• subtitle: Youth Movement Asserts Itself At Eminently Efficient NSSA East Coast Championships

Written by  Nick McGregor
Tuesday, 4/09/13

In a surfing industry that’s constantly changing, the NSSA East Coast Championships offer up a solidly reliable competitive experience. Every heat over the stacked four-day event, which spanned 25 divisions and over 500 entrants spread between April 4th-7th in New Smyrna Beach, ran vigilantly on time. Judging was computer-based, transparent, and tied strictly to the classic criteria of speed, flow, and power.

One day, probably in the very far future, NSSA Executive Director Janice Aragon and NSSA West Coast Conference Director won’t show up every April hauling a stacked trailer full of trophies and scaffolding behind their workhorse Ford F-250. But until then, this contest carries on, promising East Coast surfers one of the most efficient amateur surfing structures in the country while also providing a clear path to the NSSA Nationals, held each summer in Southern California.

As always, New Smyrna Beach’s consistent lineup didn’t disappoint for the contest. A small, glassy, mixed-direction groundswell kicked things off on Thursday before picking up slightly on Friday, even offering up some rare tubes on the afternoon high tide. On Saturday, hard north winds turned the New Smyrna Inlet lineup into a challenging mess of sloppy, borderline-victory-at-sea whitewater. But on Sunday, with finals running from 9:30 until 5:45 and a light onshore wind feathering throughout the day, the waves cleaned up and peaked in quality for the marquee Open divisions, which saw rippable chest- to head-high peaks that contest announcer Jeremy Johnston described as quintessential New Smyrna Beach.

But it wasn’t the waves that figured most heavily on the mind of Janice Aragon and her crew, made up mostly of NSSA Conference Directors and volunteers like Larry “Meatface” Schmidt and Joe Keenan (Northeast); Rick and Debbie Barton (Mid-Atlantic); Linda Johnston and Missy Schweizer (Southeast/North); and Danielle Beckmann (Southeast). Instead, it was the endless procession of squall lines and torrential thunderstorms that lingered over Central Florida on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. “We had all four seasons in four days,” Aragon laughed. “Winter, spring, summer, and fall. We’ve been through weather challenges in Florida before, but we were dodging bullets for three days this year! And the storms on Friday wrecked our contest site, shredding a banner and messing up part of the scaffolding. But I’d rather have good waves than a beautiful event site.”

And with good waves comes good surfing — particularly from the 10- to 14-year-old menehune, boys, and juniors divisions. “It’s all over the nation,” Aragon raved. “That group around 12 years old is just ripping. They have the progressive moves, they have the fundamentals, and they really stepped up here on the East Coast.” At the youngest end of the bracket, Sebastian Inlet locals Tommy Coleman and Noah Dovin traded off wins, with Tommy claiming his second consecutive Open Mini-Groms and Noah winning his first Regional title in Explorer Super Groms.

In Explorer Boys, it was Barbados grom Che Allan who really wowed the crowd, leading a pronounced Bajan charge to beat Rightside regulars Luke Gordon and Luke Marks. “The Barbados kids really surprised me with how much better they’ve gotten since last year,” Aragon said. “They have a concrete goal of going to Nationals, and they've come into the NSSA knowing the system. That’s impressive — and it shows in their results.”

The biggest upset, however, came in Open Boys and Explorer Menehune, where darkhorse North Florida 12-year-old Robbie McCormick shocked North Carolina standout Stevie Pittman with two convincing wins in his first two NSSA Regional finals appearances.  With new support from O’Neill and some solid heat experience under his belt, look for McCormick to continue rising up the Right Coast amateur ranks.

Anyone that knows Stevie Pittman, though, understands how passionate the kid is about competitive surfing. So it’s no stretch to say he was quite upset with his 2nd-place finish in Open Boys and 3rd-place in Explorer Boys. But did Stevie crack under the pressure? No, he used it as motivation, surfing his stacked Open Juniors final against Luke Marks and Barbados’ Che Allan and Josh Burke with a vengeance. Stevie laid down some of the meanest hacks of the entire event to seal up the second-highest event total of the final day, 15.94.

