TURF: Oakley Surf Shop Challenge Mid Atlantic Qualifier; Eckner Street, Kitty Hawk, NC; April 14, 2014.
ENERGY: With sunny skies and near perfect weather conditions, there was no doubt that spring is officially in the air over the Outer Banks. Make no mistake, these teams were here to battle for the prize: a free trip to Central America to compete in the National Championship.
FIRST TIME AT THE FIGHT CLUB: Being a specialty event, the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge takes a whole new approach to surfing competition. Each four-man team is made up of two shop employees and two of the shop’s teamriders, and the whole crew has one hour total to each earn a score (one at a time) and get back into their team’s designated area before the heat ends. Otherwise, they are deducted 5 points from their team total. Each rider is allowed only three waves, with one score counting toward the team total, but every team also has one designated "double whammy" surfer that must claim one wave for which the score will be counted twice. This format requires teamwork, communication, and self sacrifice and is far more entertaining than your stock surfing competition, especially this year, when chilly water temps and inconsistent surf had teams focusing more on strategy than just performance alone, compared to years past.
SLIDE: With 11 teams competing in this winner-take-all event, things can get heated, even between fellow riders representing the same team. Thanks to an unpredictable ocean, strategy can crumble just minutes after the master plan is constructed, and on this day, the ocean left no one at an advantage. In heat one, Whalebone Surf Shop looked alarmingly in sync, until team Duck Village Outfitters’ final two riders entered the water short on time but high in performance to take a convincing win. Heat two had local hero Jesse Hines looking crisp on strange yet functional equipment, helping clinch a close Outer Banks Boarding Company win over Surf City Surf Shop. Heat three saw reigning champs Sweetwater Surf Shop taking the number one spot over 17th Street. And, as for the final, thanks to a 30-minute lull, just about every team's strategy was a complete wash, except, of course, for team Sweetwater, led by former WCT competitor Ben Bourgeois. Benny B formulated a plan, stayed calm, and ended up clinching a back-to-back victory for his team.
THE PAIN: The physical pain came from the hands of competitors who had opted not to wear gloves, since water temps plummeted due to strong southwest winds and the dreaded upwelling that greeted everyone the day of this event. The lull in the final also helped to crush the dreams of many teams, putting most in a panic with little to no time for score rebuttals, accompanied by mass confusion and utter frustration.
THE MAN: With a cool, calm, and collected approach, the highest double whammied wave total, and flawless lines drawn in gutless surf, it's safe to say Benny B humbled us all with his performance, easily taking "The Man" honors for this year’s Oakley Surf Shop Challenge Mid-Atlantic Qualifier.
YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB: "It was a close one, and conditions were tough, but we are stoked to win another and go down to Central America and try to win another national title and just have a good trip, paid in full from Oakley." –Sweetwater Surf Shop team captain Ben Bourgeois
FINAL RESULTS OF THE 2014 OAKLEY SURF SHOP CHALLENGE MID-ATLANTIC REGIONAL QUALIFIER:
1) Sweetwater Surf Shop, 28.71
2) Duck Village Outfitters, 26.06
3) 17th Street Surf Shop, 14.19
4) Whalebone Surf Shop, 10.10