Another successful National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) National Championship competition ended on Sunday, July 3rd, with plenty of East Coasters claiming solid finishes. Competitors made their way from all over the country to represent their respective regions and vie for the prestigious 2016 titles. A pulsing south swell graced Huntington Beach, Calif. throughout the event and provided plenty of waves for the amateurs to showcase their surfing.
Competing on the historic southside of the Huntington Beach Pier, the Florida raised, and now California transplant, Caroline Marks defended her Open Girls title in great fashion. Though falling short of her Open Women title defense to Alyssa Spencer in the Semifinals, Marks lost no steam heading into the final day of competition in the Girls division. Taking down California’s Kirra Pinkerton and Tiare Thompson, along with South Carolina’s Leah Thompson, Marks claimed yet another national title – adding her name to the victor’s wall once more.
“There’s so many names on that wall which I really look up to and to be a part of it means a lot to me,” Marks said. “I think being from Florida helps a lot surfing quick and shifty beachbreak waves, and I feel like I have a special connection with Huntington. I can’t thank my family enough for how much they do for me. It means so much to me I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. My coach CT Taylor is also like family and I am really blessed to have someone like him in my corner.”
Dealing with back issues since the Volcom TCT contest at Lower Trestles, Marks fed off the adrenaline and was able to top fellow East Coaster Leah Thompson, 15, who earned a fourth-place finish in her first-ever finals appearance. The Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, native found her place into the Final with an all-important buzzer beater in the Semifinals – capping off a great first year in NSSA competition.
“It felt amazing to make that final,” Thompson said. “I couldn’t hear anything the announcers said until I got to the beach and my mom told me I had made it in. I was beyond happy and still so excited for the experience. Huntington feels more like home because the wave is definitely not as perfect as most waves here being a beachbreak. It was a great experience and I know I need to keep working hard and pushing my limits.” Thompson also earned a place into the Semifinals of the Explorer Girls division earlier in the week as well as the prestigious Carissa Moore Rookie of the Year Award.
Claiming his first-ever national title, Wilmington, North Carolina’s Gabriel Morvil found success this year in the Explorer Men’s division just days prior. Earning his first East Coast Championships title in the same division, Morvil narrowly made it out his first heat at Huntington Beach. But, he rode the momentum all the way to the Final and felt stronger with each passing heat. “After four years of going to California and not making a Final, it felt great to win this one,” Morvil said. “Everyone mostly sat close to the pier, but I found my own little spot further south. It kind of helped me relax knowing I didn’t have to battle anyone. In the final the wind started to pick up a bit and I sat south again where lucked into a right to score an 8.0 and a couple of lefts, one of which I got my second highest score of a 7.”
“Getting to text my dad after is something that stands out (laughs),” Morvil added. “Definitely the horn sounding and having my best friend Bo Raynor there to chair me up were incredible moments that made it feel even better.”
In the Open Juniors division, it was Micha Cantor who solely represented the East Coast for the Final amidst a stacked field of competitors. Taking a third-place finish, the South Carolina surfer got off to an early lead with an impressive air reverse. But, it was Cole Houshmand’s powerful forehand on the pier-bowl lefts that secured him a victory over Cantor, Barron Mamiya-Waialua, and Dimitri Poulos.
“It felt great to have made the Final but would have been a lot better to win it all,” Cantor said. “Competing in NSSA is great preparation for that next step into the WSL Pro Junior Tour because it’s the same format with twenty-minute, four-man heats, and priority system in place. Also, competing at Huntington suits me with it being so similar to home. Now I’ll keep training, traveling, and surf as many Junior Pros as I can heading forward.”
Earning his maiden NSSA National Championship victory, New Jersey’s Spencer Bridges topped fellow East Coaster Trip Chandler in the Open Longboard division – along with Hawaii’s Kelta O’Rourke and Mason Schremmer. There were multiple lead changes throughout the heat as O’Rourke put pressure on the field, but Bridges was able to answer back and to clinch his first title.
“I’m still on cloud nine,” Bridges said. “Winning a national title has been a dream of mine since I started competing. I tried to stay calm and just focus on the variables that I could control. I worked out a game plan with my coach, CT Taylor, to sit away from the pack and try to get the medium lefts that ran into the pier.”
“I was so pumped coming onto the beach since I couldn’t actually hear the situation in the water, so I didn’t find out until my mom told me when I got onto the beach,” Bridges added. “I knew that I had two good scores going into the last five minutes so I thought I might be in first. The other competitors in the heat were such good long boarders that I knew any one of them could post a score right up to the end so I just focused on trying to improve my own situation.”
Earning a fourth-place finish in the Open Longboard division, it was Trip Chandler who took top honor in the Explorer Longboard division over Bridges and fellow East Coasters Ian Appling and Georgia Cook. The Pawley Island, South Carolina, logger clinched his first Finals appearance this year and the 16-year-old was elated with his overall performance at this year’s National Championships.
“This was my first Final and I was so stoked about making it that far,” Chandler said. “Taking the win in the Explorer was great. I surfed as much as possible to prepare and I’m so happy with the results. One of my dreams is to become a pro longboarder and this summer I’m working with Wave Tools on developing my own longboard design and shape. I can’t wait to do a lot of surfing and traveling this summer, as well as make some edits.”
In the College divisions, the East Coast swept the top three spots, with Corey Howell (UNF) winning College Men’s, Darsha Pigford (Point Loma Nazarene University) winning College Women’s, and Steve McLean (Daytona State College) winning College Longboard. UNF finished 2nd to PLNU thanks to a 2nd-place College Longboard finish from Patrick Kelly and further strong performances from Hobie Sears and other team members.