Central Florida’s Fisher Grant decimated the longboard field for the third year straight, comboing the competition in Explorer Longboard with a 17.33 and nearly doing the same in Open Longboard with a 13.40. And speaking of streaks, South Carolina grom Luke Gordon didn’t have the chance to four-peat in the Open Boys division this year, but he didn’t let his run of regional wins end, picking up an impressive Explorer Juniors victory over eventual Men’s finalists Knox Harris, Noah Schweizer, and Corey Howell.

But those three exacted their own revenge in the marquee divisions. Howell repeated his 2012 Air Show title with a beautiful slob this year for $500, while Schweizer claimed his first upper age bracket victory in Explorer Men’s. Harris, however, emerged victorious over Corey, Noah, and another NSB local, Daniel Glenn, in the hard-fought Open Men’s final, which capped off the NSSA East Coast Championships. The heat featured at least four different lead changes, with Noah wrapping flawless frontside cutbacks for a high score of 6.90, Daniel relying on his trademark style to notch a 7.33 on an overhead wave, and Corey earning a 6.67 for a flurry of backside cracks. But when Knox laid into a brilliant frontside drop-wallet bash, he earned a staggering 9.17, enough to make a mid-range backup score unnecessary and also enough to win the GromSocial Performer of the Day award for Day Four.

On the women’s side of the draw, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast nearly swept Florida clean off the podium, with New Jersey’s Maddie Peterson winning Explorer Girls and Open Girls while North Carolina’s Darsha Pigford edged Maddie out in Explorer Women’s. But St. Augustine’s Jazmine Dean claimed Explorer Women’s Longboard to go with her 2nd-place finish in Open Longboard and 3rd in Explorer Longboard. And Indialantic standout Nikki Viesins saved Florida’s best for last, nailing an 8.00 for her first wave in the Open Women’s final before cinching up a 13.17 heat total to runner-up Cassidy McClain’s 6.94. Given her determination, focus, and style, we’ll go ahead and claim Nikki as a major threat to take down this year’s Open Women’s National title, which would be a first for the East Coast.

Something the whole Eastside is used to seeing is UNC-Wilmington hoisting the College Team award. But the Seahawks’ fifth consecutive victory wasn’t a slam dunk — UNCW finished with 95 team points to Florida Atlantic University’s 94. What was surprising was UNCW freshman Shane Burn flying in and sweeping up the College Men’s title over team captain and competitive mainstay Nick Rupp. “The waves were fun all week,” said Burn, who also placed 3rd in the East Coast Airshow final. “And I’m stoked to go to Nationals. I haven’t been in a few years, and I never did well in the past, so I’m excited to go with my team.”

Burn also big-upped his teammate Alex Rockrise, who adeptly filled the shoes of graduated former longboard champ Tony Silvagni by cruising to a College Longboard victory. UNCW’s only weak spot came in the College Women’s final, which was won by Jacksonville standout and UNF student Kayla Durden. But you have to give it to UNCW when it comes to organization and staying power — since the Powell brothers first spearheaded the school’s successful teams of the late 2000s, UNCW Coach Dylan McNamara has kept his squad solid with new recruits, team spirit, and even matching polos provided by Quiksilver.

Last but certainly not least, the four old guys divisions — Explorer Masters, Explorer Seniors, Explorer Super Seniors, and Explorer Duke — were populated with the same pool of ten rippers. But the final results were kind to everyone, with NSB’s Charley Hajek winning Masters, South Carolina’s Blue Spivey claiming Seniors, Ponce Inlet’s Chris Brown edging out Hajek in Super Seniors, and Cape Canaveral’s Larry Holmes braving New Smyrna Inlet’s outside lineup for a hard-fought Duke win.

