America’s Best Groms Take On Mother Nature


Video: Justin Jung
VIEW: THUMBS ENLARGE
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John Mel. Photo: McDaniel


Sanuk Surfing America Prime presented by Got Milk?
Huntington Beach Pier, March 17 & 18, 2012

We acquire the strength we have overcome.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Sanuk Surfing America Prime presented by Got Milk? at the Huntington Beach Pier last weekend was cold, windy and scary!

The Huntington Beach experience started pleasantly enough on Wednesday in perfect hollow peaks with the beginning of a three-day PacSun USA Surf Team training camp. The team members rotated through three coaching segments. The first was led by Head Coach, Ian “Kanga” Cairns, coaching on proper technique. The second was with Assistant Coach, Sean Mattison, who coached the kids on heat strategy and management. The final segment was led by Guest Coach and Legend, Jim Hogan, who worked with the team on much needed “offensive and defensive hassling skills.” Jim went into the water with the team members to demonstrate first-hand his legendary skill in intimidating and dominating competitors despite his small size. Jim flew up from tropical Costa Rica to work with the team and was ill prepared for the 53° water. Thanks to Greg Wade from XCEL Wetsuits for flowing Jim a toasty new 4/3 wetsuit and booties as Jim was near hypothermic in his borrowed 1.5 mil fullsuit!

In addition to three hard days of training, the team took the opportunity to bond, breaking bread at Duke’s on the Pier and Wahoo’s Fish Tacos on Main Street. Thursday night they went to K1 Speed in Irvine for a spirited team building session of cart racing. Once a competitor, always a competitor, big wave hellman Pete Mel took the win in the race, and Coach Kanga and Surfing America Executive Director, Greg Cruse, battled it out for 5th and 6th (out of 16) with Cruse just edging him out for 5th and Kanga ending up with dislocated ribs due to a “bump” by Cruse. Griffin Colapinto was the star of the highlight reel ramming into Pete Mel’s stalled cart at speed catapulting him over Mel’s head and crashing into the barriers.

With the training sessions completed it was on to the Sanuk Surfing America Prime presented by Got Milk? on Saturday. The weather forecast was not promising. After consulting with lifeguards regarding safety and water quality it was determined the show would go on. Saturday, competitors were greeted with south winds and rain, but it didn’t deter them in the head high wind slop. A micro burst of wind and heavy rain swept through the beach around 11:00 am with driving horizontal rain that obscured the judge’s view. The competition was postponed for twenty minutes until it passed and resumed without incident the rest of the day.

We expected a few showers and a stubborn south wind on Sunday, but instead, the jet stream decided to dive south right over Huntington Beach with 40 kt WNW winds driving 6 – 10 foot close interval wind swell and a 30 mph lateral drift. All the competitors were checking the surf wondering how they could tackle the difficult conditions. Could they even make it outside and stay in the competition area with the strong north to south current? The question was answered as 3 time world champion, Tom Curren, there to support his sons Frank and Pat who were surfing in the event, paddled to the outside and took off on a bomb set and demolished it all the way from the outside. It was on. Of course, the first heat of the morning was a Boys U14 qualifier heat into the round of 16. Sean Wood, Nick Melanson, Zach McCormick and Sebastian Mendes and their parents were rightfully a bit nervous about the conditions, but after a meeting on the beach with Coach Kanga, explaining a strategy for the conditions, they were a bit more at ease and ready to surf. He advised them to paddle out next to pier as far as they could and then take an inside left that peeled against the grain of the current and then get out to run back to the pier to do it again. It worked, as the boys got numerous good scores and we were off and running for 10 hours of wild surf action. The wind increased throughout the day, drying out the sand from the previous days rain and eventually sending it airborne into a persistent sand-blasting maelstrom.

It was difficult, but the competitors got through it, and came away stoked on the inner strength they summoned to overcome the adverse conditions. Coach Kanga summed it up with this, “This weekend was more a test of character and intestinal fortitude and an overwhelming desire to succeed.”

The final west coast Surfing America Prime event of the season will be April 28 & 29 at DMJs on Camp Pendleton. Let’s hope conditions are a little mellower!—Greg Cruse/Surfing America

Final Results:

GIRLS U16
1st – Frankie Harrer – Malibu
2nd – Kulia Doherty – Rancho Santa Fe
3rd – Meah Collins – Costa Mesa
4th – Avalon Johnson – Carlsbad

GIRLS U18
1st – Meah Collins – Costa Mesa
2nd – Emily Ruppert – Indialantic FL
3rd – Lulu Erkeneff – Dana Point
4th – Kulia Doherty – Rancho Santa Fe

BOYS U18
1st – Andrew Jacobson – Malibu
2nd – Taylor Clark – Encinitas
3rd – Colin Moran – Costa Mesa
4th – Thelen Mckinna-Worrell – Malibu

BOYS U16
1st – Nic Hdez – Santa Cruz
2nd – Pat Curren – Santa Barbara
3rd – Kanoa Igarashi – Huntington Beach
4th – Jacob Davis – Capistrano Beach

BOYS U14
1st – Griffin Colapinto – San Clemente
2nd – John Mel – Newport Beach
3rd – Jordan Collins – Carlsbad
4th – Griffin Foy – Fullerton