Since its inception in 1991, the H2O Winter Classic has seen it all in terms of weather and athletes: wind, rain, and snow; pros and ams; men and women. But being the largest running surf/snow event of its kind, the championship always goes to the biggest talents in the two boarding sports, year after year, no matter what the conditions.
At first, the concept may seem laughable: “C’mon,” some might chuckle, “How good can a snowboarder really compete in the water? And how well can a surfer adapt to the slopes?’ Well, stop smiling smart-ass. Between snowboarders Gabe Taylor, Marcus Stocker, and Allison Arvizu destroying HB’s playful conditions to surfers Jeff Deffenbaugh, Bron Heusenstamm, and Jodie Nelson charging the snow, folks all weekend could be heard dizzily babbling, “So he’s a snowboarder who surfs — or is it the other way around?”
On Saturday, February 8th the show kicked off with the world’s best surf/snow powerhouses taking on the glassy 2-3 foot wedges on the south side of Huntington Beach Pier to prove themselves in the water, setting up for a final face-off between the two top snowboarders and the surfers.
From the beginning, HB surf legend Jeff Deffenbaugh confirmed his local knowledge as he consistently picked off the best lines and exploded each section with ageless fury. And although comparative youth Bron Heusenstamm can’t claim as much water time as D-baugh come Round 2, he showed the veteran no mercy and answered back with the same flawless wave selection and power. In the Pro Women’s Surf division, supergirl Anastasia Ashley and a seasoned Jodie Nelson dominated from the get-go, leaving no question as to who was the best. In the end, it was settled: Bron and Jeff and Jodie and Anastacia were heading to their finals. Now it was up to the snowboarders.
With a blinding afternoon glare blazing off the water, the powder boys hit the worsening conditions, sending chunks and fans were exploding from above the burning, choppy lines as Marcus Stocker, Gabe Taylor and Jesse Marley successfully blurred the lines between surf and now. But it was the clean, snappy styles of Stocker and Marley that ultimately earned tickets to meet Deffenbaugh and Heusenstamm in the final. Meanwhile, Allison Arvizu held it down in the water for the Pro Women snowboarders, validating her desire to give up the powder for a day and throw around a little foam.
The ladies drew first blood in the finals, where Anastasia shut down everyone with her int-sized power then packed her gear and headed for the mountain. Pro Men’s was only slightly closer. Bron fought valiantly, but Deffenbaugh just wasn’t having any of it — and he definitely wasn’t gonna let some snowboarder steal his glory — denying all takers early on as he found a long left, linked together a handful of patented backside lip bashes, then spread it on thick with a shady cover-up for a confident lead.
“I knew that was a solid score and I had thirteen or fourteen minutes more,” Deffenbaugh says of the heat-clincher, “And I knew that nobody had gotten a good one yet.”
But the surfer’s cockiness would soon dwindle come Sunday, February 9th, when the H2O tasted some Busch and headed for the mountains, switching gears from Mountain High in Wrightwood, CA. This time around the pro snowboarders threw the waterboys a learning curve as they schooled the surfers in the art of big airs and long rails. Pro Surf champ Jeff Deffenbaugh knew he wouldn’t be the best on this day. “I just got up there and tried to hit what I could.” Jeff says. “But the snowboarders were unbelievable, they were doing huge stuff, like flips, 540’s, all kinds of crazy stuff — they’re just amazing with the level they’re at.”
Perhaps the most amazing was pro-snowboarder Gabe Taylor who racked up the most total surf/snow points to win the Pro Men’s overall. And Jessica Oswald performed equally as brilliantly, taking the Pro Women’s overall title.
From the surf to the snow the 2003 H2O Winter Classic proved for the 11th year in a row that it takes a diverse competitor to walk away the champion. But you can be sure that next year, whether it’s big tables at Mountain High or rampy Huntington Beach sections, someone will always rise to the challenge, after all, that’s what the World’s only Winter Classic is all about. — Andrew Lewis
RESULTS PRO SURF 1) Jeff Deffenbaugh 2) Bron Heusenstamm 3) Marcus Stocker 4) Jesse Marley
1) Gabe Taylor
2) Justin Lamoureux
3) Christian Fletcher
4) Kyle Knox
1) Gabe Taylor
2) Bron Heusenstamm
3) Kyle Knox
4) Jeff Deffenbaugh
1) Anastasia Ashley
2) Jodie Nelson
3) Allison Arvizu
1) Dresden Howell
2) Jessica Oswald
3) Allison Arvizu
1) Jessica Oswald
2) Allison Arvizu
3) Jodi Nelson