What do you do when you win the most prestigious amateur title in the United States? For Nat Young he does what he always does, he goes surfing. After being carried up the beach by his peers Nat did the winner’s routine, slapped five with his friends, hugged his mother Rosie, received congratulations from his sponsors, took some photos, but instead of heading home after a long day he paddled back out in to a crowded Lowers line-up and surfed until dark. Why not? Lowers was going off, four to six foot surfed pumped all week and Nat wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the surf he ripped all week.
It is that commitment that has enabled O’Neill team rider Nat Young to become one of the best young surfers in the world and to win the NSSA Men’s Open Season National title. The Santa Cruz native couldn’t have dreamed up a better way to conclude his NSSA career. His name now sits in the record book next to a list of former Open winners that includes Championship Tour surfers Andy and Bruce Irons, Taylor Knox, and Fred Pattachia.
Young also reached the Junior Explorer and Men’s Explorer finals, but was plagued by a six man format that created an all out dog-fight for any and every wave in both heats. After two tough heats and incurring an interference in one of them the young goofyfoot regrouped and showed the composure of a wily veteran, “After I didn’t surf well in the first two finals I just wanted to get some good waves and surf well. It didn’t matter what I got, I just wanted to surf well in the Open final.”
Forever regarded as the more prominent division, the Open Season heats consisted of only four surfers as in a professional WQS event. A less crowded line-up gave the surfers more opportunities for waves and put a focus on surfing rather than hassling for waves but the challenge for Young still remained tough. Facing event favorite Granger Larson, phenom Kolohe Andino, and Hawaiian Tanner Hendrickson it was clear an A+ performance was needed for the win.
From the opening exchange it was clear Young or Larson was going home with the title. Young went to his bread and butter, a backhand that has been developed during countless hours at Steamer Lane. On a long right hand Lower’s wall Young unleashed an array of backhand snaps that saw his fins breaking out the back of the wave with each turn. 9.5, an almost perfect ride, but Larson wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The regular-footer from Hawaii dominated the event all week and earned scores in the excellent range at will. With the Explorer Juniors and Explorer Men’s titles in his back pocket, Larson looked poised to pull off the hat trick. Larson fought back with two great rides, took the lead with an 8.5 and an 8.25. Needing a 7.25 Young took advantage of the thirty-five minute final and patiently waited for a set. When it came Young went to his backhand one last time and dissected the overhead wave to undoubtedly score a winning ride. The score came in at an 8.0 and Larson was now in need of a 9.01.
With over ten minutes remaining the door was still open for Larson. He had demonstrated the ability to score nine point rides all week, so Young sat nervously in the lineup. For Young the time couldn’t click off the clock faster, “The 10 minutes seemed like an hour I didn’t want to have to sit on him.” Fortunately for Young the final rang without Larson finding a wave to offer the score. Young’s dream ending to an NSSA career had been realized, “I was shocked that I won but at the same time super stoked. It meant a lot to be carried up the beach by my friends.”
Of course the success of any young athlete wouldn’t be possible without a solid support system. Nat’s mother Rosie has shared in Nat’s commitment and pursuit of someday joining the World Championship Tour. Rosie has spent endless hours on the road to Southern California with Nat. His Nationals victory couldn’t make her more proud, “(Nat’s win) was fabulous. I thought it waas great; the whole heat was surfed professionally from all surfers. I think Nat has been able to achieve success with his natural ability but also having mental focus has helped him.” No doubt Nat recognizes what his NSSA experience has provided him and what enabled him to reach the top, “doing all the contests gave me a lot of experience and familiarity with the different waves and I want to give thanks to my Mom for driving me to all the events, being there for the heats, and being there for me always.”
O’Neill, the original Californian surf, snow and lifestyle brand, was founded in 1952 when a young man named Jack O’Neill took his unstoppable passion for surfing and used it to beat Mother Nature at her own game. Pioneering the world’s first neoprene wetsuit, Jack had successfully found a way to extend his surf sessions in the bone-chilling breaks of Northern California. He opened up the garage doors to his first surf shop in Santa Cruz soon after.
While many things have changed since those humble beginnings, Jack’s initial vision of producing functional and innovative boardriding products continues to lie at the core of everything the company does. O’Neill’s set of core values – innovation in style and technology – has seen the brand devote itself wholeheartedly to the evolution of action sports. From the first ever neoprene wetsuit and surf leash, to the world’s first stitchless boardshorts and range of groundbreaking wearable electronics, O’Neill’s spirit of innovation will always drive the company forwards.
Today, O’Neill can be found the world over. In touch with its rich heritage and the universal stoke of boardriding culture, O’Neill will always be committed to progressing that evolution and growing its reputation as one of the world’s leading youth lifestyle brands.