
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