Dark skies and rain failed to dampen surfing conditions and the performances of some of the world’s best young surfers on day two of the Foster’s Cup, a 2-star Association of Surfing Professionals’ World Qualifying Series event and the first stop on the 2002 Foster’s Pro Surfing Tour.
Once again, the high-performance venue at Lower Trestles delivered undoubtedly the best surf in Southern California on a day that ran the gamut of weather. The clean 3′-5′ southern hemisphere swell with offshore winds in the early morning degraded to choppy, blown-out conditions a few hours later, then quickly turned to sheet glass under a moderate downpour by mid-day. The quickly moving storm front gave way to a sunny sky and nearly flawless contest surf by early afternoon.
At dead low tide, the four competitors of Heat 11 in the Round of 128 found themselves surfing the very best Lower Trestles had to offer, with little-known Kyle McCarthy of Fernandina Beach, Florida putting on a virtuoso performance to register both the highest wave score and heat total of the contest so far. McCarthy’s impeccable backside attack on a long Lowers right earned him a 9.0 out of a possible 10. Event announcer Mike Morgan got the crowd on their feet as he counted out the number of backside top turns McCarthy pulled off.
“I could actually hear the announcer while I was riding the wave,” recalled the 28-year-old Floridian who tends bar in nearby Dana Point. “By the fourth turn, I knew I had to keep going and try to make the next one even better because he was calling it. The conditions were perfect. We started that heat with a set, I got a 4, a minor wave but one under my belt that I could build on, and got in rhythm. I paddled back out and got another set, then it was flat in between. Then I paddled back out in time for the next set. It just worked in rhythm for me perfectly.”
McCarthy credited his experience surfing the jetty waves of Florida’s Sebastian Inlet for his stellar backside performance at Lowers. “It can be like a Lowers wave where you have to sit in the pocket to get your momentum to do your turns. It got me used to sitting in the pocket in order not to get too far out on the shoulder and cut back to find more momentum.” McCarthy says he will be bartending every night through the weekend, but if his luck holds he may find some customers willing to buy him a round.
McCarthy’s 9.0 erased the previous best wave score set by Ventura’s Dane Reynolds just a few hours earlier. Considered one of California’s best and brightest surfing stars of the near future, Reynolds started his heat with some uncharacteristic mistakes, but then picked up a head-high right and connected the third of three nearly unmakeable sections with a huge floater, scoring hoots and an 8.75.
“It looked horrible when I was going out, I was just looking for some lefts, and as soon as I got out it cleaned up, the wind turned offshore, and the rights started going off. I was upset because I fell on my first two waves, just blew ’em, and everyone was passing me up. I knew I needed a big score so I tried my hardest. I figured if I fell it didn’t matter anyway because I was so behind at that point.” Reynolds is the holder of four NSSA Western Champion trophies, and reached the Round of 32 at the PSTA Championships in Ventura last year. He said his surfing has improved since riding a Bobby Martinez Model surfboard shaped by Channel Islands’ legend Al Merrick.
The rain also failed to deter Shaun Ward of Huntington Beach, who advanced into the round of 64 with a series of powerful top turns and floaters on the long Lowers rights. “It’s good we’re having the contest at Lowers because everywhere else is horrible. Lowers has really fun, ridable waves. Surfing in the rain isn’t much different, I surfed a lot in the rain this winter, it never stopped me from going surfing.” Ward, 19, enters the pro surfing arena after a stellar NSSA amateur careeer as Western Champ, and a third in the Pro Junior in New Jersey.
The Foster’s Cup took on an international flavor today thanks to the appearance of two established Latin American surfers. Brazilian Eduardo Sapienza, 29, joked that he is coming out of retirement after a distinguished amateur career. Born in Sao Paulo and raised in Santos, Eduardo has been surfing all his life. He has lived in America on and off for the past six years to perfect his English speaking skills. He says Brazil’s perception of surfing has changed much in the last decade.
“Ten years ago it was harder to be a pro surfer with sponsorships,” said Eduardo. “Surfers were looked at more like bums. Now the sport has a lot more power.” Eduardo placed tenth overall in the first PSTA season in 1999 but put his career on hold due to personal commitments in Brazil. “Now I feel like coming back, and Lowers is a great place to start, surfing here with four guys out. Luckily I’ve made it through a few heats so I can do it again.”
Another Latino export on the Foster’s Surfing Tour is Pedro Diaz, the cheerful Venezuelan surfing champion who also advanced into the Round of 64. The 32-year-old bides his time between shaping surfboards in Oceanside, Calif. and heading back to Venezuela for contests and family visits. “In Venezuela the waves are good and the water is very warm, but the surfing industry is here in California,” said Diaz. “The people are nice and I like it here.”
Tomorrow (Thurs., April 25) commences the Main Event and the first appearance of professional surfing’s elite competitors, including current ASP World Champion CJ Hobgood surfing against event wildcard and big wave master Mike Parsons, 2000 ASP World Champ Sunny Garcia, 2001 4th-place ASP finisher Taylor Knox, and ASP vet and “Endless Summer II” star Pat O’Connell.
The Foster’s Cup marks the first North American appearance of the Foster’s Pro Surfing Tour, a powerful long-term alliance between Surfing America and the famed Australian beer maker. Created by the Surf Industry Manufacturer’s Association (SIMA), Surfing America is the nonprofit governing body for pro surfing in the USA. The Foster’s Cup event is being produced in conjunction with the PSTA by Jeff Grell of SnowSurfing, Inc. The Foster’s Cup will be televised as a half-hour show on the Outdoor Life Network and will air four times, beginning on May 20 at 8:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Official event product sponsors include the new Subaru Baja, Paul Mitchell Salon Haircare, Balance Bar, and Outdoor Life Network. Event title sponsors include Foster’s and Havaianas. Industry sponsors include Ocean Pacific, Surf One, Mountain High Resort, Sticky Bumps, TransWorld SURF Magazine, Peak Sunscreen, and Surf Quest Media.