New Smyrna Beach, FL. hosted the fifth and final regional stop of the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge fueled by Muscle Milk. A total of 14 teams arrived at the south side of Ponce Inlet on August 12 for the Southeast Regional Qualifier, all vying for the final team slot for the upcoming National Championships to be held next month in Huntington Beach, CA.

New Smyrna is known for having the most consistent waves on Florida’s East Coast, making it a prime location to hold the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge. As such, the Southeast Qualifier has moved from Sebastian Inlet to New Smyrna for the first time since its inception five years ago in order to take advantage of the optimal surf conditions.
The early morning incoming tide at New Smyrna offered the cleanest conditions of the event, but the humidity was so high you could cut it with a knife. The heat index surpassed the 100-degree mark and the bikini-clad ladies were in peak season. Welcome to summertime in Florida.

Supergrom Noah Schweizer, surfing for Team Red Dog, was the first to hit the water. His featherweight frame and fox-like reflexes made the 1- to 2-foot surf look downright fun. Noah’s Red Dog teammate, Taylor Brothers, followed with the first respectable score of the event, a 7.5, which he was quick to claim as his Double Whammy. Aaron Cormican is like royalty in New Smyrna—when Gorkin enters the surf all eyes take note, as they know something sick is about to happen. Unfortunately, the 12th was no day for executing flips or other crazy, innovative moves, but Cormican was still able to connect with a decent right-hander and devour every last drop of energy it possessed.

Although team Surf Station rallied the highest total points of the heat with all four team riders pulling in decent scores, they were penalized five points for not bringing their final team rider, Eric Taylor, back to the box before the 50 minute heat expired. To be fair, Taylor claimed his first wave (a 6.8) and paddled in, but was told to go back out because the judges didn’t see the claim. This mishap allowed Catalyst and Red Dog to slip in as the top two scoring teams from Round One and advance into the Final.

The repercharge consisted of Daytona’s Salty Dog, St. Augustine’s Surf Station, and Jacksonville’s Sunrise and Aqua East teams. Sunrise used a smart strategy by calling in their first rider after two lackluster waves. That allowed fellow teammates Garrett Carmichael, Asher Nolan, and Ryan Briggs ample time to reel in scores in the range of 6.5 to 8.0—for a heat high total of 29.56. Salty Dog’s Jeremy Johnston signed off on his first wave with a major fish tail slide, Double Whammying his 7.75. Soon after, Johnston’s teammate Shannon “Hopper” Eichstaedt connected with the best wave of the event, back snapping the snot out of it three times and earning him an average of an 8.25. Ultimately, Salty Dog and Sunrise advanced out of the heat and headed into the Final against Catalyst and Red Dog.

The conditions for the 50-minute Final were a bit wind-chopped, but the moderate onshores created some punchy sections. The key to a good score was being able to do a few maneuvers on the outside, stay with the foam ball, and bounce it into the inside section. Sunrise Team Captain Garrett Carmichael, AKA G-Rat, worked his strategy once again by switching their double-whammy surfer from Asher to Briggs. Briggs, being their third surfer, became a bit frustrated on his first two waves by not making the crucial inside connections, but found enough flow on his final wave to reel it into a fast and walling inside section, which he sign off with a sick front-side lipper. Asher then closed up the Final 10 minutes with two solid inside connecting lefts that he ripped all the way to shore.

The deal was done. Sunrise cinched their third Surf Shop Challenge victory in four years and in doing so created a dynasty of sorts in the Southeast. Winning this event, Sunrise secured themselves a chance to compete for the $10,000 grand prize at the National Championships in Huntington Beach come September, where they’ll face Heritage Surf & Sport from the Northeast, SurfRide from the Southwest, T& C from Hawaii, and Freeline Design from the Central/Northwest. This won’t be Sunrise’s first trip West however, they actually won the whole shebang in 2006, so Floridians everywhere are hoping that team Sunrise will represent next month and bring the National Title back home—where some might say it belongs…

Final Standings:

1. Sunrise: Dane Jeffries, Garrett Carmichael, Asher Nolan, Ryan Briggs; 32.0
2. Salty Dog: Jeremy Johnston, Pierce Miller, Shannon “Hopper” Eichstaedt, Bryan Forand; 24.76
3. Catalyst: Aaron Cormican, Tommy O’Brien, Jeremy Anderson, Eric Kroungold; 22.6
4. Red Dog: Noah Schweizer, Taylor Brothers, Alex Frischman, Mike Howard ; 21.7

FCS award for Functional Creative Surfing: Ryan Briggs from Sunrise Surf Shop

Congratulations and many thanks to all the teams for making the Southeast stop of the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge a great event and best of luck to Team Sunrise at the National Championships.


Erin Edwards


August 18, 2009

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