TURF: Hyatt Automotive Microwave Surf Challenge; Garden City Beach, SC; June 2nd-3rd, 2012
ENERGY: The Microwave Surf Challenge is a grom comp, but it also had big money on the line, so the resulting vibe was a bizarre cross between summer camp and pro circuit. While all the kids took the competition seriously, there was also plenty of fun to be had between heats. A game of disc golf broke out on the beach, and Billabong’s Raven Lundy organized races, pushup contests, and a tow-at. Out in the water, it wasn’t exactly looking like Cloudbreak, but at least it was contestable. And seeing as the name of the event is the “Microwave” Surf Challenge, no one was overly disappointed.
FIRST TIME AT FIGHT CLUB: Kelly Richards, owner of Village Surf Shoppe and shaper of Perfection Surfboards, has collaborated with Surfwater Productions’ Stoney Cantor and Billabong’s Raven Lundy once before to put on a local contest for groms. But this year’s event was unlike anything they had done before. Hyatt Automotive stepped up and donated an $8,000 prize purse so that the kids had a chance to win some real money instead of the typical plastic trophies, and all proceeds from the event went to the American Red Cross and the Grand Strand Boys & Girls Club.
SLIDE: It wasn’t just a Palmetto State affair at the Microwave Surf Challenge. The event’s solid prize purse drew talent from surrounding states as well, and contest organizers brought in a panel of ASP-sanctioned judges to give the contest that big-time feel. The competition was stiff, but in the end, things played out just as you might expect them to, with all the usual suspects finding their way to the podium. And it just so happens that, of the 60 kids who signed up for the event, all the groms hoisting the biggest checks were from South Carolina.
Brother/sister duo Luke and Katie Gordon cleaned up in the Under 14 and Girls divisions, respectively, while Addison Miles impressed on his way to an Under 16 victory, and Cam Richards claimed the Under 18 crown. But organizers say the Under 12 and Open divisions were the most hotly contested. The finals of the Under 12 division saw super groms Micha Cantor and Wrightsville Beach, NC’s, Bo Raynor battle it out in a man-on-man heat that had all the spectators on their feet. “The man-on-man heats were a great experience for Micha,” said his father, Stoney Cantor. “He’s been surfing a lot of contests lately, so to get a win like this was great for his confidence as he’s heading out to California. Bo surfs really well, too, so it was a close heat.”
The Open Division also featured a North Carolina vs. South Carolina final matchup, as Ocean Isle Beach, NC’s, Knox Harris took on local icon Cam Richards. Knox kept Cam at bay all heat and looked to be a sure bet for the win, but within the last 20 seconds, Cam posted a buzzer beater on a left that came out of nowhere. Kelly Richards summarized the heat simply, saying, “Both those boys put on a good show,”
THE PAIN: While it’s never fun to have a heat slip through your fingers at the last minute, Knox still went home with a combined $600 in prize money for two 2nd-place finishes. Not bad at all. So the only malady at this year’s comp was a freak whirlwind that tore through the contest site. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Kelly Richards. “It was a beautiful, sunny day, but you looked just south of the tents, and there was this thing that wasn’t quite a tornado, but it picked up all the tents. Thank god no one was hurt. It went on for about 12-15 seconds then left. It was nuts, but it was pretty cool too.”
THE MAN: This one goes out to the Hyatt family for generously donating the funds that made this event a success. The groms all went home stoked, and at the end of the day, the contest raised somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000 for charity. When good surfing and a good cause combine, it’s always a great experience for everyone involved. And by the end of the contest, Hyatt Automotive had committed to making the Microwave Surf Challenge an annual event.
YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB: “We were very happy with it. We had little waves on Saturday, and the next day the waves weren’t that good, but we had time to let the tide come in and it got very contestable. So on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say the event was a 10. I think everyone on the beach was just thinking, ‘Wow, are these kids really going to win $1,000?’” – Kelly Richards, contest organizer, shaper, surf shop owner, and father of Cam Richards
FINAL RESULTS OF THE MICROWAVE SURF CHALLENGE:
1. Katie Gordon
2. Keenan Lineback
3. Emory McClary
4. Grace Muckenfuss
1. Luke Gordon
2. Boyd Brown
3. Jesse Raynor
4. Conner Johnson
1. Addison Miles
2. Jake Raynor
3. Reed Richardson
4. Tyler Rogers
1. Cam Richards
2. Knox Harris
3. Tristan Utz
4. Nate Dorman
1. Cam Richards
2. Knox Harris
3. Conner Lester
4. Nick Rupp