The weather is the single biggest factor in the success of any contest, and this past weekend it certainly was as pro surfers, snowboarders, and industry insiders battled the elements more than they battled each other at the 2001 H20 Winter Classic.
The Classic runs with a format of three separate categories: professional surfers and snowboarders, industry insiders, and amateurs each competing in the surf and on the snow.
Friday and Saturday’s surf portion of the competition took place at the Huntington Beach pier under graying skies and with inconsistent one- to two-foot blownout sets that feebly limped in every twenty minutes or so. Since each surfer had a twenty-minute heat, anyone who was lucky enough to get a wave got a score.
The top five pro surfers — in order of their standings — after Saturday’s surf finals included: Jeff Defenbaugh, C.J. Hobgood, Matt Keenan, Dino Andino, and Eric Sorenson. A mixture of pro surfers and snowboarders competed in each heat, and (as one would expect) surfers such as Andino and Hobgood caught twice as many waves any of the snowboarders.
Snowboarders who advanced — again, in order of their qualifications during the surf portion — were: Brian Richardson; Gabe Taylor; Bryan Iguchi; and most of the Supernatural team, Matt Lebel, Matt Hammer, and the lone Canadian in the contest, Jon Roth. Hammer ventured down to the waves, stuck his baby toe in the water and retreated back up the beach. But, to be able to continue the contest you had to at least paddle out. Brian Richardson is from La Jolla, California and Gabe Taylor grew up in Encinitas, California, which translated into somewhat of a home-field advantage for these two snowboarders as they placed fifth and seventh respectively for the surfing portion in the pro division.
Industry insiders included a grip of team managers: Dragon’s Brian Harris, Billabong’s Enich Harris, 32’s Eddie Lee, and Volcom’s Jay Twitty. Darren Brilhart of Surfing America, Brad Dougherty of Volcom, Todd Bausman of Smith, Brandon Richards of SMP, Jason Steris of Volcom, and Dragon’s Harris rounded out the top industry surfers. Alphanumeric/ESPN’s Selema Mbena Masekala was one of the few industry folk able to make more than one turn on his waves — but ended up placing dead last in the final six industry heat. He subsequently boycotted the snow events on Sunday. On Sunday the action moved up to Mountain High where a slopestyle course was set up with judge’s stand smack in the middle of the course. Looking up the hill the course consisted of a kinked rail, choice of hip or hit, down to a hero booter, directly in front of the judges scaffolding, past to two more choices of hits and choice of another kinked rail or the 56-foot monster rail to complete the course.
None of the top seven snow spots went to surfers with Keenan, Troy Eckert, and Hobgood placing eight, nine, and ten, respectively.
Richardson and Taylor’s runs were solid but not especially spectacular although landing them in first and third place for the snow pros. The real competition was between the Supernatural team members who called each other out between runs and battled it out on rotations on the main jump. Hammer’s switch fives barely edged out Roth’s 720s to land Hammer second and Roth fourth for the snowboard portion. Aaron Bishop and Bryan Iguchi took fifth and six.
The weather really began to wreak havoc on the riders and judges as dense fog and blowing hail starting about noon. The ams and pros each got to take two runs, but the Industry competitors only got one due to deteriorating conditions. A one run ride-off between Eddie Lee and Jason Steris determined the Industry winners; Lee placing first, Steris third, followed by Steve Titus, Shane Wallace, and Brian Harris.
Once the points for both competitions were added up the top three pros were Burton’s Brian Richardson, M3′ Gabe Taylor, and The Realm’s Matt Keenan. For the Industry, Voolcom’s Jason Steris, Dragon’s Brian Harris, and SMP’s Brandon Richardson were victorious.
M3 pro Gabe Taylor said, ìI had fun surfing and snowboarding, but I was happiest to see my friends, Brian Giguere and Scott Storres place first and second and Chad Martin fourth overall for the ams.î Rounding out the top five were, third place finisher Tyler Mayer, and fifth place Danny Williams. Vipe Desai, originator of the Classic has been a Southern California resident practically forever. He came up with the idea for a cross over surf/snow event and started it nine years ago because of the geographical blessing of living in one of the only places where you can surf and snowboard all within one day and hour and a half of each other. “I’m just happy that I’ve been able to do this contest, which involves all my friends, from the surf, snow, and industry sides of our business. It’s great to be able to see the pro athletes out there competing with some of their bosses. The reason for the event is because everyone gets so fired up. The energy that they bring to the contest makes it that much more fun. I hope that we get to do this event for a long time to come,” said Vipe.
— LEAH JONES