So what was the takeaway from this year’s NSSA East Coast Championships, with over 500 competitors making it the largest in NSSA history? Some things — organization, efficiency, professionalism — will always stay the same with this eminent amateur organization. And some things — the Caribbean charge, the 10-14 crowd, even the possibility of an expanded format for 2014 — will always change. “We’re all about development,” Janice Aragon said. “We’ve watched young groms like Stevie Pittman and Noah Dovin develop into super standouts over the years. We’ve watched more and more kids coming in from the Caribbean. And we’ve really enjoyed New Smyrna Beach [over the last few years], although we really miss Sebastian Inlet. But when I’m driving cross-country from California, I never have to worry about waves here at New Smyrna.”

As for 2014, which before this year’s contest Aragon admitted already having her eyes on? “This was the largest event we’ve ever done on the East Coast,” she said. “It was a five-day event somehow completed in four days. So next year we’re most likely going to five.”



1. Knox Harris-Ocean Isle Beach, NC 13.64

2. Noah Schweizer-New Smyrna Beach, FL 12.90

3. Corey Howell-Melbourne, FL 12.84

4. Daniel Glenn-New Smyrna Beach, FL 11.83

1. Stevie Pittman-Newport, NC 15.94

2. Josh Burke-Long Beach, Barbados 11.20

3. Che Allan-Fitts Village, Barbados 10.60

4. Luke Marks-Melbourne Beach, FL 9.57


1. Robbie McCormick-DeLeon Springs, FL 13.77

2. Stevie Pittman-Newport, NC 13.34

3. Tommy Coleman-Sebastian, FL 10.50

4. Jacob Burke-Long Beach, Barbados 9.27


1. Tommy Coleman-Sebastian, FL 13.17

2. Noah Dovin-Merritt Island, FL 11.17

3. Blake Speir-Melbourne Beach, FL 8.73

4. Laird Myers-Virginia Beach, VA 7.47


1. Nikki Viesins-Indialantic, FL 13.17

2. Cassidy McClain-Margate, NJ 6.94

3. Jessica Kwiecinski-Jackson, NJ 5.20

4. Maddie Peterson-Wildwood Crest, NJ 3.20


1. Maddie Peterson-Wildwood Crest, NJ 9.00

2. Izzi Gomez-Jupiter, FL 8.20

3. Emory McClary-Pawleys Island, SC 5.17

4. Lily Whatley-New Smyrna Beach, FL 4.94


1. Fisher Grant-Winter Park, FL 13.40

2. Jazmine Dean-St. Augustine, FL 8.43

3. Spencer Bridges-Summit, NJ 7.16

4. Liam O’Regan-Middletown, RI 0.00


1. Noah Schweizer-New Smyrna Beach, FL 10.67

2. Giorgio Gomez-Jupiter, FL 10.33

3. Knox Harris-Ocean Isle Beach, NC 10.03

4. Daniel Glenn-New Smyrna Beach, FL 8.27

5. Corey Howell-Melbourne, FL 7.50

6. Pat Schmidt-Manasquan, NJ 5.63


1. Luke Gordon-Pawleys Island, SC 15.93

2. Knox Harris-Ocean Isle Beach, NC 11.76

3. Noah Schweizer-New Smyrna Beach, FL 10.83

4. Matt Zaccaria-Daytona Beach, FL 9.10

5. Corey Howell-Melbourne Beach, FL 8.47

6. Wiley Robinson-Melbourne Beach, FL 4.40


1. Che Allan-Fitts Village Barbados 11.34

2. Luke Gordon-Pawleys Island, SC 10.93

3. Luke Marks-Melbourne Beach, FL 10.24

4. Chris O’Donnell-Fort Pierce, FL 7.17

5. Quentin Turko-Kitty Hawk, NC 6.67

6. Boyd Brown-Murrells Inlet, SC 6.50


1. Robbie McCormick-DeLeon Springs, FL 13.00

