Nervous apprehension swept through the ranks of the best under 18 surfers in the west in anticipation of the PacSun WSA Prime at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, January 18 and 19. Earlier in the week some forecasters were calling for 30-foot plus surf. Rumor had it that the Mavericks event would run that weekend. A high-pressure system perched atop Santa Cruz providing warm, calm summer-like conditions as a major winter storm churned up surf on the other side of the pacific. The Lane is a handful, any way you look at it – cold water, cliffs, sharp barnacle encrusted rocks and the locals – all add to the intimidating reputation of one of California's best breaks. Now add huge surf to the mix. By mid-week 8 – 12 foot faces were looking more like what Steamer Lane was going to produce. When Sunday morning dawned for the first day of the contest, the surf was perfect – 6 to 10 foot faces with no wind! Eventual Boys Under 18 winner, Dominic Di Pietro called it "The best surf conditions for an amateur competition ever, hands down!"
Highlights were many, but foremost were a couple of 10-point rides. In Boys U14, Andrew Jacobson, has been methodically climbing the ratings. He placed 9th in the first event, 7th in the next and 5th in the next. After every heat, he studies the score sheet and asks questions on why one wave scored better than another then goes out and makes the adjustment. The criteria is: the most critical moves in the best waves with speed, flow, and style. At Steamer Lane, Andrew threw everything he has learned into a killer set wave in the slot and absolutely ripped the bag out of it, ending the wave with a super committed backside lip-slide snap on a close-out thumper. The wave scored him a perfect "10," gave our head judge "chicken skin," and earned him the California Milk Processor Board's "Milk-I-Tastical Maneuver Award.”
The girls were just as impressive in the intimidating conditions, but none more than Courtney Conlogue in Girls U18 division. She was absolutely fearless and posted big scores in every heat. During the final she was behind the eight-ball as fellow USA Surf Team member, Kaleigh Gilchrist, had posted up a 7 for her opening wave to Courtney's 5.67. She took off on a nice south swinging wave in the slot. She then did several top to bottom turns to vertical and slash it under the lip releasing the tail on each turn. With no break in her flow, she continued to absolutely rip the wave all the way into Indicators. After she kicked out I thought to myself "she surfed that wave perfectly." Sure enough the judges agreed and gave her a perfect 10 score across the board. Kaleigh answered with a 7.23 near the buzzer, but it wasn't enough for the win.
In Girls U16 it was Catherine "wildcat" Clark who was the girl to beat. Coming off a weeklong training camp with the USA Surf Team, Catherine was in rhythm and surfing with confidence. Fellow USA Team Member, Maui's Lani Doherty, kept the pressure on her throughout the competition, but in the end it was Cat's 7.67 and 4.53 that kept her in first place and gave her the win by a slim .66 margin.
In Boy's U16, the final was an all San Clemente affair. Ian Crane, Luke Davis, Tanner Rozunko, and Kolohe Andino are all from San Clemente and surf together everyday. They found the other "SC" to their liking as they all advanced to the finals. After brilliant runs in all their heats, Rozunko and Crane seemed a bit out of synch in the final. Andino and Davis were on fire. Andino opened with a 7.0 and followed it up with an 8.83. Soon after he connected with a nice wide swinging slot wave and comboed the field with a 9.43 for a total heat score of 18.26. Luke's opening wave was a long roping right, which he dismantled for a 7.83. Then chasing Andino, he swung on a sweet slot set wave and executed two huge carves under the lip. The wave petered out and he ended it with a pop shove-it and a claim, but it was not enough.
In the Boy's U14 final, Andrew Jacobsen had trouble finding the waves with scoring potential of his previous heats. He couldn't muster more than a 3.77 until he hooked into a big Middles wave that lined up through Indicators and gave him opportunity for two big hits that scored a 6.5. South Carolina's Cam Richards adapted well to the cold water and powerful surf and cranked a couple of big hooks on his backhand for an 8.33. He couldn't muster a second wave score better than a 4.0 though. Birthday boy, Jacob Davis, opened with a big committed turn followed by a gouging cutback and then finished off on the inside with a big floater on the close-out for a 5.5. He followed it up with a similar wave for a 4.7. None of the above was enough to slow down a peaking Colin Moran. Colin is at the top of the ratings, but hadn't had a win yet. He opened with a 6.67, and then found a foamy in-betweener in the slot for a 4.43. Richards still had the lead. But Colin sealed the win with a nice runner on the inside that gave him the canvas to draw two big hacks for a 6.5 and the win.
After dominating the Boys U16 division, Kolohe Andino was after a double-win surfing up in the Boys U18 final. He continued to prowl the Middle Peak that was so successful for him in the U16 Final. He opened with a bomb set wave and sliced and diced it all the way into Indicators for an 8. Christian Saenz followed with two big snaps on a set wave that scored him a 9.43. The sets and the current started pouring through, leaving Dominic Di Pietro alone in the slot. He laid the foundation with a nice 6.67 wave and then slowly built his score with a 7.1 and then a beautiful lined-up slot bomb that afforded him multiple top to bottom gouges for an 8. The rest of the field was battling the current and taking set waves on the head. Kolohe spun on an in-between wave that had a nice line on it and ripped it into indicators for a 5.77, but it wasn't enough to overcome Dominic, who took his first win in WSA Prime.
Special thanks to the Santa Cruz locals for giving up their break and cooperating with us during the first good swell of the year. Thanks to Peter Mel and Joey Buran for their informative banter on the mic, and to our great staff of ASP judges for keeping it real.
1st – Dominic Di Pietro – Carlsbad
2nd – Kolohe Andino – San Clemente
3rd – Christian Saenz – Huntington Beach
4th – Conrad Carr – Malibu
1st – Kolohe Andino – San Clemente
2nd – Luke Davis – Capo Beach
3rd – Ian Crane – San Clemente
4th – Tanner Rozunko – San Clemente
1st – Colin Moran – Costa Mesa
2nd – Cam Richards – Murrells Inlets, South Carolina
3rd – Andrew Jacobson – Malibu
4th – Jacob Davis – Capo Beach
1st – Courtney Conlogue – Santa Ana (scored a perfect 10 in final)
2nd – Kaleigh Gilchrist – Newport Beach
3rd – Emmy Merrill – San Clemente
4th – Marissa Shaw – San Clemente
1st – Catherine Clark – Ventura
2nd – Lani Doherty – Wailuku, Maui
3rd – Jordyn De La Vega – Canyon Country
4th – Emmy Merrill – San Clemente
About WSA/WSA Prime
The Western Surfing Association is the largest and oldest amateur surfing organization on the west coast. Established in 1961, the WSA is a California non-profit corporation dedicated to promoting and preserving the sport of surfing through fun, family oriented surf competitions. For more information on the WSA, please visit SurfWSA.org
About Surfing America
Surfing America is the ISA-recognized National Governing Body for Surfing in the United States and is responsible for holding the official USA Championships and for selecting and fielding the USA Surf Team. The International Surfing Association (ISA) is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the World Governing Authority for Surfing, Bodyboarding, and Surfriding. WSA is a Member Organization of Surfing America serving West Coast athletes. SurfingAmerica.org