IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. – Ryan Simmons of Seal Beach, Ca. picked up where he left off as the Professional Surfing Association of America’s (PSTA) 2001 season champion by winning the Men’s Shortboard division of the Imperial Beach Pro, the first stop on the PSTA 2002 season. The contest concludes tomorrow with the final heats of the Women’s Shortboard and Men’s Longboard divisions.
Simmons, who came into the Imperial Beach Pro wearing the Paul Mitchell Black Jersey signifying his championship standing from last year, will again don the Black Jersey as current PSTA points leader heading into next weekend’s event at Oceanside Pier. Conditions on Saturday were small and clean, yet highly inconsistent, and Simmons used an aggressive paddling strategy to beat fellow finalists David Diaz, Chris Drummy and Jeff Deffenbaugh in a final plagued by long lulls.
Diaz, the 22-year-old Venezuelan who won the crowd’s heart with his happy demeanor and incredible vertical attack in the two-foot surf, was ahead for much of the final by virtue of a long left punctuated by a half-dozen top turns and roundhouse cutbacks. But choosing to stay close to the pier, Diaz was unable to pick up a second high-scoring wave, while Simmons prowled the entire contest area to pick up three solid scores and the win.
“I noticed that a couple of the guys seemed to be losing energy through their semi-finals, but I felt good and had a lot of energy still,” said Simmons, whose training regiment includes 2-mile beach runs every other day. “I knew I had three tough heats today, and I was ready. In the final I moved a lot from the pier to up the beach and back. I picked up one wave near the pier, one up the beach, and the third was in the middle. That was my strategy. The location of the sets seemed to be changing during the heat, so I didn’t want to stick to just one area. I saw that David was sticking to the pier, and he sort of killed his strategy. And D-Bah and Drummy seemed to hang way up the beach. It’s a lot of luck, but I also made the right decisions.”
At 27, Simmons already has had a successful pro surfing career, competing on the Association of Surfing Professionals’ World Qualifying Series for seven years, and barely missed a slot on the elite World Championship Tour (WCT) in 1996 and 2000.
“In ’96 I actually felt I wasn’t quite ready emotionally to be on the tour at that level. In 2000, I told myself I was going to qualify for the WCT, and it came down to one heat at Sunset Beach, so I was right there. I think my surfing is on that level, and I want to compete against guys like Taylor Knox and Machado in the big events and the good waves. I need some more sponsor support, it costs 20 grand to do the tour, and if you don’t have that paid for, you have the stress of making money just to cover your costs. I really feel I’m at my physical and emotional peak right now, so with the proper support I’m ready to charge.”
Diaz was all smiles after his best showing as a pro. He was definitely one of the standouts throughout the event, fitting is 5’5″ frame and board into I.B.’s compact lips and pockets that the bigger competitors were having trouble with. Diaz speaks little English, but did add the word “final” to his growing vocabulary.
“I’m so happy, but tired,” said the Venzuelan who currently lives in Oceanside. “The final was hard, there were not many waves. In the last heat I saw no waves up the beach, and a few by the pier. I got one good wave, but then on the other wave I did a roundhouse my board dug rail. I needed another wave and didn’t get it. I’m still happy, my first final in the PSTA.”
Chris Drummy was also pleased to get to the final of the Imperial Beach Pro, especially after having serious laser surgery just five days ago to remove a benign cyst in his throat. The operation has left Drummy temporarily “speechless,” he joked, but he was able to whisper his thoughts after the final.
“I’m super stoked.. Going into the final I really didn’t feel I had it in me, energy-wise. I started with an ok wave, then got into a bad rhythm and got behind. The conditions got worse as the final went on, so it was one of those things. In the quarters I got some good lefts down the beach, so I went back there thinking the peak would turn on, but it didn’t, and it backfired on me. But I’m still stoked, I’m looking forward to going into the gym and being a lot stronger for next weekend’s event in Oceanside.”
Deffenbaugh also was happy to reach the first PSTA final of the year, despite not taking home the top prize. “Everybody was surfing good throughout the contest, and anybody could have won in the final. I’ve been surfing against Chris and Ryan for years now, and we’re all at a level where if you get in the right position for the right wave? it either goes in your favor or doesn’t.”
Following the Men’s Shortboard final were qualifying rounds in the Longboard division. Last year’s PSTA Champion Josh Mohr of Huntington Beach looked strong despite a marathon one-day trip to Santa Cruz and back to pick up two new boards from sponsor Pearson Arrow. Mohr said his 2001 season title has had a positive influence on his career.
“By winning the tour in 1999 and again in 2001, it’s really helped my chances of negotiating good deals with new sponsorship, and with existing sponsors. I have some incentive-based deals, and anything I win really helps out.”
On the pressure, if any, that comes with being the PSTA defending champion, Mohr said, “It’s a confidence, builder, and I don’t think anyone is really out gunning for me, because in surfing you’re not really playing against somebody as you are surfing against yourself.” And on Imperial Beach: “It’s a cross between San Clemente Pier and Oceanside Pier. As for the event, it’s a great venue, a lot of people showed up, and there’s a lot of beach for people to have fun in.”
Other longboarders advancing to the quarterfinals tomorrow morning were Travis Northy, Cyrus Sutton, Quintin Macklin, and Michael Detemple. At press time Longboard World Champion Colin McPhillips was entering the water for his late afternoon heat.
For a complete rundown of this weekend?s Imperial Beach Pro schedule, go to http://www.prosurfingtour.com The Imperial Beach Pro will be televised as a half-hour show on the Outdoor Life Network airing this summer.
Official event product sponsors include the new Subaru Baja, Paul Mitchell Salon Haircare, Balance Bar, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (1-800-USA-RAIL), YM Magazine, and Outdoor Life Network. Industry sponsors include Havaianas, Surf One, Mountain High Resort, Sticky Bumps, Transworld Surf Magazine, Cut 4 Media, Mandero Sports Products, Peak Sunscreen, and Surf Quest Media.
For complete information on the Imperial Beach Pro and the 2002 PSTA season, go to http://www.prosurfingtour.com
Men’s Shortboard Quarterfinals
1. David Diaz
2. Ryan Simmons
3. Jeff Hurley
4. Brad Ettinger
1. David Pinto
2. Danny Nichols
3. Mike Parsons
4. Ted Navarro
1. Chris Drummy
2. Nick Kovak
3. Blake Howard
4. Mike Klein
1. Jeff Deffenbaugh
2. Ryan Turner
3. Max Hoshino
4. Jeremion Depesa
1. Ryan Simmons
2. David Diaz
3. Danny Nichols
4. David Pinto
1. Jeff Deffenbaugh
2. Chris Drummy
3. Nick Kovak
4. Ryan Turner
Men’s Shortboard Final
1. Ryan Simmons
2. David Diaz
3. Jeff Deffenbaugh
4. Chris Drummy