Ian Crane, Courtney Conlogue reign supreme at Oceanside Harbor
While man-on-man heats can bring out the worst in some competitors (Andy Irons vs. Mick Campbell and Brad Gerlach vs. Martin Potter come to mind), not so with the WSA Prime Series Invitational at Oceanside Harbor—the first ever event featuring the man-on-man format in the history of the WSA.
Under-18 finalists Ian Crane and Luke Davis (both from San Clements) were goofing around together prior to their bout to the point of almost inadvertently knocking out a mom with a water bottle. Lani Doherty and Lakey Peterson sat together in the sand watching heats after their final. Lakey and Courtney Conlogue walked from the water to the beach arm-in-arm after their final. And pre-teens Kanoa Igarashi and Parker Coffin are too young to understand what bad blood even means, let alone act upon it.
However, actions on land can be the contrary to what takes place in the water. Despite the friendliness on the beach, the battles still took place during the heats, as the level of competition was constantly being raised.
Ian Crane and Luke Davis paddled out on opposite sides of the competition area for their Boys Under 18 final – Crane to the north and Davis to the south. Ian quickly set the tempo of the 30-minute final with a clean air reverse, earning himself a 6.5. As Ian noted, "He had priority and I stayed away and got another good one."
That other "good one" was a left that Crane took full advantage of, racking one of the biggest scores of the day, a 9.27 that put Davis in a combo situation amongst shifting waist high sets, onshore wind, and a drained out rip tide. Crane then changed his strategy, keeping on Luke wherever he went, making sure not to give up a good wave to Davis. Luke snagged a couple of high fives and low sixes late in the heat, but by that point it was too little too late and Crane left the water victorious. The final preceding this one came down to the wire though.
Fourteen-year-old Lakey Peterson made both Girls' finals on Sunday, surfing with flair and tenacity on lefts and rights. She left Lani Doherty in the dust in the Girls Under 16 final – though Lani put in a mighty effort – and looked poised to seize a second win from Courtney Conlogue in the Under 18 division.
Sixteen-year-old Courtney was rarely challenged in the WSA Prime Series, one of the exceptions being this final against Lakey. The girls traded off wave after high-scoring wave. Late in the heat Lakey finally cemented the lead with Courtney needing an 8+ score. Experience would play a pivotal role in this though as Courtney was the only surfer on Sunday with prior man-on-man heat practice. "Perform and use priority to your advantage so you hold it in the last five minutes," Courtney stated. Having man-on-man U.S. Open and Billabong Pro Maui heats against the likes of Layne Beachley, Courtney continued, "that way you don't get passed up or you can get the score you need."
Courtney struggled to catch a wave that allowed for the 8+, going on almost anything that rolled in, leaving her visibly frustrated. But with five minutes left, she held onto priority and the ocean offered up one of the better waves of the heat, giving Courtney the chance to do damage on her forehand. The patient strategy helped out a bit, giving her an 8.67 and the lead by .03 of a point. Lakey was left looking for another solid scoring wave that never came, giving Courtney another victory in the WSA Prime Series.
The WSA Prime Series – the feeder system for the PacSun USA Surf Team – in it's inaugural season gave every one of these dedicated groms from all regions of the US an opportunity to improve themselves. The man-on-man season ending bout was just one of the many flexibilities that was employed during the season. "There wasn't anything they didn't have in regards to waves or the contest format itself," said Ian Crane.
The ultimate goal in the creation of the Prime Series is obviously to help the PacSun USA Surf Team be the best it can be. Seeing these kids improve in every aspect—from skills to actual heat strategy—it's apparent that the Prime Series is making a difference. Expect bigger and better things from the Prime Series next year, as team Australia and the Gold at the ISA World Juniors are in the crosshairs. -Ryan Brower
For more info on the WSA Prime series, head to WSAPrime.org.
WSA Prime Series Invitational Results:
Boys Under 14
1st Parker Coffin
2nd Kanoa Igarashi
Girls Under 16
1st Lakey Peterson
2nd Lani Doherty
Boys Under 16
1st Jared Thorne
2nd Taylor Clark
Girls Under 18
1st Courtney Conlogue
2nd Lakey Peterson
Boys Under 18
1st Ian Crane
2nd Luke Davis
Ian jumping for joy and his victory. Photo: Jack McDaniel. For more of Jack’s work, head to gromfiles.com.