Raucous Crowd & Amazing “Small Wave” Surfing Highlight Historic Encounter
Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz – National Surf League Results – San Diego capitalized on lengthy delays and Mother Nature’s fickleness to defeat Santa Cruz on day one of the Billabong Game Weekend, 164.25 points to 159.75.
Against the backdrop of a raucous partisan crowd at the legendary Steamer Lane, both teams were vying for their first win on the 2004 California Cup Series and had to contend with difficult conditions and lulls between sets lasting as long as 35 minutes. Following a consultation with official NSL surf forecasting service, surfline.com, the NSL decided to postpone the remaining matches in the Billabong Game Weekend until after this weekend’s regular season finale in San Diego.
The hometown crowd was louder and, in some instances, more obnoxious than those at Huntington and Ventura. About 40 Santa Cruz fans stood out on the point and heckled the team from down south with very personal comments. Santa Cruz’s Ken “Skindog Collins” dressed up as a guerilla and waltzed the boardwalk with several beautiful women clad in red hats and T’s during the fourth quarter further inciting the crowd. But that strategy may have backfired, however, firing up San Diego teammates and leading to a more focused effort.
Although both teams were able to compete their first quarters on Friday, wave conditions forced a postponement of the second quarter to Saturday with the “Red Rage” from Santa Cruz holding a lead of seven points over San Diego, 49 to 42. Quarter times were then lengthened to 30 minutes to accommodate the long lulls. San Diego responded and led the hometown team by two points heading into the final quarter, looking to become the first visiting team to notch a victory to date.
SC’s Adam Replogle would start the fourth quarter with a slash (gouging speed carve) on the inside, milking the wave for all it was worth. Tyler Fox would unleash an angry slash while maintaining a smooth fluid style through the inside section. A long lull engulfed the group, as SC called a timeout.
It was during this timeout that their guerilla mascot emerged, coinciding with one of the day’s biggest set waves. Sensing destiny on their side, Kieran Horn unloaded a deep bottom turn to narrowly miss a fully explosive first turn but followed by a spectacular vertical snap off the lip, exposing full fins. Fox sped through the line and generated two huge turns on the outside. Santa Cruz would finish their final quarter with combined total of 37 points and overall score of 159.75 points.
Much to Santa Cruz’s dismay, San Diego started their heat with a flurry of waves. Superstar Rob Machado locked in a 7.0 to put San Diego off to a great start. Coach David Barr called a solid time out after which Dane Johnson responded by ripping another wave to score a 5.25.
Austin Ware and Kyle Knox would contribute to a SD push that would have both announcers, Sal Masekela and Brad Gerlach, reporting that Santa Cruz was only leading by .75 points (SC: 159.75 to SD: 159) with eight minutes to go. With time ticking down, Machado would score another 7.0 completing a backside 360 reverse at the end of the wave, leading San Diego to a 39.5 fourth quarter score and game MVP honors with the highest combined game score of 25.75 points.
“This was an historic showdown in the sense that every single wave was watched and scrutinized so intently by the crowd and teams since every single wave mattered so much,” said NSL founder and driving force Brad Gerlach. “Gerr” was impressed with both the level of surfing and the intensity shown by each team. “Every wave was critical and competitors were dodging rocks and seaweed. Factor in the “degree of difficulty” and there were some incredible performances out there today. This was about as entertaining as a small wave surfing can be.
“It all came down to Mother Nature,” added Gerlachh. “Santa Cruz had a virtually error-free performance, but in the end, San Diego got the waves.”
Orange County and Ventura remain tied atop the leader board with three wins and one loss apiece in the standings. The California Cup concludes in San Diego with the O’Neill Game Weekend (5/21-23). The NSL Championship Game Weekend will be held on June 4-6 at the hometown break of the team leading in the standings at the conclusion of the regular season.