NSSA National Championships
Before the Open Mens final, which featured two surfers surfing up a divison, Kolohe Andino pointed out an interesting fact, “I think Granger is the only one with armpit hair,” he said laughing. “Never mind, I think Nat has some, too; but it’s kinda red so you can’t see it that good.” Granger just chuckled.
The first exchange after the horn went off was led by Oakley’s Nat Young, who cracked four vertical backhand snaps; the third a fins free, spray-flinging crowd pleaser. Following him was Granger. The crowd was silent as Granger laced into it. Power carves, a flawless lipper, more flow than a river and a World Tour level layback carve. It was so on. Just as everyone caught their breath, Brother found the final wave of the set, and let it all hang out, fins-free mini-Taj lippers and textbook cutties to the shore. At 14, Kolohe was obviously overmatched size-wise, but he dug deep in his toy chest of tricks and was putting on an entertaining sideshow for the crowd.
Scores after the first exchange: Brother a 6.5. Tanner a 7.5. Granger an 8.5 and Nat a 9.5. The crowd could sense it. This was gonna be a sick one.
Granger struck again immediately with one of the most creative lines we saw all contest. He started it out with man turns out the back with perfect, loose-wristed style only to bust out a double grab air over a section, into a whitewater layback. A replica 8.5. A little low maybe, considering the diversity in his maneuvers. Not robbed, but a little low. Now the pressure was on Nat.
While Kolohe continued his high-wire circus act on the inside, thoroughly enjoying himself, out the back sat Nat and Granger. A set came through and Nat got his shot. Career-changing tension was in the air and Nat surfed a replica backhand wave. He needed a 7.5, and he got an 8. The crowd was going nuts. Boy wonder just might do it. But wait a second. This is Granger we’re talking about. Out the back, Granger maintained his composure but never found the wave he needed to lay down a 9 and had to take the loss sitting in a calm sea. As the clock struck 00:00 Granger and Tanner showered Nat in the lineup with friendly splashes as the crowd went nuts. While Nat was crated up the beach with a brace face grin, covered in energy drink, Granger counted his losses, ripped one to shore and turned in his NSSA singlet for the final time. You’ll be hearing from him very soon, don’t worry.
Now a lot of stuff happens during nine days of dawn till dark surf competition. High scores. Low scores. Shockers. Triumphs. Tears. Blood. Energy drink abuse. Guitar Hero. And tons of triangles. So instead of writing you the War and Peace of amateur surfing commentary, we thought we’d break it down into Sports Center-tight. So here, without further adieu are the 2008 NSSA Nationals Top 10 performances of the day:
10.) Luke Hitcock’s layback during the Open Boys Final: Luke Hitchcock and Koa Smith were dueling, wave for wave in this final. Both surfers stand at just over four feet but we’re surfing like giants. Midway through the heat Luke raced over the cobblestones and drew out a layback that would have got Pancho an 8 at J-Bay. And he’s barely 12 years old. Pat O’Connell dropped his BlackBerry in the sand during his celebration as the Hurley camp went ballistic watching their little tow-headed Hawaiian mini grom become a man before their eyes.
9.) Peter Townend’s outfit: While we have heard alleged rumors that print on print is a style rapidly on the rise, Peter Townend decided to take it into his own hands, putting together an ensemble that looked like a pink flower barfed on a checkerboard. Way to go PT, you’re ahead of your time.
8.) Oakley’s Sage Erickson’s backhand hack in the Open Womens final: Sage Erickson didn’t win, but she did do a turn she’ll probably remember for a long time. With a slow start to the Women’s final, Sage broke the silence, with a crack that is still raining down at Lowers, punctuating her highly touted amateur career with an exclamation point.
7.) Albee Layer and Dylan Goodale’s Speedo Airs: “We did it for Hawaii,” they said afterwards. Albee Layer and Dylan Goodale took retro back a whole different decade. With premeditated precision, the Hawaiians in the Airshow final sported headbands and Speedos, obviously a smart move as it prorved to help combat the friction in the afternoon wind. It must have helped because all participants pulled massive speedo-clad punts.
6.) The Open Mini Groms Final: “Don’t do airs, I have to tell him,” says RVCA team manager Pat Towersey of his super grom Kalani David. “It’s tough for him, but he’s gotta get solid scores before he can let loose.” A funny thing to have to tell a 10 year old, but these kids are different. Alongside Kanoa Igarashi (who by the way had our favorite sponsor of the week with Toyota of Huntington Beach cutting this 10 year old checks); everyone’s new favorite big-wave surfer, 9-year-old Jake Marshal, who claims Seaside Reef his local spot but claims he has a secret spot in Rhode Island where “the bigger the better,” is how he likes it; and then there’s the wonderkid Imai Devault from Hawaii, who is by far the most naturally gifted 10-year-old in the world at the moment.
5.) Andrew Doheny: Back to back Open Juniors titles. A Dane-like approach to competition. And more explosive turns than anyone in the NSSA at the moment. He flew pretty low under the radar this year and still managed to take his second Open Juniors title in a row. The next few years are going to tell us a lot about what kind of surfer he is, we suggest keeping him out of Newport. The chicks are too hot there to raise a thoroughbred shredder.
4.) Malia Manuel’s Performance (before the final): Malia Manuel had a shocker in the Open Womens final. But prior to that, she surfed some of the most fluid, stylish and aggressive maneuvers we’ve ever witnessed from a non-Carissa in years. She blew our minds with an air reverse and proved to Lisa Andersen — who was in attendance — that women’s surfing is in great hands.
3.) Koa Smith’s 10 in the Open Boys final: He’d been quiet all heat. Patiently waiting for his left. While much of the heat were ripping on the rights, the tow-headed buck tooth 12-year-old with a fashion label, took off, launched a forehand double grab air, followed by a tail slide layback, two clicks and a full fisted claim for the days first 10 point ride. And while it took him until the last 3 minutes to back it up, he was able to get the win from Luke Hitchcock, who put on his career performance as well.
2.) Courtney Conlogue’s floater: Sage came out firing, but only had one wave. And Malia Manuel and Leila Hurst were struggling to find rhythm when Courtney Conlogue came alive. She took off on a bomb, did a top turn layback, then raced at a massive oncoming section where she threw it up, freefell, disappeared for two seconds and re-appeared to the ovation of every person on the beach.
1.) Nat Young’s cool under pressure: It’s not that rad to need an 8 to beat Granger Larsen in the Open Mens final, especially when you already got a 9. That’s because Granger is gnarly. He’s been the man to beat all contest and he’s posted two 8.5’s. But when Nat Young took off on a set, with a few minutes remaining, he went into a succession of backhand hacks that earned him a come from behind win in the most prestigious amateur contest in the country.
1. Nat Young $5,000 ( (Oakley)
2. Granger Larsen
3. Tanner Hendrickson
4. Kolohe Andino
1. Courtney Conlogue $2,500 (courtesy of No Fear)
2. Sage Erickson (Oakley)
3. Leila Hurst
4. Malia Manuel
1. Andrew Doheny
2. Evan Geiselman (Oakley)
3. Evan Thompson
4. Tanner Hendrickson
1. Koa Smith
2. Luke Hitchcock
3. Makai McNamara
4. Joshua Moniz
5. Nic Hdez (Oakley)
6. Parker Coffin