Rounding off the East Coast’s wins, Tommy Coleman took top honors for the Explorer Boys division. Rachel Presti earned a sixth-place finish in the Explorer Girls. Gary Allred had an accumulation of results, earning a third-place in the Explorer Masters, second-place in Explorer Seniors, and sixth-place in the Explorer Super Seniors. Topping Allred in the Super Seniors, Charlie Hajek earned runner-up and Frank Gilday earned fourth-place.
For the fifth straight year, the Manasquan High School Surf Team traveled to Salt Creek, California to compete in the NSSA Nationals. Manasquan fielded both a varsity and a junior varsity team with a total of 15 surfers competing, their highest number ever. The varsity team placed 10th out of 15 teams, making it their best finish since 2007. Jude Clark and Abby Redy both advanced to the quarterfinals before being eliminated. Freshman Keaton Fortney and sophomore John Valgenti took fourth place in their opening heats, narrowly missing advancement, but scoring valuable points for the team.
On the junior varsity side, senior Shea Grady competed in both the junior varsity short and longboard for Manasquan. He not only advanced in shortboard but placed third in longboard division. Manasquan has an outstanding history of longboarders as Brad Schambach placed 5th in 2014, Shane Finn placed 3rd in 2015, and Cooper Fortney won the varsity National Championship that same year. “Our longboarders, John Valgenti and Shea Grady, pushed their surfing to another level while competing against the World Surf League’s current longboard champion!” said Coach JD LaCarrubba.
“With the support of the school and the surrounding community, this Surf Team has grown in talent and profile in the last few years to make them not only two-time defending State Champions, but a genuine force to reckoned with at Nationals. It is not enough for them to just show up in California, they want to prove they belong there,” said team parent Leslie Naughton. MHS Surf Team Head Coach Kris Buss has watched as they have grown from a club to a Varsity Sport and is glad to have the team receive proper recognition. “The athletic ability these kids possess is equivalent to that of the star QB or ace pitcher.”
The team spends almost a year fundraising for the California trip and, for every surfer; it is the experience of a lifetime. Not only do they surf some of the most famous breaks in California, including Upper and Lower Trestles, Cottons, Huntington Beach and Black’s, they also stay on “Surfer’s Row” in San Clemente. LaCarrubba said, “Every team member worked extremely hard to make the dream to compete in NSSA Nationals a reality. Without their dedication and the dedication and effort put forth by the Parents Association, this trip would not be possible.”
Manasquan’s varsity team consisted of Dylon O’Donnell, Sara Hegna, Bailey Redy, Mike Hyde, Sebastian Martinez, Abby Redy, John Valgenti (Biotech), Keaton Fortney and Jude Clark. The junior varsity team was Shea Grady (M.A.S.T.), Mike Parziale, Patrick Walsh, Larry Zangrando, Max Lyons and Hope Johnson. Kevin O’Donnell, chaperone and parent to Senior Dylon O’Donnell, states “During the the course of a long teaching career, and having coached many sports teams, I was struck by the closeness of this group. They all genuinely like each other and pulled for each other throughout the season and the trip to the Nationals. I am also awed by the amount of effort and time the team managers Donna Fortney, Joe Fortney, and Leslie Naughton, and coaches Buss and LaCarrubba, put into making this dream trip a reality for these terrific student athletes. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to accompany the team on this fabulous trip and to see everyone’s hard work pay off.”
2016 NSSA National Open Championships Results:
3. Micha Cantor
1. Caroline Marks
4. Leah Thompson
1. Spencer Bridges
4. Trip Chandler
2016 National Explorer Championships Results:
1. Gabriel Morvil
1. Tommy Coleman
6. Robbie Goodwin
6. Rachel Presti
1. Trip Chandler
2. Ian Appling
3. Spencer Bridges
4. Georgia Cook
3. Gary Allred
2. Gary Allred
Explorer Super Seniors:
2. Charlie Hajek
4. Frank Gilday
6. Gary Allred
Carissa Moore Rookie of the Year Award
Intecollegiate Championships Results:
2. University of North Florida 97
7. Saddleback 50
8. Daytona State College 48
11. University of Central Florida 35
14. Florida Institute of Technology 20
1. Corey Howell-UNF 16.17
5. Mike Ciaramella-UCSD 8.70
1. Darsha Pigford-PLNU 10.10
2. Nikki Viesins-UCF 9.96
1. Steve McLean-Daytona State 16.00
2. Patrick Kelly-UNF 11.40
HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY TEAM
4. Melbourne 76
=10. Manasquan 32
12. Ocean City 31
14. St Augustine Prep 14
HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY MENS
2. Chauncey Robinson-Melbourne 15.97
HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY LONGBOARD
6. Caelan Burford-Melbourne 5.60
HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR VARSITY TEAM
5. Manasquan 18
HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR VARSITY LONGBOARD
3. Shea Grady-Manasquan 4.67
MIDDLE SCHOOL TEAM
1. Shorecliffs-Red 124
2. Cocoa Beach 93
3. Thurston 87
4. Shorecliffs-Blue 53
5. Dwyer 41
6. Sowers 40
7. Marco Forster 39
=8. Bernice Ayer 38
Manhattan Beach 38
MIDDLE SCHOOL BOYS
1. Tommy Coleman-Cocoa Beach 15.90
MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRLS
1. Eden Lange-Cocoa Beach 14.17
Tags: caroline marks, cocoa beach jr./sr. high school, eden lange, gabriel morvil, manasquan high school, micha cantor, nationals, nssa, southern california, spencer bridges, tommy coleman, trip chandler