2. Bo Raynor-Wilmington, NC 11.26

3. Stevie Pittman-Newport, NC 8.50

4. Micah Cantor-Murrells Inlet, SC 6.86

5. Michael Vanaman-Sicklerville, NJ 5.20

6. Kyle Tester-Cape May, NJ 4.26


1. Noah Dovin-Merritt Island, FL 13.16

2. Tommy Coleman-Sebastian, FL 9.80

3. Kai DeLorenzo-St Augustine, FL 7.44

4. Blake Speir-Melbourne Beach, FL 5.70

5. Owen Moss-Wilmington, NC 4.70

6. Laird Myers-Virginia Beach, VA 4.27


1. Darsha Pigford-Wilmington, NC 9.03

2. Maddie Peterson-Wildwood Crest, NJ 8.86

3. Piper Austin-Jacksonville, FL 6.83

4. Jessica Kwiecinski-Jackson, NJ 4.94

5. Lea Taylor-Melbourne Beach, FL 4.64

6. Jazmine Dean-St. Augustine, FL 3.73

1. Maddie Peterson-Wildwood Crest, NJ 10.03

2. Caroline Marks-Melbourne Beach, FL 7.30

3. Izzi Gomez-Jupiter, FL 5.97

4. Rachel Presti-Melbourne Beach, FL 4.90

5. Shealyn Cunningham-Ponte Vedra, FL 3.60

6. Hannah Blevins-Palm Coast, FL 2.74


1. Charley Hajek-New Smyrna Beach, FL 10.20

2. Blue Spivey-Charleston, SC 8.73

3. Eric Worley-Flagler Beach, FL 7.73

4. Dan Conover-Jupiter Beach, FL 7.14

5. Daniel Sacchi-Wilmington, NC 5.23


1. Blue Spivey-Charleston, SC 11.50

2. Daniel Sacchi-Wilmington, NC 10.67

3. Dan Conover-Jupiter Beach, FL 7.04

4. Charley Hajek-New Smyrna Beach, FL 6.33


1. Chris Brown-Ponce Inlet, FL 7.83

2. Charley Hajek-New Smyrna Beach, FL 6.13

3. Robert Higgins-Ormond-by-the-Sea, FL 5.90

4. Darren Marks-Melbourne Beach, FL 5.07


1. Larry Holmes-Cape Canaveral, FL 3.17

2. Robert Higgins-Ormond-by-the-Sea, FL 3.00


1. Fisher Grant-Winter Park, FL 17.33

2. Grey Copenhaver-Virginia Beach, VA 6.16

3. Nick Copenhaver-Virginia Beach, VA 5.70

4. Dylan Prestwood-Flagler Beach, FL 5.66

5. Jazmine Dean-St Augustine, FL 5.63

6. Nikita Pandelos-Daytona Beach Shores, FL 4.97


1. Jazmine Dean-St. Augustine 9.03

2. Lily Whatley-New Smyrna Beach, FL 7.90

3. Kat Neff-Carolina Beach, NC 4.84

4. Georgia Cook-Franklin, TN 3.47

5. Erin Rowley-Satellite Beach, FL 2.83

6. Hannah Milligan-Longwood, NC 2.73


1. Corey Howell-Melbourne Beach, FL

2. Noah Schweizer-New Smyrna Beach, FL

3. Shane Burn-Wilmington, NC

4. Pat Schmidt-Manasquan, NJ


1. UNC-Wilmington 95

2. Florida Atlantic University 94

3. Flagler 72

4. University of North Florida 65

5. University of Central Florida “A” 46

6. University of Florida, Daytona State College 38

8. Florida Institute of Technology 35

9. University of Central Florida “B” 26

10. Stetson 20


1. Shane Burn-UNCW 15.33

2. Nick Rupp-UNCW 11.64

3. Collin Grimm-FAU 9.47

4. Dylan Martin-Daytona State 7.67

5. Tom Casse-Flagler 6.66

6. Cobi Christensen-UNCW 4.70


1. Kayla Durden-UNF 9.66

2. Mila Wyman-FAU 8.20

3. Cierra Cunningham-UF 5.10

4. Alex Barber-FIT 3.00

5. Austyn Bynum-UCF “B” 1.70

6. Alexis Goss-UNCW 0.50


1. Alex Rockrise-UNCW 11.66

2. Patrick Nichols-UNF 9.73

3. Pat Gringas-Daytona State 7.73

4. Adam Fricke-UCF “A” 6.16

5. Will Warren-FAU 5.77

6. Willy Cole-FIT 5.43

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