Ten teams gathered on Monday on the south side of Jennette's Pier, Nags Head, North Carolina, to battle for a chance to represent the Mid-Atlantic region in the National Championship of the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge.
Competitors were greeted with sunny skies, 70-degree air temps, brisk water temps in the 50s and an unexpected waist-to-chest-high swell.
The unique Oakley Surf Shop Challenge event series pits two shop employees and two shop pros, working together as a team, against other area shop teams. The winning team from each of the seven event qualifiers will earn an all-expense-paid trip to Southern California to compete in the National Championship for a $5,000 prize purse, grand prize trip to the 2016 SURFER Poll at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu and the title of America's Most Core Surf Shop.
This year’s Mid-Atlantic teams included:
• 17th Street Surf Shop
• Annex Surf Supply
• Duck Village Outfitters
• Outer Banks Boarding Company
• Parrot Surf Shop
• Surf City Surf Shop
• Sweetwater Surf Shop
• Wave Riding Vehicles (Kitty Hawk)
• Wave Riding Vehicles (Virginia Beach)
• Whalebone Surf Shop
Sweetwater Surf Shop, reigning champion two years running, was considered the team to beat going into the event. But with team leader and top professional surfer Ben Bourgeois absent this year due to travels, it appeared as though Sweetwater may finally have a chink in their armor. Also noticeably absent from this year's competition was Mid-Atlantic power surfer Fisher Heverly leaving Surf City vulnerable minus their heavy hitter.
In no way did these absences take away from the dramatics on tap in round one. Wrightsville Beach's Surf City Surf Shop dominated, claiming the highest round total. Sweetwater followed up in second place, 17th Street took third, Outer Banks Boarding Company fourth and Duck Village Outfitters secured fifth rounding out the five teams earning a spot into the final.
With multiple peaks lined up in the contest arena for the final, some chose the longer lefts in hopes of longer rides and connections through into the inside bowl while others stuck to the shorter more consistent rights.
Double whammy surfer and professional surfing vet Jesse Hines double whammed a solid 9.2 taking the highest scoring single ride of the event and doubling it out of the gates putting Outer Banks Boarding Company in an incredibly solid lead from the beginning of the final. Knox Harries looked noticeably quicker and more crisp than most of his fellow competitors and continued to shine bright throughout the entire event. Other key players included Philip Goold, Dylan Kowalski, Laird Myers and Dallas Tolson.
With high tide filling in as the finals continued, the ocean provided longer lulls and made things much harder for competitors to link inside connections, and even more so in a timely matter.
With time winding down and Sweetwater sitting in first place, it was up to DVO's Jeffrey Myers to secure the needed score for the win, in just over 10 minutes, and get back to the team box avoiding a five-point deduction.
Two waves later, and not getting a third opportunity to secure a score, Team DVO was penalized with a five-point deduction, further solidifying Sweetwater's win and dropping DVO from second to fifth overall.
1 - Sweetwater Surf Shop (28.53)
2 - Surf City Surf Shop (27.09)
3 - Outer Banks Boarding Company (26.83)
4 - 17th Street Surf Shop (22.89)
5 - Duck Village Outfitters (22.59)
The series lands in Manasquan Inlet, NJ, for the Northeast regional on Thursday.
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